Feminist Approaches to Maxine Hong Kingston`s No Name Woman

Canby High School Literature 120
Dr. Amy Berry and Mrs. Barrie Citrowske
15 February 2012
Literary criticism gives us a window into a work of
It gives us a particular way of understanding the text
from a specific viewpoint
Feminist criticism makes women’s experience, status,
power the center of reading and interpretation
Feminist criticism is concerned with "...the ways in
literature (and other cultural productions) reinforce or
Undermine the economic, political, social, and
psychological oppression of women"
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 (hatred of women)
Sun Yat Sen
Mao Tse Tung
Feminist Principles that Inform Feminist Literary
Women are oppressed by patriarchy economically,
politically, socially, and psychologically; patriarchal
ideology is the primary means by which they are
kept so
In every domain where patriarchy reigns, woman
is other: she is marginalized, defined only by her
difference from male norms and values
All of western (Anglo-European) civilization
is deeply rooted in patriarchal ideology.
For example, in Greek mythology a woman is
Responsible for bringing sin and evil into the
World—the woman is Pandora, who opens
The forbidden magic box
Chinese civilization depicted
in Kingston’s story is the epitome of patriarchy,
Male-dominated society where women have no
rights, legal protection, or status of their own
While biology determines our sex (male or female),
culture determines our gender
(masculine or feminine).
Gender is a social role that we must learn
Gender issues play a part in every aspect of
human production and experience, including the
production and experience of literature, whether
we are consciously aware of these issues or not
Feminist Criticism—Questions for Understanding Texts
What does the work reveal about the operations
(economically, politically, socially, or psychologically)
of patriarchy (male dominated society)?
Questions for Understanding Texts
• How is the relationship between men and women
• portrayed?
•What are the power relationships between men
and women?
• How are male and female roles defined?
•What constitutes masculinity and femininity?
• How do characters embody these traits?
•Do characters take on traits from opposite genders?
How so? How does this change others’ reactions
to them?
How can feminist critical approaches help us
to understand Kingston’s ‘No Name Woman?’
How can critical questions based on feminist
thought provide a lens through which
we can view the story?
Feminist Criticism—Questions for Understanding
‘No Name Woman’
Why is the title important in telling us about the
power and status of women in Chinese and ChineseAmerican society? What does the fact that the
grandmother has no name
tell us about her status and power in Chinese
society? In her Granddaughter’s life?
What does the story ‘No Name Woman’ tell
us about the power relationships between
men and women?
About the presence and roles of mothers
and fathers/grandmothers
and grandfathers in the lives of children
and adults?
What do the narrator’s fantasies tell us about the
status and power of young contemporary Chinese
About the narrator’s own status and power within
the Chinese-American context?
Who defines roles for women in both societies?
What does the story say about how women (and girls)
in both cultures are valued by each society?
How does the woman narrator value her ‘No Name’
What does the story tell us about the relationships
between mother and daughter in Chinese society?
In Chinese-American society?
Think in terms of technique: how does Kingston
create the story? What narrative strategies and genre
conventions does she employ to tell the story and
construct the themes?
How do you relate to the themes and issues
in the story?
How different is the world of the narrator
to your world?
What themes in the story are universal?
What themes do you relate to? Why?

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