Feminist Literary Criticism And Wuthering Heights

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EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCHVol. II, Issue 9/ December 2014ISSN 2286-4822www.euacademic.orgImpact Factor: 3.1 (UIF)DRJI Value: 5.9 (B )Feminist Literary Criticism and Wuthering HeightsBISWANATH MAHAPATRADepartment of English,Khatra Adibasi Mahavidyalaya,Khatra, West Bengal,IndiaFeminist criticism is the most outstanding discovery in therealm of theory as well as in the world of women. Feministcriticism comes in literary world in many forms and feministcritics have various goals. In them, some have been interestedto rediscover the works of previous women writers who wereover looked by male dominated society and others have startedto review the books by male authors from a woman’s point ofview. Now a days a number of contemporary feminists haveturned to topics as various as women in post colonial societies,women’s autobiographical writings, lesbians and literature inthe construction of feminine gender.But a few years ago, however, feminist thought tendedto be classified not according to topic but, rather, according tocountry of origin. Feminist literary criticism must be seen as afunction of a political movement for women’s freedom whichspread in Europe and America in 1960s to revive political andsocial issues which are associated with women. This practicereflected the fact that during 1970s and early 1980s, French,American and British feminists wrote from somewhat differentperspectives. However, it is not that the women have startedprotesting against male domination and the discriminationagainst women started in the second half of 20th century for thefirst time. The voices of protest were found in the 5th century12019

Biswanath Mahapatra- Feminist Literary Criticism and Wuthering HeightsB.C. in Lysistrata, Aeschylus’, Agamemnon and also in theworks of Seneca, Euripides etc.In Seventeenth century, Mary Astell wrote a bookProposal to the Ladies for the advancement of their true andgreatest interest, which creates feminine consciousness in thesociety. But in 1792 appeared the very influential essay Avindication of the Rights of women by Mary Wollstone Craft’swhich is considered as the first major document of feminismwhich gives women some scopes to judge and think their ownsituation in society. Next, John Stuart Mill in his work TheSubjection of women which was published in 1869 raised hisvoice against the injustice on women. It was Virginia Woolf’s ARoom of One’s Own (1928) which was not a theoretical work ina conventional sense but it serves as a point of departure forthe study of women literature and he beginnings of feministcriticism. One of the Virginia Woolf’s most significantcontribution to feminist criticism is discussion on language.The view of language becomes a topic of discussion infeminist criticism from French feminists and feminist critics.French feminists wished to focus the attention on language andanalysing the ways in which meaning is produced. Theyconcluded that language as we commonly think of it is adecidedly male dominated realm. According to psychoanalyticphilosopher Jacques Lacan, language is a realm of publicdiscourse. It is most surprising that a child enters the linguisticrealm when it comes to grasp its separateness from its motherand identifies with their father, who is the familyrepresentative of culture. Thus, language learned reflects abinary logic. According to French feminists the structure oflanguage is phallocentric. Moreover, Ann Rosalind in her bookInscribing Feminity; French theories of the feminine. Making adifference; feminist literary criticism says, ‘Masculine desiredominates speech and posits women as an idealised fantacyfulfillment for the incurable emotional lack caused byseparation from the mother’.EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. II, Issue 9 / December 201412020

Biswanath Mahapatra- Feminist Literary Criticism and Wuthering HeightsLanguage systematically forces women to choose; eitherthey can imagine and represent themselves as man imagineand represent them. But some influential French feminist saysthat language only seems to give women such a narrow range ofchoices. In this connection early French feminist such as AnnieLeclere, Xaviere and Marguerite Duras suggested that there issomething that may be called lécriture féminine; women’swriting. Recently Julia Kristeva has said that femininelanguage is semiotic ‘not symbolic’.The other French feminist Helene Cixous comments infavour of feminine language to describe women’s bodilypleasure, According to Luce Irigaray, women’s sexual pleasurecan not be expressed by the dominant, ordered, ‘logical’,masculine language. So Irigaray comments that women’sJouissance is more multiple than male’s unitary phallicpleasure because ‘women has sex organ just about everywhere’,so feminine language is more diffusive than its masculinecounterparts. She says, ‘That is undoubtedly the reason ( ) herlanguage ( ) goes off in all directions and ( ) he is unable todiscern the coherence (Irigaray, p. 101-103). But other Frenchfeminist critics such as Christian Fauréand CatherineClément said that too much emphasis on the body may reducethe essence of feminism.American Feminist Critics of the 1917 and early 1918s,Annette Kolodny, Kate Millet, Carolyn Heilbrun and JudithFetterley gave emphasis to analyze literary text rather thanphilosophising abstractly about language. Many critics want toreview the great works by male writers examining theportrayals of women characters, exposing the patriarchalideology implicit in such works and showing how clearly thistradition of systematic masculine dominance is inscribed inliterary tradition. Another view of feminist criticism is found inDale Spender’s Man Made Language (1980):‘The semantic rule which has been responsible for themanifestation of sexism in the language can be simply stated;there are two fundamental categories, male and minus male.EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. II, Issue 9 / December 201412021

