Out of Bounds: Male Writers and Gender(ed) Criticism

Out of Bounds: Male Writers and Gender(ed) Criticism

Out of Bounds: Male Writers and Gender(ed) Criticism

Out of Bounds: Male Writers and Gender(ed) Criticism


Until recently, masculinity and its impact on literary production and reception has received scant attention in the field of literary criticism. Although critics certainly have been interested in examining gender, they have tended to be far more concerned with the feminine side of the equation than with the masculine. This book is an attempt to redress that imbalance.


This collection grew out of a special MLA session which the editors organized in 1986. Called "Male Feminist Voices," it aimed to articulate the special problems confronting male literary figures who wanted to escape patriarchal language. At the early stages of the thinking represented by that panel, we posed the problem in this way:

Luce Irigaray asks, "what can be said about a feminine sexuality 'other' than the one prescribed in, and by, phallocratism? How can its language be recovered, or invented?" Historically, it may well be time to push her question further: "what can be said about a male sexuality 'other' than the one prescribed in, and by, phallocratism?" That is, it is not enough to locate woman on the other side of a maleness that is assumed to coexist with patriarchy. For there is at least the possibility that maleness exists in a relation to patriarchy as a third term of gender discourse, whose terms are woman, man, and patriarchy. Even as we (under)mine patriarchy to expose its spurious claims to universality, so must we be vigilant against the error of equating it with man.

The central insight that we must consider patriarchy a gender-complicated term -- not conflated with the concept "male" alone -- has held up and has been further supported, in fact, by other feminist discourse emerging since that session two years ago. We had, however, initially defined a male writer's resistance to and defiance of the phallic mode and a patriarchal ideology as "feminist." That is, our original, unexamined assumption was that antipatriarchal activity would necessarily encompass feminism.

Thus one unexpected result of this collection of essays is our conclusion that no such generalization can be maintained. For to write against patriarchy as a male fettered by it does not necessarily result in writing for liberation of gender bondage, a primary aim of philosophical and practical feminism. "Feminist" tends to imply a political agenda -- the granting of full economic, political, and social equality to women. It implies as well a commitment to woman's autonomy and a recognition of her individual and independent importance. Although many male writers are interested in a . . .

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