Showalter 1981

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Elaine Showalter, “Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness” (1981)

in 1975, feminist criticism without theory – to varied in methodology and strategy

American anti-theoretical strain, against post-structuralist’s masculinist discourse

but now feare of isolation from inscreasingly theoretical discourse

two distinct modes of feminist criticism: ideological: concerned with feminist as reader; “feminist reading or the feminist critique” – “in essence a mode of interpretation” study of women as writers, “gynocritics”
 “So long as we look to androcentric models for our most basic principles – even if we revise them by adding the feminist frame of reference – we are learning nothing new.”

“To see women’s writing as our primary subject forces us to make the leap to a new conceptual vantage point ad to redefine the nature of the theoretical problem before us. It is no longer the ideological dilemma of reconciling revisionary pluralisms but the essential question of different. How can we constitute weomn as a distinct literary group? What is ‘’the difference’’ of women’s writing?” (185)

gynocriticism makes use of four models of different: biological, linguistic, psychoanalytic, cultural

“Organic or biological criticism is the most extreme statement of gender difference, of a text indelibly marked by the body: anatomy is textuality.” (187) – Gilbert and Gubar in this category; pen as metaphorical penis but offer no alternative for women writers, indeed suggest that such an alternative is impossible

“To this rhetorical question [from what organ can females generate texts] Gilbert and Gubar offer no reply; but it is a serious question of much feminist theoretical discourse. Those critics who, like myself, would protest the fundamental analogy might reply that women generate texts from the brain or that the word-processor of the near future, with its compactly coed microchips, its inputs and outputs, is a metaphorical womb.” (187)

“Gynocritics begins at the point when we free ourselves from the linear absolutes of male literary history, stop trying to fit women between the lines of the male tradition, and focus instead on the newly visible world of female culture.” – quoted on Wikipedia

women’s wild zones, Amazon utopias, the place of l’ecriture feminine and the laughing Medusa – outside of patriarchal language but known to women, accessible to women; cites Daughters, Inc. publishing how analyzed by Trysha Travis in her essay on feminist book history

wildness is a fantasy, ultimately; women’s discourse must always be double-voice, speaking in dominate and muted discourse

“Women writing are not, then, ‘’inside’’ and ‘’outside’’ of the male tradition; they are inside two traditions simultaneously, ‘undercurrents,’ in Ellen Moers’ metaphor, of the mainstream.” (202)

“Insofar as our concepts of literary periodization are based on men’s writing, women’s writing must be forcibly assimilated to an irrelevant grid; we discuss a Renaissance which was not a renaissance for women, a Romantic period in which women played very little part, a modernism with which women conflict. At the same time, the ongoing history of women’s writing has been suppressed, leaving large and mysterious gaps in accounts of the development of genre.” (203)

“If a man’s text, as Bloom and Edward Said have maintained, is fathered, then a woman’s text is not only mothered but parented; it confronts both paternal and maternal precursors and must deal with the problems and advantages of both lines of inheritance.” (203)

explaining not just women’s writing “but also to understand how men’s writing has resisted the acknowledgment of female precursors” (204)

double-voiced discourse, dominant and muted story, palimpsest, object/field problem – “thick description” as a possible model

“I began by recalling that a few years ago feminist critics thought we were one a pilgrimage to the promised land in which gender would lose its power, in which all texts would be sexless and equal, like angels. But the more precisely we understand the specificity of women’s writing not as a transient by-product of sexism but as a fundamental and continually determining reality, the most clearly we realize that we have misperceived our destination. We may never reach the promised land at all; for when feminist critics see our task as the study of women’s writing, we realize that the land promised to us is not the serenely undifferentiated universality of texts but the tumultuous and intriguing wilderness of difference itself.” (205)