Criticism: Utopianism And Feminism - Essay

Carol Pearson (essay date 1981)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Coming Home: Four Feminist Utopias and Patriarchal Experience,”* in Future Females: A Critical Anthology, edited by Marleen S. Barr, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1981, pp. 63-70.

[In the following essay, Pearson observes affinities in modern feminist utopian novels and suggests that such works “seek to transcend the limitations of female experience.”]

Feminist utopian fiction implicitly or explicitly criticizes the patriarchy while it emphasizes society's habit of restricting and alienating women. Each work discussed here assumes that the patriarchy is unnatural and fails to create environments conducive to the maximization of...

(The entire section is 3518 words.)

Nan Bowman Albinski (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘The Laws of Justice, of Nature, and of Right’: Victorian Feminist Utopias,” in Feminism, Utopia, and Narrative, edited by Libby Falk Jones and Sarah Webster Goodwin, The University of Tennessee Press, 1990, pp. 50-68.

[In the following essay, Albinski surveys the major themes and fictional modes of nineteenth-century British women's utopian fiction.]

For the utopian idealist, fiction offers advantages that the essay form lacks: it reaches a potentially wider audience while peopling one's vision and bringing it to life.1 Description and dramatization can, however, be uneasy partners, and sometimes the fictional elements are overwhelmed by...

(The entire section is 6628 words.)

Thomas Galt Peyser (essay date 1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Reproducing Utopia: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Herland,” in Studies in American Fiction, Vol. 20, No. 1, Spring, 1992, pp. 1-16.

[In the following essay, Peyser argues that Gilman's utopian novel Herland, rather than being a “playful deconstruction of patriarchal thought,” remains “ground[ed] in the dominant culture.”]

According to the prevailing view of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland, the utopian novel suited the aims of a radical feminism by subverting the confinements of a realism dedicated to the representation of, and thus acquiescence to, a patriarchal order. Summing up this position, Susan Gubar argues that...

(The entire section is 7255 words.)

Rae Rosenthal (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Gaskell's Feminist Utopia: The Cranfordians and the Reign of Goodwill,” in Utopian and Science Fiction by Women: Worlds of Difference, edited by Jane L. Donawerth and Carol A. Kolmerten, Syracuse University Press, 1994, pp. 73-92.

[In the following essay, Rosenthal considers Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford as a feminist utopia.]

In her landmark essay, “Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness,” Elaine Showalter explains that outside of the dominant male culture the muted women's culture has a space, a “wild zone,” that “stands for the aspects of the female lifestyle which are outside of and unlike those of men” (262). According to Showalter, in...

(The entire section is 9048 words.)

Val Gough (essay date 1998)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘In the Twinkling of an Eye’: Gilman's Utopian Imagination,” in A Very Different Story: Studies on the Fiction of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, edited by Val Gough and Jill Rudd, Liverpool University Press, 1998, pp. 129-43.

[In the following essay, Gough analyzes the utopian vision and technique of Gilman's novel Moving the Mountain, and contrasts this work with her later Herland.]

Many recent theorists of utopian thinking have pointed out that the strength of a literary utopia lies not so much in the particular social structure it portrays, but rather in how the utopian vision is portrayed. Since narrative strategies and formal devices...

(The entire section is 6103 words.)