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Feminist Literary Criticism: Explorations in Theory

edited by Josephine Donovan
Copyright Date: 1989
Edition: 2
Pages: 112
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130jh6x
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  • Book Info
    Feminist Literary Criticism
    Book Description:

    The first major book of feminist critical theory published in the United States is now available in an expanded second edition. This widely cited pioneering work presents a new introduction by the editor and a new bibliography of feminist critical theory from the last decade. This book has become indispensable to an understanding of feminist theory. Contributors include Cheri Register, Dorin Schumacher, Marcia Holly, Barbara Currier Bell, Carol Ohmann, Carolyn Heilbrun, Catherine Stimpson, and Barbara A. White.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5799-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. EDITOR’S PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION TO THE SECOND EDITION: RADICAL FEMINIST CRITICISM
    (pp. ix-xxii)
    Josephine Donovan

    In her recent book on feminist criticism,Crossing the Double-Cross(1986), Elizabeth A. Meese remarks that the “prescriptive [feminist] criticism” identified by Cheri Register in this book represented “the first assertion of feminist critical authority.” “An idea presented before its time, prescriptive criticism was effectively silenced by a feminist community bent on coexistence and gradual reform.”¹

    In reintroducing this collection of essays, first published in 1975, I hope to revive the radical potential of feminist criticism projected in its pages. As Meese correctly notes, that radicalism has since been effectively silenced and obscured by reformist and other tendencies-notably, in my...

  5. AMERICAN FEMINIST LITERARY CRITICISM: A BIBLIOGRAPHICAL INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-28)
    Cheri Register

    A young woman is sitting on the bus reading Doris Lessing’sThe Golden Notebook.Her young male seat companion comments, “You must be into women’s lib.” At a workshop on sexism in education, an English teacher asks what she can give her seventh graders—in addition toLittle Women—to counter the influence ofDouble DateandDouble Feature.The members of a feminist collective circulate among themselves a well-worn volume of Sylvia Plath’s poetry. The women’s magazineRedbookprints an excerpt from Kate Chopin’sThe Awakening,which has been ignored since the controversy following its publication in 1899.¹

    Such...

  6. SUBJECTIVITIES: A THEORY OF THE CRITICAL PROCESS
    (pp. 29-37)
    Dorin Schumacher

    Can the literary critic be compared to the poet, responding creatively, intuitively, subjectively to the written word as the poet responds creatively and individually to the world of human experience? Does the critic interpret an artist’s work in the same way that the artist has interpreted experience, reaching truth through intuitive, untraceable leaps of consciousness? Or is the literary critic a kind of scientist, reaching for truth by following a series of demonstrable, verifiable steps, using a scientific method or process?

    The old subjectivity vs. objectivity or critic-as-artist-or-scientist debate has special significance for the theoretician of feminist criticism; for her,...

  7. CONSCIOUSNESS AND AUTHENTICITY: TOWARD A FEMINIST AESTHETIC
    (pp. 38-47)
    Marcia Holly

    When the idea for a collection of criticism first came to me, I envisioned a book calledPatterns of Strength, to be comprised of essays analyzing some of the many female literary characters who are selfreliant, independent, strong, courageous—that is, healthy, sane, and mature. I felt that feminists had dwelled long enough on the evils of our low status, lack of prestige, exploitation, and self-abasement. It was time, I thought, to begin rectifying psychological oppression by seeking out and publicizing positive role-models, time to uncover those strong female writers and characters who have been overlooked by literary criticism. How...

  8. VIRGINIA WOOLF’S CRITICISM: A POLEMICAL PREFACE
    (pp. 48-60)
    Barbara Currier Bell and Carol Ohmann

    In her novels, and those are what most of her readers know best, Virginia Woolf habitually aims at creating moments of freedom, moments when the self, breaking bonds and vaulting bounds, arrives at an unqualified intensity of thought and emotion. Clarissa Dalloway, on a London morning in spring, feels herself lifted on “waves of divine vitality.” “It [is] very, very dangerous,” she thinks, but without any regret, “to live even one day.” Lily Briscoe, toward the close ofTo the Lighthouse,is oppressed by Mr. Ramsay’s demands: he is a widower, and hence aggrieved; she is a woman and owes...

  9. THEORIES OF FEMINIST CRITICISM: A DIALOGUE
    (pp. 61-73)
    Carolyn Heilbrun and Catharine Stimpson

    In the dialogue that follows, Heilbrun and Stimpson have isolated the essential differences between two distinct approaches to the feminist critical process, and presented them in the form of a debate between two feminist critics, designated “X” and “Y”. Obviously, a certain amount of abstraction was necessary to develop the two positions as a working dialogue, and the two theories in fact complement rather than conflict with one another. The authors intend it to represent the sort of dialogue going on not onlyamongfeminists but within the individual feminist critic herself.

    X: We do not so much disagree, perhaps,...

  10. AFTERWORD: CRITICAL RE-VISION
    (pp. 74-81)
    Josephine Donovan

    While in practice feminist critics continue to use a variety of methodological approaches to literature, there are common assumptions that underlie a feminist approach to anything. It is upon this commonality that I wish to dwell, so as to place feminist literary criticism within the context of a more general critical theory.

    Feminists believe that women have been locked off in a condition of lesser reality by the dominant patriarchal attitudes and customs of our culture. We find these attitudes and customs reified in the institutions of literature and literary criticism. Feminist critics—like feminists in every area—are engaged...

  11. A SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY OF FEMINIST LITERARY THEORY, 1975-1986
    (pp. 82-92)
    Barbara A. White