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Daniel Orizaga Doguim Elaine Showalter & Judith Butler Final Work 03.06.13
Feminism and Literature: An insight through Elaine Showalter and Judith Butler. First of all, this paper will attempt to find a consensus between Elaine Showalter‘s essays Toward a Feminist Poetics & Feminism and Literature, and Judith Butler‘s work: Undoing Gender & Subjects of Sex Gender & Desire. Elaine Showalter is regarded as a Feminist American Literary critic while Judith Butler is considered an American poststructuralist philosopher, who has enormously contributed to the fields of feminist philosophy and queer theory. As one might expect, even though Showalter and Butler have different perspectives concerning Feminism, oddly enough they both hold or share mutual interests when they deal with topics as Feminism and Literature. They particularly focus their attention on: how were women represented in men‘s literary texts? (Butler, 146) and why were woman absent from literary history? (Showalter, 179) So, in order to answer such questions they drawn their work in cultural anthropology, linguistics, psychoanalysis, Marxism, deconstruction, semiotics and discourse theory, all of this, in terms of its own ideological position. Thus, we can see that in spite of what they believed and trends they followed, at the very end, we can find more similarities between their pieces of work, rather than differences. To begin with, we will be focused on Elaine Showalter. As a literary critic, she shows a lengthy interest in communicating the importance of understanding feminine tradition. (Showalter, 179). For instance, throughout Toward a Feminist Poetics, Showalter traces the history of women's literature, suggesting that it can be divided into three phases. Firstly, the feminine phase (1840–1880), secondly, the feminist phase (1880–1920), and thirdly, the female phase (1920—). The first phase assures that ―women wrote in an effort to equal the intellectual achievements of the male culture, and internalized its assumptions
which are literary determinants‖. as Showalter mentions. Elaine Showalter. Showalter explains that the program of gynocritics seeks to construct a female framework in order to analyze women‘s literature. England. refers to the ‗self discovery‘ in where ―women reject both imitation and protest—two forms of dependency—and turn instead to female experience as the source of an autonomous art. Showalter coined the term gynocritics. Through Toward a Feminist Poetics. we must be able to criticize through a cultural analysis as a way ―to understand what women write rather than to dictate what they ought to write‖ (Rouse. Thus. in accordance with the foregoing. Having considered the foregoing.The second phase was characterized because ―women‘s writing that protested against male standards and values. in order to describe literary criticism based in a feminine perspective. 138). Owing this. advocated her attention towards the third phase ―rather than from perspectives that traditionally come from an androcentric perspective‖ (Rouse. Germany and France. Lastly. it is now reasonable for Showalter to make use of her term: ‗gynocritics‘. extending the feminist analysis of culture to the forms and techniques of literature‖ (Rouse.Ordaz. Consequently. particularly. Showalter gives too much weight to cultural anthropology and social history because she thinks both of them are especially fruitful since they might offer us a terminology and a diagram of women‘s cultural situation. 137). strongly believes that ―a cultural theory acknowledges that there are important differences between women as writers: class. 140). 266). 139). Showalter. United States.e. and advocated women‘s rights and values. (Rouse. 2 about female nature‖ (Rouse. concerning issues and themes of work in feminism and literature through a variety of theoretical perspectives. This means that Elaine preferred to look at the different ways feminist criticism evolved in countries which have produced important work i. and history. Such aim was pursued by Showalter since many feminist . race nationality. the third phase. 266). including a demand for autonomy‖ (Rouse. Showalter attempts to show that whenever we have to deal with any literary feminist critic.
