Tweeter of the Day: MIND MELD: Has Space Opera Lost Its Luster?
Now for some caveats:
- This is not a University level discussion, just a general approach to the subject. In-depth discussion in the comments is always welcomed.
- Feminist Literary Analysis/Criticism has a socio-political agenda, as do other schools of literary analysis. This does not, in anyway invalidate said analysis.
- Like other schools, followers of this work from several assumptions, one being the existence of the patriarchy:
With the second definition being the most common.
With that in mind, what is feminist literary analysis? Depending on your definition it can be as limited to the current Third Wave (post-1960s) or as far reaching as the suffrage movement of the mid to late 19th century. This also describes feminism as well, for the two are tightly intertwined. Since we are talking about over one hundred and fifty years of history, one can not treat this school as static in any way, shape, or form. One example of the divisions within this school of thought are what I would call Value Negative or Value Positive.
Example #1- Value Negative: This is classic Feminist Analysis and the one most derided by many of its critics. In this mode the analysis centers on those negative aspects of a work from the feminist point of view, i.e. those characters and situations that reinforce a male centric value system and diminish or pigeonhole women. If you read most cutting critiques of lets say Twilight, you know what I’m talking about. The main character is held as an example of what not to do, aspire to in any form. This conceptualization is exploited by critics of this school to create a caricature of feminism as nothing more than a collection of nay sayers, regardless of how accurate/valid the critique may be.
Example #2- Value Positive: Value Positive concentrates on elevating positive portrayals of women within a work or body of work. One example is the sex-positive movement, which seeks to highlight the power of women within the context of erotic expression. A particular focus of the sex positive movement lies with a very touchy subject: pornography/prostitution. A sex positive critic might embrace portrayals within a work that show women in full control of their bodies and enjoying erotic activities within this context where in someone from the example above might see it as another form of male exploitation of the female body without any regard to the wishes of the women involved.
This is an oversimplification but one that serves to point out the complexities of within feminist thought. Third wave feminism in particular seeks to expand its reach beyond the old male/female paradigm. Third wave feminist acknowledge the fact that human sexuality (be they sexual roles, biology, sexual identity and cultural history) is far too complex to be limited to the old duality of male/female. This in turn opened the door to expand/merge feminist analysis with other experiences based on non-normative presumptions such as homosexuality, minority ethnic, and religious views, etc.
One consistent problem within this school is the definition of what a “strong” female character is/should be. The classic view is that a strong female character is one that can do anything a man should do. She seeks to abolish the distinctions in roles between men and women. Modern theory holds that this is merely a “re-skinning” (as in video games, were all characters have the same wire frame but different skins/looks) of male characters in female bodies. Instead they focus on those areas that make women distinct and try to elevate them to parity.
Still, like any school it still is a narrow lens on which to view any given work and the framework may not fit all situations. But an author has to understand it (and other schools) in order to fully explore his own work as well as to engage any criticism hurled his or her way.