Towards A Feminist Poetics By Elaine Showalter Summary

Towards A Feminist Poetics By Elaine Showalter Summary

This article will cover Toward a feminist poetics summary. This is quite an important topic from the examination’s point of view, so you should definitely check out its summary. Elaine Showalter got Towards a feminist poetics published in the year 1979. 

Beginning with the writer, Elaine Showalter is an American literary critic feminist, and writer on cultural and social issues. 

She is one of the founders of American literary criticism who developed and practiced the concept of Gynociritics. 

Gynocritics refers to the study of women as writers. 

Towards A Feminist Poetics is the most important and most influential critical essay written by Showalter. Like many other major works, she tries to analyze the field of feminist criticism from different points of view. 

She also suggests some changes that are required to make this field more effective. This is all she has discussed in this essay. 

Before we begin, there is necessary to know what is feminism and what is feminist literary criticism. 

You must already be familiar with the work of feminism. It refers to all those social and political ideas that imply equality and freedom for women in every way. And, in the same way, feminist literary criticism can also be called to be a part of feminism.

If we talk about the beginning of the history of English Literature, then almost all the authors and critics have been men. And it is only the men who have written about females too, that how a woman is or how a woman should be. 

The main idea of feminist literary criticism questions how men can write from a female point of view and how they can analyze a female because that is the job of a woman as only a woman can tell about other women and how they think or feel. And if men describe this all, then there will always be male domination in their writings.

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Elaine Showalter Toward A Feminist Poetics Summary

Let me now discuss what all Showalter suggests in her essay Towards A Feminist Poetics. 

Showalter talked about two varieties of feminism in her essay:

1. Woman as a reader- which she refers to as Feminist Critique.

2. Woman as a writer- which she refers to as Gynocritics. 

Feminist Critique

As a reader, when a woman studies the text of male writers, she presents the belief that a female, as a reader, can change an established idea that is mentioned about her in the text. 

The subjects included in this are stereotypes that are present in literature about women and the misconceptions in the criticism of women, and it also analyzes the history of the treatment that male writers have given to female characters.

This means, that here, a female understands the male-produced literature and analyzes it as a feminist critique and clarifies that the way women have been presented in it is based on the imagination and their understanding of women. But, men cannot present her the way she is because that can be done only by a female writer.

Moreover, Showalter says that displaying women in the ads for consumer products is also a kind of exploitation of the female audience because the creators of the ads are males and they present the females the way they want them to be. 

(For instance, in the ads for baby soaps, only a mother is shown with the baby because of the stereotype that only the mother has to take care of the baby.)

Through such ads, the female viewers are basically reminded of what their job is supposed to be, which creates the same image in their minds and is not right. 

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Showalter says that to understand and analyze the literature created by women, the framework that has to be used should also be constructed by the women. New models, themes, and genres should be developed that is based only and only on the study of the female experience so that the female’s point of view can be understood clearly. 

In Gynocritics, the study of the following subjects is included. 

1. The psychodynamics or the behavior of creativity as shown by females.

2. Aspects of female language and problems concerned with it.

3. Career in the female literary field. 

4.  Literary history. 

5. Analysis of female writers and their works.

Feminist critique is political and male-oriented, that is, what a man should think of a woman and how he should present a woman in his literary work. 

Gynocritics is self-contained and experimental, and a lot can be done in this field. 

Program of Gynocritics

Gynocriticism aims at analyzing women’s literature that is based on women’s experiences. Gynocritics want to make it completely female-oriented, that is, whichever experience of a woman is presented to the female audience, should be completely created by a female and there should be no male domination in it. 

But, this is possible only when there is no longer dependence on male literary tradition. 

The Problems Of Feminist Critique

This cannot be denied that the role of women in literary history was limited and that is why problems occur with feminist criticism. 

Whether we talk about the role of women in writing work or the role of women in a work that has been written, in both cases, the role of women has been limited and that is wy there is often a need for male theoreticians. This is because there are a lot of fields where females do not have a specialization. This is the reason that the study of feminist criticism cannot be done in the desired way because this aspect is incomplete when we talk about keeping male domination completely aside. 

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Elaine Showalter’s Three Phases Of Feminism 

Next, Showalter says that till now, we have studied women writers only in isolation, that is, we have never analyzed them separately that is how the female literary tradition evolved throughout the years. 

She thus divides the female literary tradition into three phases:

1. The Feminine Phase – from 1840 to 1880

In this phase, the women wrote with the same level as the intellectual achievement of men. However, an inferiority complex could clearly be seen in female writers because they used male pseudonyms and it was the most unique aspect of this phase.

2. The Feminist Phase – from 1882 to 1920

A lot of radical changes were seen in the conditions of the women. A lot of movements took place for their rights. Women also got their voting rights and they also started expressing their sufferings. 

3. The Female Phase – since 1920

Here, Showalter talks about the breakage of imitation. She says that in this phase, females have rejected both male dominance and imitation to a great extent. Now, women have their own attitudes. They express whatever they feel and it is understood in the same way. 

Writers like Dorothea Richardson and Virginia Woolf represent this stage. They have identified the uniqueness of female experiences and the difference between males and females.

Now, women are also aware of the forms and techniques of art and literature.

Final Words

In this way, Elaine Showalter has presented the process of evolution of feminism in a great way in her essay along with the reasons why this field couldn’t develop, the problems that it faced, how it could have been and how it should be. 

So, this was Towards A Feminist Poetics by Elaine Showalter summary. I hope you liked it. You can also check out Roland Barthes The Death Of The Author Summary

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