Feminism Literature

When it comes to English literature of the late XVIII, literary theories and feminism is one of the most debatable topics. In terms of ethical implications, old-fashioned lifestyle described in many English novels seems to be funny but dishonest. The one and only possibility for a girl or a woman to change her lifestyle in XVIII century was to get married. Nowadays there are many people who neglect feminism theory and there are even more individuals who do not understand the main principles of feminism. This theory does not stand for rising of women over men but having equal rights and freedoms. There are many literary positions about this issue, but one of the most prominent and brilliant representatives of feminism in literature is Emma novel by Jane Austin. The book first saw the world in 1815 and it had an instant success. Austin was not afraid to affect feminism issues although it could do her a lot of bad.

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The main character of this novel is a young and pretty girl Emma who seems to do a professional procurement: she has successfully married her best friends and it happened twice. Even though Emma is being called a ‘marriage talisman’, she neglects marriage as her lifestyle and it causes numerous problems and insults. Some people are not ready to accept her lifestyle, later Emma loses a couple of friends because of her ‘careless’ lifestyle. She enjoys her lifestyle with her father without any serious liabilities, reproaches and quarrels. As it was mentioned before, the book could do a lot of bad for its author and later it did. Jane Austin was critiquing the institution of marriage and many people did not want to accept her criticism. However, it is one of the courageous English novelists who is not afraid to claim feminists have a point and they could have their own rights. There were many positions about feminism issues, but the majority of them were traditional and related to Puritan traditions. Nowadays the majority of feminism discussions are enough contradictory. There are still people who suppose neither literature nor other sources have to pay attention to feminists.  The main purpose of this paper is to consider both gender and feminism criticisms aspects as well as archetypal criticism in Emma by Jane Austin and apply these issues to literary theory.

To begin with theoretical approach, one of the most famous literary theoretical critiques was Mikhail Bakhtin who was born in Russia in the late 1800s. Over hundreds of years, Mikhail’s works are being study by many students, theoretic authors and universities. The Russian philosopher and literary critic worked on many literary problems, but his main interests were concentrated on philosophy of language, semiotican issues, polyphony narrations and relationships between people in literature. To emphasize on the last issue, Bakhin was very exited to research Dostoevsky’s, Daniel Defoe’s, Voltaire’s, Jean-Baptiste’s  and many other works written by English, French and Russian writers. A masterpiece created by Austin in 1815 was not an exception. One of the most prominent books by this Russian literary critic is ‘Discourse in the Novel’.

To emphasize on Emma’s analyses, Bakhin speaks about gender criticism and feminism. According to the literarily critic, the main argument against feminism is that the society is not ready to accept such concept. Although neither legal nor ethical issues interrupted a usual way of life in XVII-XVIII, Bakhtin emphasizes the majority of countries (including England and his homeland Russia) do not understand another pace of living than woman’s life standing by a ‘standard model’. He also emphasize Austin has managed to raised one of the most provocative issues but that time it did not meet any encouragement, support or popularity. Even though Jane Austin does not narrate about Middle Ages and the story takes place in times when there are many things happen in the world (like French Revolution and industrial revolution), she did her best describing both Emma’s everyday life and her attitude to feminism.

Mikhail Bakhtin’s literary theory implies every novel has discourse and subtext. For example, The Captain’s Daughter by Pushkin is related to political and feminism issues, however, the main discourse of this historical novel is to narrate about love affair. Coming back to Emma novel written by Jane Austin, it is devoted to a girl’s every day life, her attitude to her father, dialogs about this and that and so on. But it is critically important to mention subtext is a king of this novel (Bakhtin). Bakhtin emphasize on that fact that any choice related to feminisms or marriage has to be not parents’ or men’s decision, but only a girl’s when she’s an adult. Bakhtin also opposes early marriage, including their debauchery. The subtext of Emma novel is a wake-up call for each and every women not only in England and USA, but for every woman in the world. Jane Austen addresses many important issues about feminism and she has to conceal it as otherwise she won’t have any possibility to keep with her literary career. According to Bakhtin’s novel theory, Jane Austen made a solid contribution narrating about feminism in Emma — it was one of the first English novels related to feminism issues. The majority of literarily critics claim that the issue of feminism is the matter of mind, not lifestyle or time. (Gunne and Brigley). As for moral and ethical side of feminism, women who stand by this theory must have their own choice once they reach adulthood and become aware of their personalities and further lifestyle. Even through in XVIII it was legal not to follow usual pace of life, needless to say, lifestyle of those times stood for ethics and standards.

Feminism and gender criticism cannot be considered separately. (Daiches) Bakhtin emphasizes the reception of this literary work is that Emma and male characters have different rights and freedoms. (Bakhtin) For instance, Emma has a friend Mr. Knightley who was able to travel freely, interpret his own thoughts without any boundaries and dress the way he wants. Even through Emma did the same, she always received many negative comments. Baktin mentions ‘the way Emma withstood all insults provide a box of beliefs any woman can go through it’.

Obtaining all the facts, Bakhtin was one of the first literary theoretic who backed up feminism theory and proved it can do a lot of good in story-telling. His ‘Discourse in novel’ proved a literature work can change any customs — the early 1990s was the raise of feminism and gender criticism.

To sum up all the arguments and facts, feminism and gender equality presented by Jane Austin in Emma novel provided a powerful impetus to rights and freedoms for women all over the world. Such courage was backed up not only by ethical theories but also by many literary critics. One of them was Mikhail Baktin who emphasized feminism had been perfectly sewed in Jane Austin’s novel. One should understand that choosing to be or not to be a feminist for a woman is her own obligation as any adult should be responsible for his future and there is no such concept as ‘normal’ lifestyle in the ethical or moral sense.

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