Feminism and Critical Theory by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

The essay “Feminsim and Critical Theory” by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak discusses the place, and ideas, of feminsim within literary discourse.

The essay starts off with  a map so to speak. In the very first paragraph Spivak gives us the “itinerary” on how to travel through her essay. The essay itself is divided into 4 parts, to which she tells us what they are each about. The first part she says is “a version of talk” that she had given years ago, in it she touchs on the definition of feminism and she talks about how to re-write Marx and Freud in terms of feminism and the roles of women. The second part “represents a reflection on that earlier work”,  and she talks a lot about class- sensitive readings, gender-sensitive readings, and international feminism. The third part is “an intermediate work” and she uses the book The Waterfall by Drabble as an example, tho i’m not quite sure what her example is of. The fourth and last part “inhibits something of the present” and it can be summarized through the sentence that states : “it seems more important to learn to understand that the world’s women do not all relate to the privileging of essence, especially through “fiction”, or “literature”, in quite the same way”. She then talks about a horrible incident in Korea and the way that both Korean and American men dealt with it.

To me, this essay would definitely be considered one of the harder essay to comprehend. An easy way to know this is that for every reading the margins are filled with notes and there are many marks on it, but this one I didn’t even know what to question and what to observe. Hearing a bit of an overview in it in class definetely made it easier to try to grasp a little more about it, but still there is something that i’m not quite understanding, and I don’t even know what it is.The essay seemed to me to be about Spivak telling us what she would not do and talk about, but then going ahead and by making definitions and saying what it could not be, she talked about it. It was like in one of the previous essays that we read that said the meaning is in the unwritten. I felt that Spivak was like that. I understood a glimmer of talking about the ways ion which Marx and Freud needed to be re-written thinking of women and reproduction as surplus-labor, but at the same time she would explain all that and then say that it must be rewritten like that, and it sounded like she was removing herself from that task, but at the same time it seemed obvious that she had already done it. Overall it was a pretty confusing essay, and I need to have a class discussion where i’m an objective listener to understand it better.


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