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Feminist Approach in Literary Criticism Term Paper



One of the main preconditions for just about any woman to be able to become an accomplished feminist writer is her ability to directly address its subliminal anxieties, regarding the issues of sex, violence, and social oppressiveness. In plain words, female-writers, concerned with promoting the feminist agenda, must be capable of overcoming a variety of different cognitive and perceptual restrictions, imposed upon them by the male-dominated society – even at the expense of challenging the provisions of conventional morality. In this paper, I will explore the validity of the earlier suggestion at length, in regards to the semantic motifs, contained in my rewrites. I will also elaborate on what I believe accounts for the discursive significance of the deployed literary/stylistic techniques.

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Probably the most despicable aspect of patriarchal oppression, to which women have been traditionally subjected, is that even today men are being encouraged to adopt a patronizing attitude towards the representatives of a ‘weak gender’. This is exactly the reason why they tend to refer to women as utterly emotional beings, incapable of addressing life-challenges rationally. The validity of this statement can be well illustrated in regards to how women are usually being represented in the male-chauvinistic works of literature. As Cixous noted, “Male writing… obscures women or reproduces the classic representations of women (as sensitive-intuitive-dreamy, etc.)”.1

Therefore, while working on the first rewrite, I made a deliberate point in advancing the idea that, just as it happened to be the case with men, women are fully capable of rationalizing the observed emanations of the surrounding reality in an unemotional and even cynical manner, “I am a banker, I deal with clients’ money all day… If they (clients) lose in their investments, they blame me. I am ok with that, as I know that someone’s gain is someone’s loss”.2 It is needless to mention, of course, that this contributed rather substantially towards endowing my rewrite with the spirit of feminism. By presenting myself as an individual who is not afraid to face the reality, as it is, I did indirectly undermine the soundness of the male-chauvinistic claims that society must ‘guard’ women, as too existentially vulnerable, while simultaneously denying them the right of social advancement.

In order to be considered truly feminist, a particular literary piece must encourage female-readers to contemplate on what accounts for the well-masked extrapolations of a societal patriarchalism, within the discursive framework of which women are forced to exist. The reason for this is apparent – the moralistic conventions of what Cixous used to refer to as ‘phallocentrism’, have traditionally served the purpose of preventing women from being able to explore their full existential potential, “Infinite woman.. (is) led into self-disdain by the great arm of parental-conjugal phallocentrism”.3 What is especially dangerous about patriarchalism (or ‘phallocentrism’), is that it forces women to assume that the situation when they are expected to proceed with an essentially ‘mechanistic’ living, is thoroughly normal. This is the reason why just about all the classical feminist writings feature the motif of women beginning to recognize the counterproductive essence of their willingness to continue trying to ‘fit’ into male-dominated societies.

In this respect, my first rewrite is not any different, because in it I did succeed in exposing the actual roots of the narrator’s budding uncomfortableness with the world. The legitimacy of this particular statement can be shown in relation to the following excerpt from my rewrite, “My road to becoming a banker wasn’t what I had intended to do in mind… I met lots of people that was in different clichés than me… It paid well enough for my shoes, designer clothes, luxury bags”.4 As can be seen in the above excerpt, there is an undeniable spirit of sarcasm to how the narrator talked about the particulars of her conventional living in the past. This, of course, implies that, as time went on, she was becoming increasingly aware of the fact that the behavioral model, to which she was prescribed by the society, did not quite correlate with the essence of her life-aspirations.

As the story progressed, the narrator was growing even more ‘feministically’ frustrated, because it was becoming ever more clear to her that, as if it was not enough that men do expect women to adhere to the behavioral code of ‘brainless but pretty little things’, many women also act as men’s willing collaborators, in this respect. For example, there is another female character in the rewrite, to which the narrator refers to in terms of a ‘bird’ – hence, accentuating the actual extent of this character’s intellectual ‘advancement’. Being a conventional woman, she could not help trying to ‘straighten’ the narrator’s act, by the mean of specifying what should be considered the conversational ‘unmentionables’, “She kept going on and on telling me what to say and what not say”.5 This could not result in anything else but in strengthening the narrator’s sense of frustration even further, which partially justifies the discursive significance of the rewrite’s apogee, “I turned it over and whipped it against her head. It was a hard blow, she fell to the ground”.6

However, it would be quite inappropriate to discuss the earlier mentioned plot’s development, as such that was merely meant to increase the dramatic appeal of my rewrite. Instead, it should be referred to as yet an additional indication that the story indeed adheres to the conventions of a ‘literary feminism’. This is because the manner, in which the narrator acted, symbolizes her endowment with the sense of an ‘existential wholesomeness’ – whatever ironic it may sound. The reason for this is simple – this particular plot’s development suggests that, just as it happened to be the case with the functioning of a male psyche, the working of a female psyche implies that there are many qualitative (often incompatible) dimensions to it. That is, women are fully capable of acting ‘evil’ if circumstances call for it. In other words, the earlier mentioned episode prompts readers to think that, quite contrary to what perceptually arrogant men tend to assume, there is very little reason to think of women’s behavior as being ‘preprogramed’ physiologically, which is supposed to naturally cause them to adopt a submissive stance in life. The feminist sounding of this subtly promoted idea is quite apparent.

