Feminist literary criticism

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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.

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. And the more traditionally central feminist concern with the representation and politics of women's lives has continued to play an active role in criticism. In Indian literature the issues of feminism have been dealt with differently. As in a seminar held in Sahitya Academy writer Rafia Shabnam Abidi of Mumbai pointed out we have now a novel by Paigham Afaqui which has dealt with its female character Neera as a human being in most perfect manner while treating her being a female only as a part of her personality. She emphasised that for the first time in literature MAKAAN, a novel by a male writer (surprisingly) Paigham Afaqui has produced a character that contains and embodies the dream of the self of a woman that all thinkers through out the world have been craving for.She disputed the contention that only a female writer can contribute to feminist thinking and cause. 'A writer himself/herself has to rise above the gender dividing line while writing about a human society'.Commented Paigham Afaqui who was also present in the seminar. In a seminar held in Cuttuk (Orissa), India organised by National Book Trust, Autar Singh Judge had pointed out while representing Urdu fiction that Neera, the lead character of Makaan was the finest depiction of female character in the Indian literature. It received consensus. But unfortunately, the male politics as present in Urdu circles kept this view suppressed for a long time and started highlighting the writings of Quratul Ain Haider. they contented that 'writings by female writers' and not writings depicting female characters are feminist. the opinion is still divided but 'literature is not politics' as Paigham Afaqui pointed out on a few occasions in literary discussions. It is normally believed that female characters of Quratul Ain Haider only depict traditional personality of Indian women while Makaan is symbolizing the most vocal and effective career woman of India today.

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]


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