Many early works of literature and literary criticism address the social roles of women, beginning as early as the Renaissance with Christine de Pizan's 1405 The Book of the City of Ladies or Le Livre de la Cité des Dames . The nineteenth century brought with it an increase in...
Many early works of literature and literary criticism address the social roles of women, beginning as early as the Renaissance with Christine de Pizan's 1405 The Book of the City of Ladies or Le Livre de la Cité des Dames . The nineteenth century brought with it an increase in gender equality and public debate over the role of women, sometimes called the "woman question."
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft 1792 is sometimes considered to mark the beginning of modern feminism. As well as more political works, feminist criticism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries focused on attaining equality for women writers and asking that they be read seriously not just as exemplars of their gender.
Two landmarks of feminist critical writing in the first half of the twentieth century were Virginia Woolf's A Room of One’s Own (1928) and Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex (1949; English translation 1953).
More recent feminist criticism has evolved in two directions. The first, sometimes referred to as "liberal" feminism emphasizes archival work and recovery of neglected female authors. This has made for a far more inclusive literary canon, with writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Mary Elizabeth Braddon now having a much greater prominence in textbooks and reading lists. A second type of feminist criticism focuses on feminist theories, arguing that patriarchal viewpoints have affected not just the materials taught in the literary classroom but also critical perspectives.
The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (1979) by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, was a landmark in feminist criticism of women's writing. French critics such as Irigaray and Kristeva combine postmodern psychoanalytic theory and feminism, while writers such as Judith Butler and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick have synthesized gender and queer theory. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak combines feminist and post-colonial criticism.