The Female phase —. This phase is one of self-discovery. Significantly, Showalter does not offer a characteristic sign or figure for the Female phase, suggesting a welcome diversity of experience that is too broad to be encompassed in a single image.
Rejecting both imitation and protest, Showalter advocates approaching feminist criticism from a cultural perspective in the current Female phase, rather than from perspectives that traditionally come from an androcentric perspective like psychoanalytic and biological theories, for example. Feminists in the past have worked within these traditions by revising and criticizing female representations, or lack thereof, in the male traditions that is, in the Feminine and Feminist phases.
In her essay Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness , Showalter says, "A cultural theory acknowledges that there are important differences between women as writers: class, race nationality, and history are literary determinants as significant as gender. On the whole, we may conclude that her views on feminist poetics are intelligent, largely devoid of rhetorical extremities, and confidently provocative. She is both earnest, in that she sees change needing to occur immediately, and patient, in that she expects that, given time enough, the wisdom and truth of her cause will prevail.
Jump to: navigation , search. Elaine Showalter: Towards A Feminist Poetics About the author: Elaine Showalter born January 21, is an American literary critic, feminist, and writer on cultural and social issues. The Female phase — This phase is one of self-discovery.
Elaine Showalter: ‘Towards a Feminist Poetics’
Conclusion: On the whole, we may conclude that her views on feminist poetics are intelligent, largely devoid of rhetorical extremities, and confidently provocative. Gynocritics must also take into account the different velocities and curves of. When we understand how susceptible women writers have always been to the aesthetic standards and values of the male tradition, and to male approval and validation, we can appreciate the complexity of a marriage between artists.
Such a union has almost invariably meant internal conflicts, self-effacement, and finally obliteration for the woman, except in the rare cases. There is a sense in which she wants him to be the better artist. At the beginning of the decade she was more famous than he; then she notes with pride a review in France which praises him more; his work on Men and Women goes well; her work on Aurora Leigh goes badly she had a young child and was recovering from the most serious of her four miscarriages.
In she writes to a woman friend:. I am behind hand with my poem… Robert swears he shall have his book ready in spite of everything for print when we shall be in London for the purpose, but, as for mine, it must wait for the next spring I begin to see clearly. Also it may be better not to bring out the two works together. Protesting against the protected unconscious lives of middle-class Victorian women, Nightingale demanded the restoration of their suffering:.
Give us back our suffering, we cry to Heaven in our hearts -suffering rather than indifferentism-for out of suffering may come the cure. Better to have pain than paralysis: A hundred struggle and drown in the breakers. One discovers a new world. To waken from the drugged, pleasant sleep of Victorian womanhood was agonizing; in fiction it is much more likely to end in drowning than in discovery.
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According to Dame Rebecca West, unhappiness is still the keynote of contemporary fiction by English women. Garishly dressed in a purposely bought outfit of clashing purple, green, and white - the colors of the suffragettes and the colors of the school uniform in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Lise goes in search of her killer, lures him to a park, gives him the knife.
That, in the s, Mr. Right turns out to be Mr. Goodbar is not the sudden product of urban violence but a latent truth fiction exposes. To label the violence or self-destructiveness of these painful novels as neurotic expressions of a personal pathology, as many reviewers have done, is to ignore, Annette Kolodny suggests,. Although the reclamation of suffering is the beginning, its purpose is to discover the new world. This newer writing relates the pain of transformation to history.
In her recent book, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution , Rich challenges the alienation from and rejection of the mother that daughters have learned under patriarchy. As the death of the father has always been an archetypal rite of passage for the Western hero, now the death of the mother as witnessed and transcended by the daughter has become one of the most profound occasions of female literature.
In analyzing these purposeful awakenings, these reinvigorated mythologies of female culture, feminist criticism finds its most challenging, inspiriting, and appropriate task.
When Victorian reviewers like G. Lewes, Richard Hutton, and Richard Simpson began to ask what the literature of women might mean and what it might become, they focused on the educational, experiential, and biological handicaps of the woman novelist, and this was also how most women conceptualized their situation. In the United States , the popular novelist Fanny Fern understood that women had been granted access to the novel as a sort of repressive desublimation, a harmless channel for frustrations and drives that might otherwise threaten the family, the church, and the state.
Fern recommended that women write as. Look around, and see innumerable women, to whose barren and loveless lives this would be improvement and solace, and I say to them; write!
