From David Richter, The Critical Tradition (1502-3)


Chronicles presenting a history of feminist criticism . . . usually present a standard evolutionary sequence. It begins with a critique of patriarchal culture. In the field of literary criticism, this critique strives to expose the explicit and implicit misogyny in male writing about women. This phase would also include, as a corrective, a presentation of the very different ways in which women read male writers - and each other. The second phase might be characterized by a concern about the place of female writers within a canon largely shaped by male publishers, reviewers, and academic critics. The third phase (which Showalter call 'gynocritics" as a translation of the French gynocritique) consists of a search for the conditions of women's language and creativity, for modes of textuality based in gender.


This is the evolutionary history, or a part of it, of feminist literary criticism in England and America in the 1970S and 1980s. It should be remembered, however, that each of the phases continues to inspire significant work: none of the successive stages of feminist criticism has been ousted from its evolutionary niche by its successors. But both the evolutionary history and the issues of concern to successive stages of feminist criticism look somewhat different when one turns to France, where patriarchy has taken a different form than in Anglophone cultures.