continuously asked whether there could be a disciplined way of defining the specificity of women‘s texts and constructing a female literary tradition that did not depend entirely on experience.190). Although feminist critics recognize that the meaning of gender was interpreted within a variety of historical. In other words. In addition. in regard with the foregoing. working class etc. (Showalter. lesbian. As a result. national. 3 critics. 189). as they mentioned. in 1978 Elaine Showalter finally proposed the term (gynocritics) to describe the feminist study of women‘s writing. racial and sexual contexts.and I daresay only on a very few biologically anomalous human females have not been raised as women. and between women and men. So. (Showalter . For instance: “If a writer is a woman who has been raised as a women. Showalter immediately offered through her ‗gynocritics‘ a taxonomy of the varieties of feminist criticism in literary studies which could deal with such problematic. gynocriticism generated a vast literature on individual women writers. Later on.how can her sexual identity be split off from her literary energy? Even a denial of her femininity… would surely be significant to an understanding of the dynamics of her aesthetic creativity”. in a relatively short period of time. persuasive studies of the female literary tradition assumed that gynocrotic writing was marked by gender. Thus. women will never deny that that they were indeed affected by the fact of being women. South African. that . as the fecundity of the term was explored. they will never forget the legacy of centuries of denigration of women‘s art. since women differentiated their positions from many number of stereotypes of femininity and define themselves also in terms of being black. including readings of women‘s texts and analyses of the intertextual relations both between women writers (a female literary tradition). they suggested that women will never be free to renounce or transcend their gender entirely. herself included.Ordaz. but that could recognize differences between women by making use of contemporary methods of literary interpretation. 117). or by the particular lifestyle they live but chiefly. (Gilbert.
it is Butler‘s task. Undoing Gender regards feminist. Butler discusses how gender is performed without one being conscious of it. and. 190). human subject. Butler‘s philosophical musings on subjectivity. 188). as well as asking how we may subversively undo gender. but says that it does not mean this performativity is "automatic or mechanical". to finally stop trying to fit women between the lines of the male tradition. to perform resistance. 4). we can also ask how all oppressive structures may be undone. In this way. (Showalter. On the other hand. The writer also debates our notions of "human" and "less- . She argues that we have desires that do not originate from our personhood. and to demand the impossible. 4) A transformative activity. (Showalter. from social norms. we can see that Elaine Showalter‘s main goal through her gynocritic work was to develop new models to be followed based on the study of female experience. (Gray. Undoing Gender Butler revisits and refines her notion of performativity and focuses on the question of undoing "restrictively normative conceptions of sexual and gendered life". but is useful for wider anti-imperialist work as well. we must take a look to Judith Bulter‘s work: Undoing Gender. have implications for our collective struggles against capital and empire. Nevertheless. rather than to adapt male models and theories. such approach attempted to undertake free women from the linear absolutes of male literary history. 4 could be historically grounded and most importantly. queer politics are about resisting assimilation. which probed the ideological assumptions of the literary phenomena. Underneath it all. and focus instead on the newly visible world of female culture. and the conditions required by current social relations for one to be considered a living. Her work has as main task to articulate the relationship between the radical ideologies we embody and how we perform gender and grassroots politics. to aim for a change. but rather. queer and transsexed investigations of philosophical and practical social change. throughout.Ordaz. As Butler contends. and remaking reality at the level of the body: ―to intervene in the name of transformation means precisely to disrupt what has become settled knowledge and knowable‖ (Gray.
146). 146). She states that one may feel the need of being recognized in order to live. Butler identifies some problematic tendencies in the contemporary feminist movement. to uncritically accept the notion of universal patriarchy. 147). but that at the same time.ddcyy In contrast. The writer proposes an interrogation of such conditions so that people who resist them may have more possibilities of living (Gray. this author argues. according to Butler. . Butler also argues that feminists need to be more selfcritical and not ―identify the enemy as singular in form‖ (Butler. Butler draws our attention to the necessity to reconsider the subject it claims to represent. has led many feminists researchers to appropriate ―non-Western cultures‖ with the end of proving this theory and universalizing ―western notions of oppression‖ ( Butler. Attempting to emancipate ―Women‖ is self -defeating because it reaffirms this discursively constructed category and its inferiority to ―Men‖ (Butler. women. The enemy comes in many shapes and forms. One of these is that feminism's subject is ―Women‖. have also problematically sought to essentialize women out of an apparent necessity for ―unity‖ of all women and a unified understanding this category (Butler. 151). Such a notion. In this work. in a piece entitled “I Women as the Subject of Feminism”. 6). which is a ―discursive formation and effect‖ of a political system that places this category in a subordinate position relative to the category of ―Men‖ (Butler. and essentialist and reductionist claims only serves to obscure the nuances that are necessary to effectively identifying the enemy. 150). There is a tendency in feminism. and they do not necessarily fit nicely in an air-tight hierarchy where women are at the very bottom (Butler. the conditions to be recognized make life "unlivable". which belongs to Judith Butler‘s work: Subjects of Sex Gender &Desire. Freedom for females does not go beyond the category of ―Women‖. Hence. 150). Certain feminists. it is rather constrained within it. In this sense. 5 than-human" and how these culturally imposed ideas can keep one from having a "viable life" as the biggest concerns are usually about whether a person will be accepted if his or her desires differ from normality.Ordaz. there are many layers of oppression.