It will be a safe outlet for thoughts and feelings that maybe the nearest friend you have has never dreamed had place in your heart and brain. One of these days, when that diary is found, when the hand that penned it shall be dust, with what amazement and remorse will many a husband or father exclaim, I never knew my wife or my child until this moment.
Elizabeth Robins, the first president of the league, a novelist and actress who had starred in early English productions of Ibsen, argued in that no woman writer had ever been free to explore female consciousness:. The realization that she had access to a rich and as yet unrifled storehouse may have crossed her mind, but there were cogent reasons for concealing her knowledge.
With that wariness of ages which has come to be instinct, she. Contrary to the popular impression, to say in print what she thinks is the last thing the woman-novelist or journalist is so rash as to attempt. There even more than elsewhere unless she is reckless she must wear the aspect that shall. Her publishers are not women. One of the most fervent beliefs of the Women Writers Suffrage League was that the terra incognita of the female psyche would find unique literary expression once women had overthrown male domination.
Feminine, Feminist, Female. All of these themes have been important to feminist literary criticism in the. Before we can even begin to ask how the literature of women would be different and special, we need to reconstruct its past, to rediscover the scores of women novelists, poets, and dramatists whose work has been obscured by time, and to establish the continuity of the female tradition from decade to decade, rather than from Great Woman to Great Woman.
As we re-create the chain of writers in this tradition, the patterns of influence and response from one generation to the next, we can also begin to challenge the periodicity of orthodox literary history and its enshrined canons of achievement. It is because we have studied women writers in isolation that we have never grasped the connections between them. The distinguishing sign of this period is the male pseudonym, introduced in England in the s, and a national characteristic of English women writers. In addition to the famous names we all know - George Eliot, Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell - dozens of other women chose male pseudo-.
This masculine disguise goes well beyond the title page; it exerts an irregular pressure on the narrative, affecting tone, diction, structure, and characterization. In contrast to the English male pseudonym, which-signals such clear self-awareness of the liabilities of female authorship, American women during the same period adopted superfeminine, little-me pseudonyms Fanny Fern, Grace Greenwood, Fanny Forester , disguising behind these nominal bouquets their boundless energy, powerful economic motives, and keen professional skills.
In the Feminist phase, from about to , or the winning of the vote, women are historically enabled to reject the accommodating postures of femininity and to use literature to dramatize the ordeals of wronged womanhood. The purest examples of this phase are the Amazon utopias of the s, fantasies of perfected female societies set in an England or an America of the future, which were also protests against male government, male laws, and male medicine. One author of Amazon utopias , the American Charlotte Perkins Gilman, also analyzed the preoccupations of masculine literature with sex and war, and the alternative possibilities of an emancipated feminist literature.
Comparing her view of sisterly collectivity to the beehive, she writes that.
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This is Feminist Socialist Realism with a vengeance, but women novelists of the period - even Gilman, in her short stories - could not be limited to such didactic formulas, or such maternal topics. In the Female phase, ongoing since , women reject both imitation. Rather gynocritics aims to understand women's writing not as a product of sexism but as a fundamental aspect of female reality.
Showalter acknowledges the difficulty of "[d]efining the unique difference of women's writing" which she says is "a slippery and demanding task" in "Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness" New , She says that gynocritics may never succeed in understanding the special differences of women's writing, or realize a distinct female literary tradition.
But, with grounding in theory and historical research, Showalter sees gynocriticism as a way to "learn something solid, enduring, and real about the relation of women to literary culture" New , She stresses heavily the need to free "ourselves from the lineal absolute of male literary history". That is going to be the point where gynocritics make a beginning. Moi particularly criticized Showalter's ideas regarding the Female phase, and its notions of a woman's singular autonomy and necessary search inward for a female identity.
In a predominantly poststructuralist era that proposes that meaning is contextual and historical, and that identity is socially and linguistically constructed, Moi claimed that there is no fundamental female self. According to Moi, the problem of equality in literary theory does not lie in the fact that the literary canon is fundamentally male and unrepresentative of female tradition, rather the problem lies in the fact that a canon exists at all. Moi argues that a feminine literary canon would be no less oppressive than the male canon because it would necessarily represent a particular socio demographic class of woman; it could not possibly represent all women because female tradition is drastically different depending on class, ethnicity, social values, sexuality, etc.
A female consciousness cannot exist for the same reasons.
Moi objects to what she sees as an essentialist position — that is, she objects to any determination of identity based on gender.
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