Feminist literary criticism is literary criticism informed by feminist theory, or by the politics of feminism more broadly. Its history has been broad and varied, from classic works of nineteenth-century women authors such as George Eliot and Margaret Fuller to cutting-edge theoretical work in women's studies and gender studies by "third-wave" authors. In the most general and simple terms, feminist literary criticism before the 1970s—in the first and second waves of feminism—was concerned with the politics of women's authorship and the representation of women's condition within literature, this includes the depiction of fictional female characters. In addition feminist criticism was further concerned with the exclusion of women from the literary canon, and Lois Tyson suggests this is because the views of women authors are often not considered to be universal ones.[citation needed]

Since the development of more complex conceptions of gender and subjectivity and third-wave feminism, feminist literary criticism has taken a variety of new routes, namely in the tradition of the Frankfurt School's critical theory. It has considered gender in the terms of Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, as part of the deconstruction of existing relations of power, and as a concrete political investment.[1] It has been closely associated with the birth and growth of queer studies. The more traditionally central feminist concern with the representation and politics of women's lives has continued to play an active role in criticism. More specifically, modern feminist criticism deals with those issues related to the patriarchal programming within key aspects of society including education, politics and the work force.

Lisa Tuttle has defined feminist theory as asking "new questions of old texts." She cites the goals of feminist criticism as: (1) To develop and uncover a female tradition of writing, (2) to interpret symbolism of women's writing so that it will not be lost or ignored by the male point of view, (3) to rediscover old texts, (4) to analyze women writers and their writings from a female perspective, (5) to resist sexism in literature, and (6) to increase awareness of the sexual politics of language and style.[2]

Feminist literary critics

Rebecca West's work on women's suffrage from approximately 1910, can be traced as the beginning of the feminist criticism movement. In addition to West's work, Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own from 1929 is an integral text to the movement. Prominent feminist literary critics include Isobel Armstrong, Nancy Armstrong, Barbara Bowen, Jennifer DeVere Brody, Laura Brown, Margaret Anne Doody, Eva Figes, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Annette Kolodny, Anne McClintock, Anne K. Mellor, Nancy K. Miller, Toril Moi, Felicity Nussbaum, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Hortense Spillers, Gayatri Spivak, Irene Tayler, Marina Warner.

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Barry, Peter, 'Feminist Literary Criticism' in Beginning theory (Manchester University Press: 2002), ISBN 0-7190-6268-3
  2. ^ Tuttle, Lisa: Encyclopedia of feminism. Harlow: Longman 1986, p. 184