That literature is a form of social action has been an implicit assumption of feminist literary criticism since its emergence in academia some twenty-five years ago. This assumption has served not only to heighten the awareness of gender construction and response in literature, but also to redefine the process and goals of literary criticism itself.
Three powerful interviews with writers of different nationalities (Audre Lorde, Simone de Beauvoir, and Carmen Naranjo) introduce topics echoed in the essays that follow: the interplay between women’s writing and feminist theory, the politics of writing, and the roles of race, class, and sexual orientation in artistic production. These issues are engaged on a theoretical level by three essays that represent today’s most prominent areas of concern for feminist literary criticism. The theoretical perspectives advanced in this anthology provide models for reading the traditional expressions of women worldwide including oratory and performance as well as literature in the more conventional sense.
Contributors include Jane Flax on “Postmodernism and Gender Relations in Feminist Theory,” Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham on “African-American Women’s History and the Metalanguage of Race,” Paula Bennett on “Female Sexual Imagery and Feminist Psychoanalytic Theory,” Leslie Rabine on “Social Gender and Symbolic Gender in the Writings of Maxine Hong Kingston,” Joyce Zonana on “Feminist Orientalism and the Structure of Jane Eyre,” Jane Desmond on “Cultural Imperialism and Ruth St. Denis’s ‘Radha’ of 1906,” Terri Brint Joseph on “Poetry as a Strategy of Power: The Case of Riffian Berber Women,” Chikwenye Ogunyemi on “The Contemporary Black Female Novel in English,” and Sandra Zagarell on “Narrative of Community.”
This collection is especially appropriate for scholars and students of feminist literary criticism, women’s studies, English, and ethnic studies.
Essays were originally published in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.