Socialist Feminist Criticism: You Dropped the Bomb on Me, Baby
Feminism and gender studies have been described as having the ability to "challenge literary and culture theory to confront the difficult task of assimilating the findings of an expanding sphere of inquiry" (Contemporary Literary Criticism 567). This area of study has taken center stage during the last fifty years, not only in our society, but also in literary criticism. Although the terrain Feminism traverses can hardly be narrowed down to one single definition, the exploration of the genre can, at times, be the most intriguing feature of the criticism itself. While feminism has undoubtedly changed the way women and gender roles are considered in society today, it has also had an impact on the way that I, too, read literature, look at American culture, and view the world.
Walter Ong suggests that "literature' itself is the product ofor completely wound up and imbricated' inthe social contexts out of which it grows" (CLC 461). The social contexts that exist in our society have not only affected our societal systems themselves, but also have changed the way we view our class systems, gender roles, and sexual choices. Viewing society from a Marxist perspective can also help us decipher the unspoken rules that govern us. "Not only do Marxist critics want criticism to be constantly aware of historyboth present and past historyin reading and literature, they also demand that the criticism become more overtly political or
politically informed,' so that it attempts, as Marx said, not simply to interpret but to change the world" (CLC 462). This intent is similar to that of the feminist genre in that both camps are seeking to change the way we understand the world and to eventually change the world itself.
Feminism and Marxism are further intertwined if you consider the female sex as a social class of its own. In my analysis of Walt Whitman's poem, I Hear America Singing, I...
Cited: Childers, Joseph, and Gary Hentzi, ed. Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and
Cultural Criticism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.
Davis, Robert C., and Ronald Schleifer, ed. Contemporary Literary Criticism. 4th ed.
New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1998.
Kaplan, Cora. "Pandora 's Box: Subjectivity, Class, and Sexuality in Socialist Feminist
Criticism." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Robert C. Davis, and Ronald
Schleifer. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1998. 603-610.
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