Biswanath Mahapatra- Feminist Literary Criticism and Wuthering HeightsTo be linked with male is to be linked to a range of meaningswhich are positive and good; to be linked with this minus maleis to be linked to the absence of those qualities. ( ) Thesemantic structure of the English language reveals a greatdeals about what it means to be female in a patriarchal order.’(Spender, P. 23)Gilbert and Gubar, in The Mad Woman in the Attic (1979)concerned themselves with well known women writers of thenineteenth century, but they too found that general concern,images and themes recur, because the authors that they wroteabout live in a culture whose fundamental definitions of literaryauthority are both overtly and covertly patriarchal.An important stage in modern feminism was reached inKate Millett’s Sexual Politics (1970). She used the term‘patriarchy’ (rule of the father) to describe the cause of women’soppression. In the earlier phase of modern feminist writings onliterature (Kate Millett, Germaine Greer, Mary Ellmann) theemphasis was often quite political for expressing women’s‘political’ awareness of their oppression by men.British feminists felt that the American opposition tomale stereotypes that denigrate women often leads to counterstereotypes of feminine virtue that ignore real difference ofrace, class and culture among women.Thus, the French, American and British approacheshave so thoroughly judged, influenced and assimilated oneanother that the work of most western practitioners is nolonger easily identifiable along national boundary lines.Showalter detects in the history of women’s writings a femininephase (1840-80) in which women writers imitated dominantmale artists norms and aesthetic standards; then a feministphase (1880-1920) in which radical and often separist positionsare maintained; and finally a female phase (1920 onward)which looked particularly at female writing and femaleexperience.In this connection, Elaine Showalter described thechange in the late 1970s as a shift of attention from ‘androtexts’EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. II, Issue 9 / December 201412022

Biswanath Mahapatra- Feminist Literary Criticism and Wuthering Heights(book by men) to ‘gynotexts’ (books by women). she coined theterm ‘gynocritics’ meaning the study of gynotexts butgynocriticism is a broad and varied field, e.g., history, styles,themes, genres, structures of writing by women; thepsychodynamics of female creativity; the trajectory of theindividual or collective female career; and the evolution or lawsof a female literary tradition.Beauvior seems to propel the same confusion when shesays: ‘Woman is however the target to two mutually exclusivediscourses hesitating between the role of ‘object’, ‘other’which is offered her and the assertion of her liberty’.Wuthering Heights is a good book for practical feministcriticism. There are some perspectives of feminism inWuthering Heights, e.g., it’s a fiction written by a woman onwomen’s lives, their sacrifice, their suffering and socialatmosphere.Wuthering Heights may be examined through Feministliterary criticism to rediscover the novelist’s obsession on therepetition of names Catherine and the sexual suppression, malerevenge are also presented in such a way that womencharacters do not get enough scopes to be an individual figure.So the character Chatherine was also in the minds of confusionto whom she will choose for her husband Edgar or Heathcliff.Catherine develops a double standard to accommodate herfeelings for both Edgar and HeathCliff as Hindley degradesHeathcliff more and more, Ellen says she was full of ambitionand was anxious to ingratiate herself with the Lintons.The scene in his duality reaches its climax is herconfession to Ellen that she has accepted Edgar. Dreams areused to convey meaning to the reader in Wuthering Heights, ashas been suggested about Lock Wood’s dream; here Catherinedecribes her dream of being in heaven.I was only going to say that heaven did not seem to be myhome; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back toearth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out,into the middle of the Heath on top of Wuthering Heights;EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. II, Issue 9 / December 201412023

