Chapter 8: Feminisms and Gender Studies

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Chapter 8:
Feminisms and
Gender Studies
A Handbook of Critical
Approaches to Literature
I. Feminisms and Feminist Literary
Criticism: Definitions
 Patriarchal culture
 Feminism as a political approach like Marxism
 There is no longer a single set of assumptions or
a homogenous feminism
II. First-, Second-, and Third-Wave
Feminisms
 First-wave (19th century)—political rights (Wollestonecraft,
Stanton)
 Second-wave (post-World War II)—gender equality (de
Beauvoir, Millet, Friedan, Gilbert and Gubar)
 Third-wave (1990s to present)—broader group of women
included (Anzaldúa, hooks, Sandoval, Rebecca Walker, Rich)
 Role of Third-Space women, maternalist studies (especially
black maternalist studies)—Morrison, Alice Walker, O’Reilly
III. The Literary Woman: Created or
Constructed?
 Showalter’s three phases of feminism: the “feminine”
(women writers imitate men), the “feminist” (women
advocated minority rights and protested), and the
“female” (focus is now on women’s texts)
 Showalter’s four models of sexual difference: biological,
linguistic, psychoanalytic, and cultural
 Essentialist and constructivist feminisms
III. The Literary Woman: Created or
Constructed?
A. Feminism and Psychoanalysis
 French feminism and l’ecriture feminine
 Influence of Freud and Lacan
 Irigaray, Cixous, Kristeva
B. Feminists of Color
 Feminists of color, like lesbian feminists, have different
concerns than mainstream white heterosexual woman, often
competing; new voices, such as modern slave narrative;
postcolonialism and the subaltern woman (Spivak); Anzaldúa,
“The New Mestiza”
III. The Literary Woman: Created or
Constructed?
C. Marxist and Materialist Feminisms
 Lower-class women have a different view of feminist goals as
opposed to middle- and upper-middle-class women; debate
between Marxist and materialist feminisms
D. Feminist Film Studies
 “Male gaze”; social construction of female identity (Marx);
Mulvey and de Lauretis
 IV. Gender Studies
 Gender Studies: false binaries; Queer Theory; Sedgwick and
Warner
IV. Gender Studies
 False binaries
 Queer Theory
 Sedgwick and Warner
V. In Practice
A. The Marble Vault: The Mistress in “To His Coy Mistress”
 Grotesque attack on female body disguised as a love lyric
B. Frailty, Thy Name Is Hamlet: Hamlet and Women
 Hamlet cannot resolve his Oedipus Complex to become a
mature man
 He loathes the female body
 Heilbrun on Gertrude: how we read Gertrude determines how
we read Hamlet
V. In Practice
C. “The Workshop of Filthy Creation”: Men and Women in Frankenstein
 Femininity = Life, Masculinity = Death; Victor appropriates female role
but fails
1. Mary and Percy, Author and Editor
 In Mary’s life, due to her miscarriages and the suicides of family
members, death and life were horribly mixed; novel is artistic resistance
by a woman against a patriarchal family, husband, and society; Percy’s
role is debatable
2. Masculinity and Femininity in the Frankenstein Family
 Family, gender, and parental roles are skewed
3. “I Am Thy Creature. . .”
 Victor fails at being a father to the Creature: “’I was thy Adam’”
V. In Practice
D. Men, Women, and the Loss of Faith in “Young Goodman Brown”
 Hawthorne’s women characters are superior to his male characters;
story’s sexuality
E. Women and “Sivilization” in Huckleberry Finn
 Strong women characters like Mrs. Loftus; Jim’s maternalism
F. “In Real Life”: Recovering the Feminine Past in “Everyday Use”
 Motherhood and sisterhood; quilt as symbol of black women’s
creativity and family history; narrator: a womanist

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