Feminist Literary Criticism and Lysistrata Essay

Feminist Literary Criticism and Lysistrata Essay

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Classically, women playwrights are almost completely absent. There were virtually no women writers at all up until at least the seventeenth century. This fact originally led feminist critics to disregard the classical period. In an article titled “Classical Drag: The Greek Creation of Female Parts,” Sue Ellen Case states that because “traditional scholarship has focused on evidence related to written texts, the absence of women playwrights became central to early feminist investigations” (132). Despite this absence of female writers, feminist critics analyze the role of women in ancient Greece in other ways. Recently, feminist writers have been able to delve further into the classical period by examining female characters from the works of male playwrights.
The construction of women in male literature is extremely important. Peter Barry, in his chapter on feminist literary criticism in his book Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory, asserts that observing the female characters in works by men is important because it provides “role models which indicated to women, and men, what constituted acceptable version of the ‘feminine’ and legitimate feminine goals and aspirations” (122). Looking into the roles of the women within the works helps us determine the kind of role women and men occupy in relation to each other in addition to the personal characteristics of the women. This insight into the relations between men and women adds a new layer of knowledge for feminist critics.
The depiction of women by women writers differs greatly from the depiction of women by male writers. Women, as represented by men, represent stereotypes of actual women. That is, “the feminist critic may assume that the images of...


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...ial and cultural evidence of the role of women in ancient Greece. Despite the fact that he is indeed a man, Aristophanes does a good job capturing certain aspects of his female characters: their drive to succeed, their natural coquettishness, the general desire to end war diplomatically, and their devout servitude to the gods. Aristophanes also has a very firm grasp of the social situation of women in his time. For example, he knows where the line of rebellion would be drawn: if the husbands forced the wives into having sex, they must relent. He knows how the ultimately defer to their husbands’ judgment, particularly in political matters. Lastly, he knows that their concerns are chiefly domestic. However, he generally misunderstands or misrepresents many aspects of the female character. The feminist literary critic would be quick to point these discrepancies out.

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