Ad Hominem: to the man; appealing to personal interests, prejudices, or emotions rather than to reason; an argumentad hominem.
-- American Heritage Dictionary
Until quite recently, much literary criticism, like most humanistic studies, has been in some sense constituted out of arguments ad hominem. Not only have examinations of literary history tended to address themselves "to the man"--that is, to the identity of what was presumed to be the man of letters who created our culture's monuments of unaging intellect--,but many aesthetic analyses and evaluations have consciously or unconsciously appealed to the "personal interests, prejudices, or emotions" of male critics and readers. As the title of this series is meant to indicate, the intellectual project called "feminist criticism" has sought to counter the limitations of ad hominem thinking about literature by asking a series of questions addressed ad feminam: to the woman as both writer and reader of texts.
First, and most crucially, feminist critics ask, What is the relationship between gender and genre, between sexuality and textuality? But in meditating on these issues, they raise a number of more specific questions. Does a woman of letters have a literature--a language, a history, a tradition--of her own? Have conventional methods of canon formation tended to exclude or marginalize female achievements? More generally, do men and women have different modes of literary representation, different definitions of literary production? Do such differences mean that dis