SHOWALTER AS A CRITIC: DR. HARESHWAR ROY
INTRODUCTION: Elain Showalter is called the champion of feminist criticism. This criticism is one of the latest trends in modern literary criticism. The main motivating force behind this movement is the Women's Liberation Movement of the late 1960's. Showalter contributed significantly to the formulation of the feminist criticism. Her book 'A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing' is an initial effort in feminist criticism.
FEMINIST CRITICISM IN THE WILDERNESS: Showalter's 'Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness' is her first major work that presents the evolution of feminist criticism. In the beginning it was in a state of impasse due to male supremacy in art and literature. The feminine viewpoint was ignored. It was in a state of wilderness. But after sometime Showlter feels that the theoretical impasse was actually an evolutionary phase. A feeling of the empowerment of women prevailed in universities. Feminist criticism began to take shape in academic and literary circles.
MODES OF FEMINISM: Feminist criticism is an expression of liberation of Womanhood from patriarchal dominance. It is a mode of interpretation of text of Women writers. It is concerned with the interpretation and re-interpretation of texts. It may also enlarge its scope by asking questions about the process and the contexts of writing. Thus, it may initiate the principles and theory of feminist criticism. According to Showalter the feminist criticism has more to learn from international feminist theory than from any other seminar. It must find its own subject, its own system, its own theory and its own voice. This criticism in each country has a different centre, which is related with one or the other aspect of womanhood. Showalter sums up: 'English feminist criticism stresses oppression; French feminist criticism stresses repression; American feminist criticism stresses expression. All, however, have become gynocentric.'
BODY AND LANGUAGE: Gynocritics reveal that they are concerned with something solid, enduring and real about the relation of women to literary culture. They use four models of difference - biological, linguistic, psychoanalytic and cultural. Each is an effort to define and differentiate the qualities of women writer and the women's text. Each model also represents a school of gynocentric feminist criticism with its own favourite texts, styles and methods. Biological criticism of a text is based on body. It centres round the female biological difference in writing. It stresses the importance of body as a source of imagery. The debate over language is one of the most exciting areas in gynocriticism. According to many important feminists, women must enjoy full freedom of expression according to their choice and must carve out a space for themselves in the use of language.
PSYCHE AND CULTURE: Psychoanalytical feminist criticism locates the difference of women's writing in the author's psyche and in the relation of gender to the creative process. There have been various psychoanalytical interpretations of women's psyche. But none of them is comprehensive enough to embrace the entire gamut of their varied psychic conditions. Culture determines the nature and character of writing by women. Showalter is of the view that a theory of culture incorporates ideas about women's body, language and psyche. The women's psyche can be studied as the product of cultural forces. Language too is shaped by cultural ideals. Women writers differ culturally, racially, nationally and historically. All these factors influence literature by women. Female cultural experience differs from the male cultural experience.
CONCLUSION: Thus, Showalter's contribution to feminist criticism is praiseworthy. It is she who contributed significantly to the formulation of feminist criticism. She is, indeed, the champion of feminist criticism.