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Literary Criticism and Brave New World

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1 Literary Criticism and Brave New World
Feminism Literary Criticism and Brave New World

2 Literary Criticisms A literary criticism asks YOU the reader to look at a piece of literature from a different perspective. You have to take away YOUR bias (your set of experiences and what you think) and replace it with a different, new bias or perspective. For example: if I ask you, ‘Is The Hunger Games’ a good movie? You might say yes or no. If I ask you, “As a woman, is the Hunger Games a good movie?” you might have a different answer!

3 Purdue University Feminist criticism is concerned with "...the ways in which literature (and other cultural productions) reinforce or undermine the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women" (Tyson)

4 What is Feminist Literary Criticism?
This school of theory looks at how aspects of culture are inherently male dominated and this critique attempts to reveal the explicit and implicit way men and women treat women in their writing about women.

5 1st School of Feminist Thought
late 1700s-early 1900's: writers like Mary Wollstonecraft highlight the inequalities between the sexes. Activists like Susan B. Anthony and Victoria Woodhull contribute to the women's suffrage movement, which leads to National Universal Suffrage in 1920 with the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment in the United States.

6 2nd Generation of Feminist Thought
Early 1960s-late 1970s: building on more equal working conditions necessary in America during World War II The National Organization for Women (NOW), formed in 1966 Feminist political activism. Writers like Simone de Beauvoir (Le deuxième sexe, 1972) and Elaine Showalter established the groundwork for the dissemination of feminist theories dove-tailed with the American Civil Rights movement

7 3rd Wave of Feminism Early 1990s-present: resisting the perceived over generalized, over simplified ideologies and a white, heterosexual, middle class focus of second wave feminism Third wave feminism borrows from post-structural and contemporary gender and race theories to expand on marginalized populations' experiences. Writers like Alice Walker work to "...reconcile it [feminism] with the concerns of the black community...[and] the survival and wholeness of her people, men and women both, and for the promotion of dialog and community as well as for the valorization of women and of all the varieties of work women perform" (Tyson 97).

8 What to Look For In Literature:
How is the relationship between men and women portrayed? What are the power relationships between men and women (or characters assuming male/female roles)? 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? What does the work reveal about the operations (economically, politically, socially, or psychologically) of patriarchy? What does the work imply about the possibilities of sisterhood as a mode of resisting patriarchy? What does the work say about women's creativity? What does the history of the work's reception by the public and by the critics tell us about the operation of patriarchy? What role the work play in terms of women's literary history and literary tradition?

9 Doing a Feminist Critique
I suggest you choose 2 or 3 questions from the previous list and ask those questions of characters in Brave New World. Ex. What are the power relationships between men and women (or characters assuming male/female roles)? - Lenina is very sexually open, but at the same time follows the rules of all the men in the book and eventually is killed by John because of her open sexuality. This shows that men in the book have the power to subdue and kill women.

10 Brave New World Lenina: Sexual freedom, in a position of power over first Bernard (who loses interest after he has her and runs away when she is in greatest need at the end of the novel pg 227) and Henry (who offers her to his friend in chapter pg 39) and later over John (whom she has an orgy with at the end of the play). About Bernard: “I think he is rather sweet,” said Lenina, “One feels one would like to pet him. You know. Like a cat.” pg 39 ‘Her eyes, her hair, her cheek, her gait, her voice; Handlest in thy discourse, O! that her hand, In whose comparison all whites are in Writing their own reproach; to whose soft seizure The cygnet’s down is harsh…’ John recites a quote from Shakespeare to describe Lenina (pg 125) as he watches her sleep. (The quote is from Troilus and Cressida, a Greek Tragedy about a couple who love one another, but cannot ever be together). However, Lenina and Bernard change as he loses interest in her and finds may other women to have. “’Oh greatest fun,’ he answered, but in a voice so mournful, with an expression so profoundly miserable, that Lenina felt all her triumph suddenly evaporate. Perhaps he had found her too plump after all.” pg 81 Later John’s opinion of her changes and when he sees her, “Strumpet!” and rushes at her to whip her repeatedly, “he was slashing her with his whip of small cords.” pg 227

11 Fanny and Linda Fanny: Sexually free, but like other women in the book are there for the amusement of men, “I once had to wait nearly four weeks before a girl I wanted would let me have her.” pg 38 She is portrayed as fickle and not very intelligent when she remarks, “He’s so ugly!” pg 39 and “But his reputation?” on page 38. Her opinion changes of Bernard after he becomes popular later in the book (in direct contrast including the setting of her previous comments) when she remarks, “She’s a lucky girl.” pg 143 Fanny now jealous of Linda’s relationship with Bernard because his status and as a result her status had changed. Linda: The ugly mother of John who is rejected twice by the director an because she is deemed so ugly is given a permanent soma holiday even though it will kill her in order for her and society to be able to cope with and ignore her ugliness, “But aren’t you shortening her life by giving her so much?” (John) “’In one sense yes,’ Dr. Shaw admitted. ‘But in another way we are lengthening it.’” Linda is often spoken for and when she does speak people listen in horror because of how she looks.

12 Your Analysis How do you think women are portrayed in the novel?
Write a short reflection on the overall treatment of women in the book. Use some of the questions on slide 7 to inform your response. What would Beauvoir think of the portrayal of women in the novel? Why? Use Beauvoir's discussion of Woman as Other to inform your decision.

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