Lecture: Feminist Criticism
Discussion: QHQ: Feminist Criticism/ The Great
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). This school
of theory looks at how aspects of our culture are
inherently patriarchal (male dominated) and “this critique
strives to expose the explicit and implicit misogyny in male
writing about women" (Richter 1346). This misogyny,
Tyson reminds us, can extend into diverse areas of our
culture: "Perhaps the most chilling example [...] is found in
the world of modern medicine, where drugs prescribed
for both sexes often have been tested on male subjects
Feminist Theory and Criticism
The objectives of the criticism include the
1. To uncover and develop a female tradition of
2. To interpret symbolism of women’s writing
so that it will be lost or ignored by the male
point of view.
3. To rediscover old texts
4. To analyze women writers and their writing’s
from a female perspective
5. To increase awareness of the sexual politics
of language and style.
First Wave Feminism
Ran from late 1700s-early 1900's: writers like Mary
Wollstonecraft (A Vindication of the Rights of Women,
1792) highlight the inequalities between the sexes.
Activists like Susan B. Anthony and Victoria Woodhull
contribute to the women's suffrage movement, which
leads to National Universal Suffrage in 1920 with the
passing of the Nineteenth Amendment
Second Wave Feminism
From early 1960s-late 1970s: building on more
equal working conditions necessary in America
during World War II, movements such as the
National Organization for Women (NOW), formed in
1966, cohere feminist political activism. Writers
like Simone de Beauvoir (Le deuxième sexe, 1972)
and Elaine Showalter established the groundwork
for the dissemination of feminist theories dove-
tailed with the American Civil Rights movement.
Third Wave Feminism
From early 1990s-present: resisting the perceived essentialist
(over generalized, over simplified) ideologies and a white,
heterosexual, middle class focus of second wave feminism,
third wave feminism borrows from post-structural and
contemporary gender and race theories to expand on
marginalized populations' experiences. Writers like Alice
Walker work to “reconcile [feminism] with the concerns of the
black community [and] the survival and wholeness of her
people, men and women both, and for the promotion of dialog
and community as well as for the valorization of women and of
all the varieties of work women perform" (Tyson 97).
QHQ Feminist Criticism
1. In what way does Feminist Criticism adhere to and/or
contradict New Criticism?
2. Q: What can men learn about themselves through
3. Q: Is it even possible to identify the perils of patriarchy
and alter one’s conduct so that one might eschew its
4. Q. Do gender issues really play a part in every aspect of
1. Q: Why are women urged to play the Traditional roles?
2. Q: How did gender roles become such a despicable
aspect of our social constructs, and how has it been
present within and affect literature?
3. Q: Throughout the entire Feminist Criticism chapter,
women who are a part of the patriarchal programming
are considered submissive, modest, emotional, and weak
(on a much larger scale than a man). Could a woman
subscribe to patriarchy without having all of these
4. Q: Are gender roles biological or socially constructed?
5. Q: How do we choose which social constructs to break
6. Q: How do we break down social constructs?
In The Great Gatsby
Is masculinity the desired quality for an
individual in a paternalistic society, or is it
subjective to gender as well? How does
Fitzgerald present the view of masculinity
regarding women in The Great Gatsby?
In what ways does Fitzgerald follow and reverse
traditional gender roles?
Questions Feminist Critics
Ask about Literary Text
Theory Today: Chapter
11 “African American
Criticism” pp. 359-409
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