Feminist Approach to Victorian Literature

The most important critical development out of Victorianism was feminism. However, Victorian study was not the source of literary feminism, but also it was closely associated with first wave feminism, particularly through the efforts of: Elaine Showalter’s Literature of Their Own Gilbert and Gubar's Madwoman in the Attic Nina Awerbach's Communities of Women and Woman and the Demon.

Such criticism, not only reread canonical texts and shifted focus onto others that had long been ignored, but it led to the revaluation of writers like Elizabeth Barrett, Christina Rossetti, and Elizabeth Gaskell and to a reconfiguration of canon. The  feminist critics tried to  show the situation of Victorian women, their economic problems, social status not only that they tried to show as well as re-examine the representation of women in men's text. In Victorian times the representation of women was, as, immanent, passive, sensual, passionate. The feminist critics tried to dismantle the earlier representation and earlier images. They concluded that the Victorian condition of women was mainly due to the patriarchal society.

Feminist critics are the real characters to congratulate because they have reawakened the history, re-evaluated the context by which reconfiguration of canon is being possible otherwise the historical and contextual reconfiguration would be doomed by the extensive effect of the textualism, or new criticism, or deconstruction.

Feminist studies have changed the tradition of reconfiguration; it started questioning on the assumptions  of "Victorian literature", not only that it started questioning on the critical developments before its arrival in academies. Feminists had to become aware that the medium of Victorian prose was not favourable rather there was a blockade to women, the Victorian novels and fictions were programmatically 'excluding the views, voices, and visions of women due to these all the causes conventions of literary "genius" and a historical aesthetic standards had to be challenged, and for this process historicism and textualism joined hands with  feminist enrerprises. This contribution made feminism one of the most significant critical activities among Victorian scholars and it would faithfully represent the whole Victorian criticism. Feminism: preoccupied with social history, alert to the material base of aesthetic criteria, alert to the extra-individual pressures  of ideological forces along with political motivation, became successful to blend textualism and historicism into new trans-disciplinary area, that is, “cultural studies". This change has a greater significance to change and interpret the canons not only that the interest is being displaced in cultural forms and political awareness in reading any particular text. In these regards we can relate the latest theoretical developments as a mutual relationship among feminism, new historicism and cultural criticisms.

We can depict the development by quoting the reference of journal "Victorian studies" again, which was influenced by the liberal humanist tendency, but the recent development, with the change in editorial, changed explicitly towards feminist agendas. The political affected deeply to the aesthetics. The changed agendas were published under the editorship of Martha Vicinus, the journal extended its original preoccupation with social history and made clear some of its political goals, and generating at least two volumes that articulated the concern with feminist matters. Suffer and Be Still: Woman in the Victorian Age  gathered a wide range of essays from scholars in many disciplines, some of whom went on to write significant monographs in such areas as medicine, sexual behaviour, literature, the fine arts etc. The book struggled to document the stereotypes against which modern feminism had to struggle, these developments brought a new change by which first wave feminist criticism developed, by which during and after 1970s, there had been enormous texts to show not only the emergence but the full functioning of feminist criticism.