GRE Reading Comprehension
Is the literary critic like the poet, responding creatively, intuitively, subjectively to the written word as the poet responds to human experience? Or is the critic more like a scientist, following a series of demonstrable,verifiable steps, using an objective method of analysis?
For the woman who is a practitioner of feminist literary criticism, the subjectivity versus objectivity, or critic-as-artist-or-scientist, debate has special significance; for her, the question is not only academic, but political as well, and her definition will court special risks whichever side of the issue it favors. If she defines feminist criticism as objective and scientific-a valid, verifiable, intellectual method that anyone, whether man or woman, can perform --the definition not only precludes the critic-as-artist approach, but may also impede accomplishment of the utilitarian political objectives of those who seek to change the academic establishment and its thinking, especially about sex roles. If she defines feminist criticism as creative and intuitive, privileged as art, then her work becomes vulnerable to the prejudices of stereotypic ideas about the ways in which women think, and will be dismissed by much of the academic establishment. Because of these prejudices, women who use an intui-tive approach in their criticism may find themselves charged with inability to be analytical, to be objective, or to think critically. Whereas men may be free to claim the role of critic-as-artist, women run different professional risks when they choose intuition and private experience as critical method and defense.
These questions are political in the sense that the debate over them will inevitably be less an exploration of abstract matters in a spirit of disinterested inquiry than an academic power struggle in which the careers and professional fortunes of many women scholars-only now entering the academic profession in substantial numbers-will be at stake, and with them the chances for a distinctive contribution to humanistic understanding, a contribution that might be an important influence against sexism in our society.
As long as the academic establishment continues to regard objective analysis as "masculine" and an intuitive approach as "feminine," the theoretician must steer a delicate philosophical course between the two. If she wishes to constrict a theory of feminist criticism, she would be well advised to place it within the framework of a general theory of the critical process that is neither purely objective nor purely intuitive. Her theory is then more likely to be compared and contrasted with other theories of criticism with some degree of dispassionate distance.
Which of the following titles best summarizes the content of the passage?
- A How Theories of Literary Criticism Can Best Be Used
- B Problems Confronting Women Who Are Feminist Literary Critics
- C A Historical overview of Feminist literary Criticism
- D A New Theory of Literary Criticism
- E Literary Criticism: Art or Science?
Correct Answer: B