Biswanath Mahapatra- Feminist Literary Criticism and Wuthering Heightswhere I looked sobbing for joy. That will do to explain mysecret, as well as the other. I’ve no more business to marryEdgar Linton than I how to be in heaven.Being a woman novelist Emily Bronte is not able to show somuch courage to break the contemporary social rules andregulations. Another most important event is related withtorture on Isabella in her own house by her husband.Catherine begins life as Catherine Earnshaw andCatherine Linton. Catherine’s daughter, on the other hand,occupies each of the names in turn and traces back the route toher mother’s first name. The novel thus begins and ends withCatherine Earnshaw. However, although the names circulatethrough the text, they create a pattern of asymmetricalrepetition rather than of circularity.The story of the first Catherine hinges – as do mostnovels of the period – on her choice between two men. Choosingthe correct husband is the central moral task set for the heroineof most eighteenth and nineteenth century novels, particularlythose written by women.In Catherine’s case, marriage is no the answer to theproblem of her life, the resolver of all contradictions, as itusually is in domestic and romantic fiction. On the contrary,marriage compounds the problems of Catherine’s case,marriage is not compounds the problems of Catherine’s life andexposes its contradictions.As a motherless, and subsequently fatherless, girlgrowing up in a geographically isolated and loosely organizedworking household, Catherine reaches puberty relativelyuntrammelled by parental notions of suitable feminine conduct.Her childhood is, on the whole, spent with Heathcliff in aprivate, unsocialized an ungendered moorland world. Herencounters with adult authority, in the form of her brother’spetty domestic tyranny and Joseph’s rigid Methodism, develophere capacity for rebellion and resistance, and she thusbecomes an assertive child associated with the realm of nature,EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. II, Issue 9 / December 201412024

Biswanath Mahapatra- Feminist Literary Criticism and Wuthering Heightsits freedom and power, rather than with the domestic and itsconstraints.Emily Bronte’s portrayal of Catherine’s sudden anddramatic transformation into a genteel young lady during herstay at Thrushcross Grange focuses on the way in which theparticular version of femininity involved in the ideal of femalegentility is socially produced and reinforced, rather thanderived from women’s “nature.” Catherine’s transformation,described by Nelly as a “reform”, is shown as, in fact, a processof formation or construction.Catherine’s story not only shows the limits of femalepower but also explores its problematic nature. Catherine’sstory also dramatizes the limits of female influence. She alsobecomes the object of a competitive struggle between two men,each of whom wants her to conform to his own version of her.Catherine’s final illness is, in effect, a withdrawal fromboth the world and the self. Her derangement (pp. 118 ff.)enacts here experience of self-alienation. Like so many womenin Victorian fiction, Catherine dies in Child-birth and is thusnot required to negotiate that other profoundly ideo-logicalversion of womanhood – “the mother”.If Cathy is a repetition of her mother, she is also avariation. Whereas the older Catherine’s childhood preparesher for the role of Gondal’s Quen, “half savage, and hardy, andfree.” Her daughter is the spoiled, wilful, and pert fairy taleprincess, the empress of her walled momain and mistress of herfather and his servants.Thus, in another interesting variation on the pattern ofthe conduct book female and domestic romance heroine, Cathyis not made to pay the usual price for her feminine influence.Catherine also resuming control of her own life and definingherself a new. Cathy reconstructs both herself and Hareton.Whereas Catherine is destroyed by her inability to reconcileconflicting images of herself and the contradictory definitions ofthe feminine which confront her, Cathy negotiates them andultimately constructs a new role for herself.EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. II, Issue 9 / December 201412025

Biswanath Mahapatra- Feminist Literary Criticism and Wuthering HeightsWORKS CITEDBeauvoir, Simon de. The Second Sex. 1949. Trans. And ed.H. M. Parshley. New York: Vintage, 1974.Gilbert, Sandra M; and Susan Gubar. The Mad Women in theAttic: The Women writer and the Nineteenth CenturyLiterary Imagination. New Heaven: Yale UP, 1979.Irigaray, Luce. An Ethics of Sexual Difference. Ithaca: CornellUniversity Press, 1993.Jones, Ann Rosalind. Inscribing Femininity: French Theoriesof the Feminine. Making a Difference. Feminist LiteraryCriticism. London: Methuen, 1985.Millet, Kate. Sexual Politics. Garden City: Double Day, 1970.Pykett, Lyn. Gender and Genre in Wuthering Heights. GothicPlot and Domestic Fiction and Changing the names: TheTwo Catherines. Emily Bronte. London: Macmillan,1989.Selden, Raman. A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary LiteraryTheory. Great Britain, The Harvester Press, 1985.Showalter, Elaine. The New Feminist Criticism : Essays onWomen, Literature, and Theory. New York : Pantheor,1985.Spacks, Patriacia Meyer. The Female Imagination. New York :Knof, 1975.Spender, Dale. Man Made Language. London, Routledge, 1980.EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. II, Issue 9 / December 201412026

Feminist Literary Criticism and Wuthering Heights BISWANATH MAHAPATRA Department of English, Khatra Adibasi Mahavidyalaya, Khatra, West Bengal, India Feminist criticism is the most outstanding discovery in the realm of theory as well as in the world of women. Feminist criticism comes in literary world in many forms and feminist critics have .

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