Academic Feminist Literary Theory
By Jane Gallop
Routledge – 2012 – 284 pages
Jane Gallop’s book offers a clear-eyed and comprehensive history of feminist literary criticism. Why, she asks, have we so quickly buried 1970s feminist criticism? What lies buried there? Why do 1990s academic feminists accuse other academic feminists of being ‘academic’?
Gallop takes the novel approach of structuring her inquiry around anthologies of feminist criticism: twelve important texts that have had a wide impact on more than a decade of scholarship. In reading an anthology as a whole, she typically identifies a central, hegemonic voice (usually that of the editor/s) which would organise all the voices into a unity, and then explores the resistance within that volume to such a unity. Weight is placed behind these internal differences as a wedge against the centrist drive.
Around 1981 addresses briefly ‘french feminism’ and psychoanalytic feminism before focusing on its principal subject: the mainstream of feminist literary criticism, before and after its general acceptance as part of the changing institution of literary studies. This brilliantly illuminates the dilemma of the feminist critic, divided by her allegiance to both feminism and literary studies.
Introduction Part 1: Around 1981 1. The Difference Within (Writing and Sexual Difference) 2. The Problem of Definition (The New Feminist Criticism) Part 2: Sidetracks 3. "French feminism" (L’Arc 61) 4. The Monster in the Mirror (Yale French Studies 62) 5. Reading the Mother Tongue (The (M)other Tongue) 6. The Coloration of Academic Feminism (The Poetics of Gender) Part 3: Going Back 7. Writing About Ourselves (Images of Women in Fiction) 8. An Idea Presented Before Its Time (Feminist Literary Criticism) 9. A Contradiction in Terms (Feminist Criticism) Part 4: Going On (In) 10. Tongue Work (Conjuring) 11. The Attraction of Matrimonial Metaphor (Making a Difference) 12. History is Like Mother (Feminist Issues in Literary Scholarship) Afterword