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Limits And Challenges Of The Feminist Critical Approach

3325 words - 13 pages

Feminist literary criticism is an approach to literary criticism that is most concerned with the role of women within the context of literature. This includes how female characters are created and understood within any given text, in addition to the role of female authors and female readers. This paper shall focus on some of the theoretical concepts which have been contributed to the feminist literary discourse. It shall compare and contrast aspects of theory put forth by three prominent feminist critics, while also considering the arguments raised by three écriture feminine scholars. The feminist critics to be considered in this essay are Simone de Beauvoir, Elaine Showalter, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. Their arguments about the role of sexual difference, the depiction of females in a binary oppositions to male characters and authors, as well as the sociological statements that these roles make shall, be discussed by themselves. The écriture feminine scholars Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous and Luce Irigaray shall be drawn upon in order to make the arguments of the feminist critics more clear, but also to offer their own critiques to feminist studies, and how they are manifested within the context of literature. The overall purpose of this paper is to compare, contrast and critique all of the arguments presented by these theorists. It shall argue that the feminist understanding of the critique of literature is required to further the feminist agenda of equalized understanding not just between the male and female sex, but between all people, both within and outside of the realm of literary criticism itself.
The first theorist to discuss is Simone de Beauvoir. The author of a text which is called “The Second Sex”, de Beauvoir offers a specialized critique of the role of the woman within modern society at large, including the literary presence. She accomplishes this by identifying what she refers to as the “myth of woman” (de Beauvoir 41), and exploring the sociological effects of this particular myth. Before that may be discussed, however, one must understand what the myth of woman is in reference to. de Beauvoir explains that the myth of woman is the creation of a secondary sex, that which embodies all aspects which can not be associated with a male individual. It is a very difficult to challenge myth due to the naturalization of its origin; as de Beauvoir describes, the myth of the woman has become “ an immutable aspect of the human condition...a static myth” (41). So long as the myth of the woman is regarded as a static myth, nothing can be challenged or changed about it, which is exactly what de Beauvoir proposes should happen. Furthermore, while the understanding of the woman as myth is in place, what is being accomplished is a formal dehumanization, so to speak. She writes that “to pose Woman is to pose the absolute Other, without reciprocity, denying against all experience that she is a subject, a fellow human being”(41). This means...

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