Feminism beyond Modernism

By Elizabeth A. Flynn | Go to book overview

Notes

Introduction
1
It was no doubt important in early discussions of feminism to represent feminism as a unified, coherent ideology. One of the earliest anthologies devoted to feminist approaches to literary studies, Susan Koppelman Cornillon's Images of Women in Fiction: Feminist Perspectives, attempts to represent feminism in this way. Although essays such as Lillian S. Robinson and Lise Vogel's “Modernism and History” are clearly Marxist in orientation, the book as a whole gives the reader the impression that the authors are contributing to the development of a single feminist perspective rather than one composed of diverse strands. Another early collection of essays on feminist approaches to literature, Josephine Donovan's Feminist Literary Criticism (1975) is similar. Essays in the collection do sometimes distinguish among different approaches to the study of literature from a feminist perspective, but feminism itself would seem to be monolithic. The first essay in the collection, Cheri Register's “American Feminist Literary Criticism: A Bibliographical Introduction, illustrates the point. Register identifies three feminist approaches to the study of literature: “image of women criticism, “phallic criticism, and “prescriptive criticism” (3, 8, 11). She focuses, then, on diverse critical approaches but not on diverse feminist traditions.

An exception might appear to be the 1981 volume of Yale French Studies entitled “Feminist Readings: French Texts/American Contexts, which marks the beginnings of the emergence of distinctions between French and Anglo-American feminist literary studies, categories that become increasingly important as feminist literary studies evolves. The guest editorial collective (Colette Gaudin, Mary Jean Green, Lynn Anthony Higgins, Marianne Hirsch, Vivian Kogan, Claudia Reeder, and Nancy Vickers) in their introductory essay, “Literary and Sexual Difference: Practical Criticism/Practical Critique” (1981) identifies some differences between Anglo-American and French feminism, the former locating patriarchal power in interpersonal relations, the latter defining how patriarchal power functions on the symbolic level (9). They also observe that the pragmatic exigencies of teaching inform the discourse of American feminist scholarship (11). For the most part, though, feminism is equated with French feminism. The issue marks the emergence of a recognition that not all feminist perspectives are the same, but it makes only passing references to differences between French feminisms and Anglo-American feminisms.

2
Feminists may also be reluctant to name feminist traditions because doing so identifies those traditions in too definitive a way. This tendency is evident in “Feminist Criticism” by Catharine Stimpson, published in 1992, a useful map of different feminist locations within literary studies. Stimpson resists identifying distinct historical stages within

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