Thursday, January 24, 2008

Notes from the Feminist Criticism Groups

These are the notes you all came up with in your groups...thanks again for typing and emailing me the notes. Though other groups submitted, I think this is the best version of the notes:

French Feminism
French Feminism drew their ideas from psychoanalytic philosopher Jaques Lacan.

1. French Feminism focuses on language and how the author creates meaning through this language
o The structure of language is phallocentric.
o Images appear in pairs, also known as binary logic.
o Son/Daughter
o Reason/Emotion
o Masculine/Feminine
o Light/Dark

2. Language is associated with the separation from the mother.
o According to the philosopher Julia Kristeva, feminine language is derived from the preoedipal period of fusion between mother and child.
o It is a method by which women may be creative in new ways.
3. The male point of view dominates culture and society.
o Women risk becoming outcasts by these new ideas.
o Men have a need to fill the gap that is created when they are separated from their mothers.
4. Helene Cixous and Luce Irigaray emphasize feminine writing as an expression of the female body.
o Addressed the issue of masculine dominance.
o An emphasis on the body either reduces “the feminine” to a biological essence or elevates it in a way that shifts the valuation of masculine and feminine but retains the binary categories.

American Feminism
In A Literature of Their Own (1977), Elaine Showalter divides women’s writing into three phases:

1. Feminine (1840-1860)
* Woman imitated the male point of view
* They imagine as if they were men in order to write and speak, or else they would have to choose silence—“the unheard sex” (100)
2. Feminist (1880-1920)
* Kate Milleht, Carolyn Heilbrun, Judith Fetterly and others created the “feminist critique”
* They on analyzing literary texts and great works by male authors
* Their revisionist rereadings led to attacks on the masculine ideas
* American feminist critics examined the characteristics of the female characters
* American feminist critics seek to expose the patriarchal society portrayed by the men
a) Dominance of men in society
b) Dominance of husbands at home
3. Female (1920-present)
* Another group of feminist critics—Sandra Gilbert, Susan Gubar, Patricia Meyer Spacks, and Elaine Showalter—created a revised feminist critique that advocated the female perspective
* They hoped to understand the women writers’ emotions and perception through the history of women and their culture
* This group of feminist critics rediscovered the forgotten works of woman writers

Weakness of American feminist criticism (1970s-1980s)
* By emphasizing the “universal female attributes” (303), the American feminists were merely countering the male opposition with the same points

British Feminism

1. British Feminists objected to the tendency of some North American critics to find universal or "essential" feminine attributes.
o They argued that differences of race, class, and culture gave rise to crucial differences among women across space and time
2. British feminist critics regarded their own critical practice as more political than that of North American feminists, emphasizing an engagement with historical process in order to promote social change
3. Believed that Americans celebrated heroes falsely; Americans suggested that powerful individuals are immune to repressive conditions.

Also, these are some good quotations from the essay from another group:

French Feminists
  • Focus on language and how meaning is produced
  • Language is typically a male realm
  • Suggested “masculine desire dominates speech and posits woman as an idealized fantasy fulfillment for the incurable emotional look cause by separation from the mother” (Jones “Inscribing” 83)
  • Feminine language is “semiotic” not “symbolic” blends mother and child
  • Men focus on one thing in life and language and sex while women focus on many things, reflecting the males’ one sexual organ to the women’s many


  • “American feminists critics began by analyzing literary texts rather than philosophizing abstractly about language,” (302).
  • “examined the portrayals of women characters, exposing the patricarchal ideology implicit in such works and showing how clearly this tradition of systematic masculine dominance is inscribed in our literary tradition,” (302).
  • Also discussed female authors’ “gynocriticism” and how they created a literature of their own”
    “rediscover women’s history and culture” (302).
  • Their goal was to unite feminists and bring attention to female writing
  • Women all have their own style of writing and thinking while men typically have one


  • More political than North American feminists
  • Believed that “American opposition to male stereotypes that denigrate women often leads to counterstereotypes of feminine virtue that ignore real differences of race, class, and culture among women,” (303-304).
  • Also “argued that American celebrations of individual heroines falsely suggest that powerful individuals may be immune to repressive conditions and may even imply that any individual can go through life unconditioned by the culture and ideology in which she or he lives, (304).
  • “British feminist theory emphasized an engagement with historical process in order to promote social change,” (304).


Elina R 6 said...

This is really cool stuff!!

Meaghan S6 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meaghan S6 said...

I think I was just blinded by my very careless spelling error. It should be pairs instead of pares. Sorry!