Feminist criticism has come a long way in the last twenty years. Its development has been rapid, its snowball progress picking up elements of structuralism, deconstruction and psychoanalytic criticism; just as rapidly it has been shedding its own early theories and methodologies. Now it is a critical orthodoxy with its own established canonical texts. Now is the time, then, to begin to question that orthodoxy. In Problems for Feminist Criticism five women critics seek to do that, in a spirit of enquiry whose central point of focus is the literature for which feminist critics have offered a re-reading.
By reference to a wide range of writers, from Milton to the contemporary poet, with a strong emphasis on the nineteenth-century novel, the contributors ask what we may be losing from literature by adopting the feminist orthodoxy. Each chapter provides a survey of feminist critical approaches to its subject and highlights the inherent problems. The book frees the way forward for critics who have found much that is stimulating and revealing in feminist approaches to literature, but who find its proscriptiveness potentially reductive. It shows how literature may have the flexibility to absorb and benefit from new critical approaches, whilst still retaining its own life, never quite to be contained in criticism’s theories and methodologies.
Acknowledgements. Introduction: Problems for feminist criticism Sally Minogue. 1. The talkative woman in Shakespeare, Dickens and George Eliot Barbara Hardy 2. Milton on women – yet again Barbara K. Lewalski 3. Gender and class in Villette and North and South Sally Minogue 4. ‘Wooman, lovely wooman’: four Dickens heroines and the critics Sandra Hopkins 5. Lawrence’s men and women: complements and opposites Mara Kalnins 6. Prescriptions and proscriptions: feminist criticism and contemporary poetry Sally Minogue. Index.