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Feminist Theory A way of looking at literature through the Critical Perspective of Feminist Literary Critical Theory.

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Presentation on theme: "Feminist Theory A way of looking at literature through the Critical Perspective of Feminist Literary Critical Theory."— Presentation transcript:

1 Feminist Theory A way of looking at literature through the Critical Perspective of Feminist Literary Critical Theory

2 What is Feminist Theory? Feminism is an evolving philosophy that states that the Western world (America, Europe, Latin America) is fundamentally Patriarchal Patriarchal: created by men, ruled by men, viewed through the eyes of men, judged by men Feminist Literary Theory began in the 1960s Until then, the works of female writers or works about women, were examined by the same standards as those by male writers, and women were thought to be less intelligent than men, in part because they received less formal education Many people, including women, accepted this judgment at the time

3 What do Feminist Literary Theorists believe? The Feminist Literary approach is based on finding and exposing examples of misogyny (negative attitudes toward women) in literature The undervaluing of women in literature has long been accepted as “the norm” and feminist theory seeks to expose it Feminist critics believe that Western literature reflects a masculine bias because it has been dominated by men (politicians, historians, writers) and therefore much of literature represents an inaccurate and potentially harmful image of women

4 What do Feminist Theorists do? They go through texts and expose the misogyny they see to show that literature of the past was unfair to women in order to change the image of women in literature They insist that works by and about women must be added to the literary canon (group of literary pieces deemed by mainstream society to be “masterpieces”) to balance out the negative portrayal

5 Three main areas of study/points of Feminist Literary Criticism 1. Differences between Men and Women The canon must be expanded to include the study of those genres in which women “traditionally” write: journals, diaries, letters Note the differences in the topics or issues about which men and women write and the perspectives from which they write about them

6 Areas of Study/Points of Criticism, cont. 2. Women in positions of power and power dynamics between men and women Pay attention to the social, economic, and political exploitation of women; note whether women have any power at all, and what type it is Pay attention to how men and women interact in a variety of settings (romantic, professional, etc.) and determine how the man treats the woman (as an adult/equal?)

7 Continued… 3. The Female Experience A woman’s experience of life is different from a man’s experience How does the writer treat events in literature (harshly, sensitively, etc.) What aspects of feminine life are included in the work? Explore that men and women are not complete without each other, rather than women being incomplete without a man (but not the other way around) Reject the application of male standards to the female personality (they cannot be judged the same way since they have different ways of viewing the world)

8 Questions to Ask for a Feminist Reading of Literature What stereotypes of women are present? Are female characters oversimplified? Weak? Foolish? Do female characters play a major or minor role in the story? Are they powerless or strong? How do the male characters talk about/treat female characters? How do female characters act toward male characters and toward other females?

9 Questions, Cont. Are the female characters and their situations oversimplified or are they realistic? Is the work sympathetic to women, or overly sympathetic? Do any of the themes touch upon ideas that are feminist issues? Are the female characters believable, as real people? Do female characters have any power? If so, is it political, economic, social, psychological?

10 As we read Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, focus here… Does Fitzgerald’s depiction of women seem accurate? Believable? What seems to be the overall purpose for Fitzgerald’s depicting women as he does? (satire, criticism, parody, etc.) Does Fitzgerald seem sensitive to feminist issues? Does the story provide a positive or negative view of women? Does it seem that masculine power oppresses women in the story?


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