Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Fay Weldon, Liberal Feminism and the Praxis of Praxis/Fay Weldon, Liberale Feminisme En Die Voorbeeld Van Praxis

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Fay Weldon, Liberal Feminism and the Praxis of Praxis/Fay Weldon, Liberale Feminisme En Die Voorbeeld Van Praxis

Article excerpt

Abstract

Fay Weldon, liberal feminism and the praxis of

This article focuses on Fay Weldon's novel, "Praxis" as a means of exploring the concept of "liberal feminism". "Praxis" charts the development of the eponymous main protagonist from a woman complicit in her own patriarchal oppression to a radical feminist activist and finally to the point where she comes to a liberal realisation of the nuances of individual women's experiences and the complexity of emancipation. The novel may be regarded as a liberal feminist text in its emphasis on both gender equality and individual liberty, and in its insistence that society may be positively reformed within the paradigm of the liberal state and without resorting to radical extremism. Published in 1978, the novel anticipates the later shift in feminist thinking from an exclusive concern with women's rights to a more inclusive liberal vision of human rights.

Key concepts:

Fay Weldon

feminism

fiction

liberalism

Weldon, Fay: Praxis

Opsomming

Fay Weldon, liberale feminisme en die voorbeeld van Praxis

Hierdie artikel ondersoek Fay Weldon se roman, "Praxis", as 'n voorbeeld van "liberale feminisme". "Praxis" beskryf die ontwikkeling van die hoofkarakter van 'n vrou aandadig aan haaf eie patriargale onderdrukking tot 'n radikale feminis en uiteindelik tot by 'n liberale besef van die nuanse van individuele vroulike ervarings en die ingewikkeldheid van emansipasie. Die roman kan as 'n liberale feministiese teks beskou word deur sy klein op geslagsgelykheid sowel as individuele vryheid, en weens sy aandrang dat die samelewing positief verbeter kan word binne die paradigma van die liberale staat sonder om ekstremistiese maatreels te tref. Die roman is in 1978 gepubliseer, en antisipeer derhalwe die latere skuif in feminisme van 'n eksklusiewe bemoeienis met vroueregte tot 'n meer inklusiewe liberale visie van menseregte.

Kernbegrippe:

Fay Weldon

feminisme

liberalisme

romankuns

Weldon, Fay: Praxis

1. Introduction

To apply the term liberal feminist to a writer as idiosyncratic and even transgressive as Fay Weldon may at first seem surprising. Although she is certainly a feminist in the sense that her writing is, as she puts it, "preoccupied with women's state in the world" (Kenyon, 1988:112), many of the views which she expresses in her novels, together with her ironic vision of general societal entropy, may not appear compatible with mainstream liberal feminism. And yet, beneath the superficial chaos of the world which she portrays so effectively in her fiction, there emerges a perspective which is deeply compassionate, sympathetic and humane. As she herself has noted (Lowry, 1982:25), all her work is founded upon "a discussion of ethics--that's the only thing that makes a play or a book interesting, and indeed justifies the great number of books in the world". More especially, as this article will argue, the ethical feminism which her writing evinces is one which is vitally informed by the central values of liberalism: the moral primacy of the individual and her/his liberty and autonomy; gender equality; and the belief that contemporary society can be ameliorated without resort to impractical extremism. These issues will be explored through a careful reading of one of Weldon's most important novels, Praxis. Published in 1978, the novel certainly presents an explicit and detailed critique of modern patriarchy, but it moves beyond that to problematise a number of feminist issues and to question the direction which certain strands of the radicalised second-wave feminism of the 1960s and 1970s were beginning to take. In particular, the novel's ending anticipates the later drift in feminist thinking from an oppositional concern with exclusive women's rights towards a more inclusive vision of human rights. As such, it serves to prefigure what more recent feminist scholars like Virginia Sapiro (1992:1) have termed the "revindication" of liberal feminism which developed in the 1980s and after. …

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