Elaine Showalter-The Female Tradition

Essay by neha2104University, Bachelor's November 2014

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Question: Discuss the three stages as propounded by Showalterin 'The Female Tradition', focusing on the shifts that take place in each phase. Also discuss any two critiques of her essay.

Answer:In her book 'A Literature of Their Own', Showalter attempts to rediscover the lost Atlantis of female writingfrom the archives of British literary history, for which she tries to assemble women's writing of that period into a linear developmental process dividing it into three phases depending upon their unique characteristics, that is, the Feminine, Feminist and Female phase which thereby establishes the existence of a female tradition in the history of literature. In this essay, I shall elaborate the three phases as propounded by Showalter while critically evaluating the boundaries of these said categories. The latter half of this essay shall deal with the complexities of Showalter's formation and classification of British women novelist's literary genealogy.

Showalter classifies the first stage of female literary history as the 'feminine phase' referring to literature produced during the period of 1840 to 1880. She proposes that women wrote during this period as imitator of dominant patriarchal standards conforming to the notions of high-brow literature and internalised masculine standard of art and their view on social roles, thereby developing an internalized feminine 'self-hatred'. The disguise taken up by female authors through the use of male pseudonyms as seen in the case of the Bronte sisters, George Eliot, etc. is a perfect example of the constant rejection that women practised with regards to their 'masculine' nature, while at the same time signals a 'loss of innocence' for women as they subtly grapple with the idea of role playing required by their gender. Certain areas of experience and knowledge such as sexuality, passion, ambition and male transcendence (as propounded in...