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February 26, 2007

EL312: Thank you for another breathtaking grasp of the obvious*

This Donovan essay isn't helping my case in why I think these feminist issues should be addressed with more maturity than has been shown recently...

These works, central to the Western tradition--the Odyssey, the Commedia, and Faust--do not present the "inside" of women's experience. We learn little, if anything, of the women's own personal responses to events. They are simply vehicles for personal grown and salvation of the male protagonist. The women are Other in Beauvoir's sense of the term, and therefore this literature must remain alien to the female reader who reads as a woman. (229)

This passage infuriates me. Yes--the canon is riddled with texts like these examples and many others. Yes--many of the texts use women in ways that (today) seem unjust, irrational, immoral, and inhumane. Yes--I think that the things that are shown in the stories are wrong. BUT, Donovan, could you please get a perspective? Putting your 1983-glasses to look at texts written decades or longer ago doesn't seem to make much sense. (I have a real problem with anachronistic reading, if anyone hasn't guessed... Maybe that's why I tend to cling to historicism, too?)

I agree that there are wrongs against women taking place in the stories Donovan uses as examples; HOWEVER, I cannot justify taking a feminist stance against these works considering that these acts from these stories were not unheard of. I'm not aghast. I'm not up-in-arms. I'm not even blushing in anger or frustration with the ideas since in the time that these stories were written these kinds of things happened. (That doesn't make them okay, it just qualifies that they happened. Why should I be surprised to read fictional accounts when I can read history books and be blown away?)

Donovan's conclusion iced the cake for me, so to speak: "Much of the literature of our Western tradition has risen to such heights. Its male authors do not reach that 'extremely difficult realization' that women, 'something other than' themselves, exist, are real. Their works are morally insufficient, for they do not attend to the independent reality of women" (233).

I'm about to growl. To me, it is far more frustrating to deal with women who write like this in the "Pity us, we don't have anyone looking at us" voice than it is to work against the men who take no notice...

("Female reader who reads as a woman..."? Um, hi... I don't think there's much choice in that matter... but that's just my opinion. Sheesh, I sound like Vanessa, don't I?)

*The title quote comes from my friend and teacher, Maureen Vissat.

Donovan, ''Beyond the Net: Feminist Criticism as a Moral Criticism'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by KarissaKilgore at February 26, 2007 9:50 PM


What do you mean, "Sheesh, I sound like Vanessa?"? I'm not sure if that's a bad thing or not...

I *was* going to comment about how I completely agree with you and my blog entry is very similar, because I often become annoyed with modern readers taking a work out of context and applying our own feminist perspective on it. But now I'm so sure if I should...haha

Posted by: Nessa at February 28, 2007 10:23 PM

Not a bad thing--just stating my thoughts. You know I love your sarcasm, dear Vanessa.

And it's totally okay to agree :) I love agreeing. It's nice so that we can gang up on those who don't, haha.

Posted by: Karissa at March 1, 2007 11:02 PM

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