GUYS, BEFORE YOU GO TO
• What we’re talking about today is
POWER and who has it.
• Feminist criticism is concerned with "...the
ways in which literature (and other cultural
productions) reinforce or undermine the
economic, political, social, and psychological
oppression of women" (Tyson).
WHAT IT MEANS
• Gender issues play a part in every aspect of
human production and experience, including
the production and experience of literature,
whether we are consciously aware of these
issues or not.
• Feminist criticism looks at what role gender
plays in a story.
QUESTIONS FEMISIST CRITICS
• Who has power? Who does not?
• What is being said about gender?
• What is considered masculine in this story?
• Who has a voice? Who does not?
• Overall, what is being said about males &
females in this text?
• How do the elements of the story, the elements
of style, illustrate this point?
JANE EYRE (1847)
Follows a young woman coming to adulthood as she falls in love with
her boss, Mr. Rochester.
One of the earliest representations of an individualistic, passionate
and complex female character, Jane Eyre knocks our socks off.
Though she suffers greatly, she always relies on herself to get back on
her feet — no wilting damsel in distress here. As China Miéville wrote,
“Charlotte Brontë’s heroine towers over those around her, morally,
intellectually and aesthetically; she’s completely admirable and
compelling. Never camp, despite her Gothic surrounds, she takes a
scalpel to the skin of the every day.”
Note that the story was titled Jane Eyre, not Mr. Rochester.
THE SCARLET LETTER ()
Though Hester Prynne, who is condemned by
her Puritan neighbors for having a child out of
wedlock, is sometimes seen as a victim, she
manages to survive with dignity and faith
throughout, which we think makes her pretty
darn powerful. NPR has described her as being
“among the first and most important female
protagonists in American literature. She’s the
embodiment of deep contradictions: bad and
beautiful, holy and sinful, conventional and
radical… [she] can be seen as Hawthorne’s
literary contemplation of what happens when
women break cultural bounds and gain personal
HARRY POTTER (1997+)
In the Harry Potter books, Hermione starts as an insufferable know-itall, blossoms into a whip-smart beauty who doesn’t suffer fools
(except Ron), and ends up as the glue that holds the whole operation
together. Hermione’s steadfastness and sheer intelligence (plus the
fact that she’s the only one who has ever read Hogwarts: A History)
save her two best friends time and time again, and she’s the only one
of the three never to wholly break down in a crisis. Intelligence often
translates into strength, but only when wielded by a steady hand —
and Hermione just happens to have both, and compassion to boot.
That’s our kind of girl.
THE HUNGER GAMES (2008)
Sure, Katniss has her boy-related waffling and wailing, but any girl
who can shoot like that deserves a place on this list. Not to mention
the fact that she survived not one but two 24-person fights to the
death, one of which was designed specifically to kill her. Just saying.