Gynocriticism

Some questions feminist critics ask about literary texts The questions that follow are offered to summarize feminist approaches to literature. Approaches that attempt to develop a specifically female framework for the analysis of women’s writing (such as questions 6, 7, and 8) are often referred to as gynocriticism. 1. What does the work reveal about the operations (economically, politically, socially,

or psychologically) of patriarchy? How are women portrayed? How do these portrayals relate to the gender issues of the period in which the novel was written or set? In other words, does the work reinforce or undermine patriarchal ideology? (In the first case, we might say that the text has a feminist archal agenda. In the second case, we might say that the text has a feminist agenda. Texts that seem to both reinforce and undermine patriarchal ideology might be said to be ideologically conflicted.)

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2. What does the work suggest about the ways in which race, class, and/or other cultural factors intersect with gender in producing women’s experience?

3. How is the work “gendered”? That is, how does it seem to define femininity and masculinity? Does the characters’ behavior always conform to their assigned genders? Does the work suggest that there are genders other than feminine and masculine? What seems to be the work’s attitude toward the gender(s) it portrays? For example, does the work seem to accept, question, or reject the traditional view of gender?

4. What does the work imply about the possibilities of sisterhood as a mode of resisting patriarchy and/or about the ways in which women’s situations in the world – economic, political, social, or psychological – might be improved?

5. What does the history of the work’s reception by the public and by the critics tell us about the operations of patriarchy? Has the literary work been ignored or neglected in the past? Why? Or, if recognized in the past, is the work ignored or neglected now? Why?

6. What does the work suggest about women’s creativity? In order to answer this question, biographical data about the author and historical data about the culture in which she lived will be required.

7. What might an examination of the author’s style contribute to the ongoing efforts to delineate a specifically feminine form of writing (for example, ecriture feminine)?

8. What role does the work play in terms of women’s literary history and literary tradition?

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