Feminist Theory

Rosanne Kennedy

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    It would be difficult to overstate the impact of feminist theory on studies of the British and American novel. While women historically have been significant as producers and consumers of the novel, they were neglected by critics prior to feminism. In 1976, Ellen Moers proposed that women writers such as Jane Austen and Harriet Beecher Stowe had been marginalized because they “have written novels, a genre with which literary historians and anthologists are still ill at ease” (1976, Literary Women, xi). The exclusion of writers such as Mary Shelley and the Brontes was compounded by their preference for popular genres such as the gothic, which were considered unworthy of serious analysis. In recovering neglected novelists and genres, feminist critics have offered radically new accounts of the history of the novel and how the novel has produced gendered, raced, and sexualized subjectivities, identities, and spheres of power. They have explored the ideological work of the novel in naturalizing imperialism, and have analyzed the gendered effects of colonialism in novels. They have pioneered studies of the cultural work of affect and examined the role of popular but discredited “women's genres” such as melodrama and sentimental fiction in producing national identity and belonging. The feminist transformation of novel studies has been enabled by the Anglo‐American women's movement and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the entry of women into academic positions in the 1970s, and the subsequent development of feminist theory.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Encyclopedia of the Novel
    EditorsPeter Melville Logan
    Place of PublicationSussex, England
    PublisherBlackwell Publishing Ltd
    ISBN (Print)9781405161848
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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