Virginia Woolf as Feminist and a Psychoanalyst

Powerful Essays
Virginia Woolf as Feminist and a Psychoanalyst

When first introduced to the feminist and psychoanalytical approaches to literary criticism, it seems obvious that the two methods are opposed to each other; at the very least, one method -the psychoanalytic - would appear antagonistic to feminism. After all, there is much in Freud's earlier theories that a feminist would find appalling. It also seems to be a conflict that the feminists are winning: as feminist criticism gains in popularity, the psychoanalytic approach has apparently fallen into disfavour within the academic community.

However, Freud's theories and psychological models continue to survive, and evolve, to the point where even certain feminists - namely the French - have employed aspects of Freud's theories to further their own studies. Critics such as Leclerc and Duras employ Freud's concept of the Oedipal Complex in their search for l'écriture feminine - a style of uniquely-feminine writing found in the pre-Oedipal stage that exists before the tyrannical foot of the father (the patriarchy) stamps it out. This is Psychoanalytic Theory and Feminism working together, to gain new insights into literature, old and new.

Take, for instance, the works of Virginia Woolf: both the psychoanalyst and the feminist can find much of interest within her short stories and novels. Woolf is an important figure for feminists: not only was she one of the first female writers to gain the recognition she deserved during her own lifetime, but certain of her works, such as The Angel in the House and A Room of One's Own, were important and ground-breaking achievements in the female literary field. Feminist critics would approach Woolf's stories and essays by ...

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...eminist, or a marxist, or even a deconstructionalist, even if but for a moment, by using multiple methods of literary analysis, a deeper and more fulfilling understanding of the text can be achieved.

Works Consulted

Blain, Virginia. "Narrative Voice and the Female Perspective in Virginia Woolf's Early Novels." Virginia Woolf: New Critical Essays. Ed. Patricia Clements and Isobel Grundy. London: Vision, 1983. 115-36.

Fisher, Jane Elizabeth. "The Seduction of the Father: Virginia Woolf and Leslie Stephen." Women's Studies 18 (1990): 31-48.

Hill, Katherine C. "Virginia Woolf and Leslie Stephen: History and Literary Revolution." PMLA 96.3 (1981) 351-62.

Lee, Hermione. Virginia Woolf. London: Vintage, 1997.

Squier, Susan M. Women Writers and the City: Essays in Feminist Literary Criticism. Ed. Susan M. Squier. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1984. 114--33.
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