Sunday, December 10, 2017

Summary: Reading as a Woman" / Jonathan Culler

In "Reading as a Woman" Jonathan Culler describes three directions in feminist literary criticism.
The first direction holds that women's life experience extends into their reading of literature. This means that their experience as a woman is the source of authority to the "reader response" of feminine reading. This attitude means the women read differently from man, making the text a non-neutral ground as traditional literary criticism would have us thinking. Such criticism, says Culler, will mostly deal with themes in dominant literature. They will criticize male dominant literature and expose masculine bias.  
The second direction Culler describes in "Reading as a Woman" holds the woman are conditioned to read as man. This view holds that masculine reading should be opposed by the establishment of a feminine reading (which is not given, like in the first approach Culler describes). In this sense reading as a woman means not reading as a man. This obviously maintains the binary opposition between men and women and only tries to shift the balance.
The third trend Culler describes is the post-structural approach which argues that the concepts, categories and distinctions employed in literary criticism are masculine (and this includes the two former trends). The attempt here is to deconstruct the distinction between masculine and feminine reading.
Culler's position at the end of "Reading as a Woman" is that the feminine experience has a double position. On the one hand Culler holds the being a woman is a precondition to reading as a woman. On the other hand this position must be constructed and established. This is sort of a middle ground between the different positions described in Culler's article. It is not an essentialist position but still one which appeals to a reality outside of theory.