desire and gender criticism into a political battlefield that overlooks the merits of works they consider ―patriarchal‖. (Elaine Showalter‘s essays Toward a Feminist Poetics & Feminism and Literature. and Judith Butler‘s work: Undoing Gender & Subjects of Sex Gender & Desire) it is now reasonable to attempt to regard through a single idea the main advantage and the main disadvantages concerning Showalter‘s and Butler‘s work. as a main advantage. Lastly. identity criticism. are concerned with the impact of ‗gender‘. But. hence such political struggle it‘s never solved. as a main disadvantage in Butler‘s and Showalter‘s work. it is evident that Elaine Showalter and Judith Butler indeed present different theories which mostly concern female activities towards a vast world full of social differences. They both agree that Feminist criticism is by definition gender . such ‗feminist‘ approach is often too theoretical. In other words. we may say that both theorists consider that Women have been somewhat underrepresented in the traditional cannon. but fortunately. it can be mentioned the fact that Butler as Showalter. such problem it‘s now a main theme of discussion that it must be considered carefully to eventually be solved. it only remains through the power of discourse. the discussion of such problem through a feminist movement.Ordaz. As a final outcome. it is not that strange to attempt to find certain things that may look alike while comparing their theories or research appointments since. we can regard the fact that ‗feminists‘ turn literary criticism. they recognize that such necessity of ‗defining‘ or ‗representing‘ what the ‗role‘ or the ‗acting‘ of women ‗must be‘ it‘s underrepresented in the traditional cannon of universal literature. or through a feminist approach. we may find certain similarities within their work. and a feminism approach to literature redresses this problem. even though they have different ideas and different ways of regard the world and our function towards it. Second of all. 6 As a conclusion. In addition. their efforts are indeed focused on the Western feminist theory to question the ‗presuppositional terms‘ of feminism. of the pieces of work considered above. First of all. Oddly enough.
Ordaz. concluding with the thought that the two approaches (feminine criticism & gender criticism) are certainly not polar opposites but. 7 criticism because of its focus on the feminine gender. in fact. . writing and criticize Literature concerning any feminist poetic. gender. In this way. Similarly. in Elaine Showalter‘s work as in Judith Butler‘s work. or any subject and whatever their desire might be. not only by falling through an endless political struggle. they recognize that the relationship between feminist and gender criticism is. desire. and language. exist along a set of attitudes toward sex. we can see a sort of agreement between them. sexuality. since they realize the importance remaining in the subject who reads and writes any kind of Literature. any undoing gender. Therefore. but to promote the need of reading. complex. rather. they both persuade their audiences to recognize the complexity of gender.
New York: Pantheon Books. 1999. Print. Elaine." Women‘s Writing and Writing About Women. New York. Collier." Urbana: Mar 2004. and theory.org/journal/article/01-undoing-gender Rouse. Routledge. Northwestern University Press. Erin. London: Croom Helm. 1985.co. York University.Ordaz. ―Undoing Gender‖ Upping the Anti. "Most famous" quoted from "Review". 2002. Gilbert. Sara & Butler. Print. http://uppingtheanti. 1979. literature. Helga. Subjects of Desire. Judith. 1999. Peter & Geyer. the Next New Thing. Grassroots Anti-Imperialist Network. Print. 8 Work Cited Butler. WEB. Elaine. Vol. New feminist criticism: essays on women. No. ―Gender Trouble‖. ―Feminist Criticism in the University: In interview‖.lrb.uk/v22/n21/bruce-robbins/dive-in Showalter. . http://www. Sandra. "After Theory. Ithaca. New York. Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. ―Literary Theory Today‖. John. WEB. 66. "Toward a Feminist Poetics. Showalter. 4. Gray. Salih. Print. Judith. Cornell University Press. Print. 1986. Print.
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