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Methods of Feminist Literary Criticism

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Feminist theories appeared in 1792.

Sojourner’s Ain’t I a Woman (1851) addresses the way that women’s rights are limited by flawed representational factors. Women of color are often represented by historically rooted subjective social constructions that marginalize them.

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This is better explained through the concept of representational intersectionality as their overlapping identities such as race and gender, marginalize them as a result of the dominant culture.

In this case, Sojourner emphasizes the false perceptions that men have of women and how it imposes limitations on their rights and freedoms. Historically, during the war, women replaced men’s jobs in the air force industry which presented their ability to perform the same tasks as men.

However, during the postwar era, women were fired from their jobs and positioned in secretarial jobs or domestic labor while men were labeled as “breadwinners” and worked more physically demanding or high-skilled jobs.

Through this historical example, it is clear that all individuals regardless of their identities are capable of achieving the same standards, but it is the social construction of race or gender that disables individuals, shapes the way that they are treated, and determines their role in society.

Susan B. Anthony criticizes the language of the constitution as it centers around the “ideal” heteronormative norm, which is constructed as a male figure. To fight this discriminatory and gendered language, she addressed in court following her arrest of illegal voting.

It is significant to consider how legal institutions, practices, and the language of the law are built around a certain rubric that produces a socially constructed ideal that represents who the law is written and made for.

This constructed individual often represents a white, heteronormative male, which socially oppresses and widens the gap of inequality amongst other individuals who do not fit into that norm concerning their gender, race, class, or sexuality. Embodying or Undercutting Stereotypes

Feminists argue that many forms of literature reproduce stereotypical images that disadvantage women. They argue that faulty perceptions are influenced by dominant views such as patriarchal relationships, heteronormativity, and other cultural attitudes.

Commonly, pieces of literature reflect the views of the dominant culture which both historically and contemporarily are proved to be non-neutral, oppressive, racist, and sexist.

Feminist literary criticism could potentially use some of the methods listed below:

  • Interpret the way that female characters are characterized within books, stories, plays, and history, specifically if the writer of said content is a man.
  • Distinguishing relations between the literary text and ideas about power and sexuality and gender.
  • Critiquing the common use of patriarchal or marginalizing language towards women, an example of this could be the ‘universal’ use of the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘him’ which are masculine.
  • Pay attention to how male and female writers and consider the contrast in the usage of direct language versus more reflexive language.
  • Restoring the “female voice” as an important part of literature that holds value, regardless of it being ignored in the past.
  • Reading and doing a thorough analysis of multiple works by using and applying a feminist lens.
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