Even though that, formally speaking, Marie Clements’s play does not contain many classical feminist themes and motifs, there can be very few doubts, as to the fact that when working on it, the author did strive to empower women in her own unique way. This is because, while exposed to this play, Western female-readers are being encouraged to consider the possibility that, contrary to what they were made to believe, throughout the course of their eurocentric (and therefore, ‘phallocentric’) upbringing, there is nothing dialectically predetermined about the challenges of a contemporary living. After all, as the play’s plot unravels, readers grow increasingly aware that there is no all-powerful ‘big-daddy-God’ up in the sky – had this not been the case, the featured female-characters’ deaths would not be so utterly absurd.

Even the conversations that take place between these characters mock the ‘phallocentric’ religion of Christianity rather intensely, “REBECCA reaches the fridge and opens the door… VALERIE: Wow, let there be light. VERNA: And there was light…VALERIE: Let there be skim milk. VERNA: And there was none. VALERIE: Let there be orange juice. VERNA: And there was none. VALERIE: Let there be water. VERNA: And there was none”.7 Therefore, it will be thoroughly appropriate to suggest that it is on the account of this play’s strongly defined absurdist overtones that we can well refer to it, as such that is being conceptually attuned with feminist discourse. The reason for this is quite apparent – while prompted to recognize that it is namely a blind chance, which affects women’s fates more than anything else does, female-readers are being provided with additional incentives to never cease exercising caution, when dealing with overly ‘amorous’ men, which almost always turn out to be viciously minded on the inside.

This suggestion helps to explain the discursive significance of feminist overtones in the second rewrite, as well – even though it will take readers to apply a certain mental effort, in order to be able to recognize these overtones’ feminist implications. For example, just as it happened to be the case in the original play, my rewrite subtly advances the idea that there is no any ‘hidden meaning’ to how life treats people, “MOM: Omens… haha. If there really were omens, you should dream about how you can get the next Lotto-max numbers so we can move to someplace better”.8 Even though that the above-quoted Mom’s suggestion does not seem to be endowed with the de jure feminist sounding, this is far from being the de facto case.

After all, it does not take a socially prominent intellectual to recognize the sheer progressiveness of this suggestion – the very realities of a post-industrial living expose the fallaciousness of ‘metaphysical’ outlooks (those that imply that there is a ‘hidden meaning’ to how the objective reality manifests itself) on the surrounding reality. Yet, as we are well aware from the lessons of history, people’s willingness to indulge in ‘metaphysical’ thinking is exactly what used to prompt them to grow religious, and consequently – to believe that by mistreating women they please ‘phallocentric’ God. In other words, by sounding materialistically minded/intellectually enlightened, Mom automatically contributed to the cause of feminism, as an ideology that is inheritably related to the notion of progress.

Another distinctive feature of the feminist writing-style is that it often features the deployment of the so-called ‘flow of consciousness’ technique, on the part of female writers, when they allow their deep-seated anxieties to take control of their rational psyche, which in turn makes it possible for these writers to gain a better understanding of their sense of self-identity. In Cixous’s article, there are many examples of this technique’s deployment, such as the following one, “(Woman)… guilty of everything, guilty at every turn: for having desires, for not having any; for being frigid, for being ‘too hot’; for not being both at once; for being too motherly and not enough; for having children and for not having any; for nursing and for not nursing”.9

My second rewrite also features the application of the same feminist technique, although I did it in a somewhat ‘curtailed’ manner, “JANE: There she (Mom) goes again, talking about how we are not poor and that we ate better than other poor people. I wish she would just stop…this makes me not want to eat at all”.10 This is because; I thought it was important to provide readers with a glimpse into Jane’s mental state – hence, prompting them to contemplate on the subject of ‘absurdity’ even more. After all, no matter how hard a particular reader tries, it would prove impossible for him or her to establish a dialectical link between the particulars of Jane’s existential stance, on the one hand, and her eventual demise, on the other. Therefore, there is nothing accidental about the sheer abruptness of my rewrite’s ending, “SLIDE: Jane Witherhall, 16, died January 9, 2013, with a 0.45 blood-alcohol reading. No coroner’s reported issued”.11 By finishing the rewrite in the way I did, I wanted to stress out that there is too much absurdity/futility in just about any woman’s life, in order for the ‘phallocentric’ idea that women are predestined to serve a ‘higher cause’ of becoming continually impregnated by men, to be considered even moderately legitimate.


I believe that the earlier deployed line of argumentation, as to what appears to account for the feminist significance of Cixous and Clements’s literary pieces, and as to what contributes to the feminist sounding of both of my rewrites, is fully consistent with the paper’s initial thesis.


Cixous, Helene. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Signs 1, no. 4 (1976): 875-893.

Clements, Marie. The Unnatural and Accidental Women. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2005.

Lesson 7 Case.

Lesson 10 Case.


  1. Helene Cixous, “The Laugh of the Medusa,” Signs 1, no. 4 (1976): 878.
  2. Lesson 7 Case. Par. 1.
  3. Cixous, 876.
  4. Lesson 7 Case. Par. 2.
  5. Lesson 7 Case. Par. 3.
  6. Lesson 7 Case. Par. 3.
  7. Marie Clements, The Unnatural and Accidental Women (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2005), 69.
  8. Lesson 10 Case. Par. 4.
  9. Cixous, 880.
  10. Lesson 10 Case. Par. 5.
  11. Lesson 10 Case. Par. 11.
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1. IvyPanda. "Feminist Approach in Literary Criticism." March 19, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/feminist-approach-in-literary-criticism/.


IvyPanda. "Feminist Approach in Literary Criticism." March 19, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/feminist-approach-in-literary-criticism/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Feminist Approach in Literary Criticism." March 19, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/feminist-approach-in-literary-criticism/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Feminist Approach in Literary Criticism'. 19 March.

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