Book Review: Feminist Literary Theory: An Introductory Handbook by Yonge Eglinton


     Having just been published this month, Feminist Literary Theory: An Introductory Handbook by Yonge Eglinton is a relevant outline of the spacious territory that is feminist literary criticism. In addition, it is considerably designed with the novice in mind at forty-six understandable pages and exists as a comfortable platform in which the student of feminist concepts can recline with gentle ease.

         As a teacher of literary criticism for nearly twenty-years, Eglinton is aware of the procedures that best facilitate learning. Thus, his manual is carefully organized by offering a wealth of critical thinking questions to support the reader in looking at literature through a feminist lens. Using a practical approach, Eglinton organizes his book into several themes: theoretical background. historical and social context, biographical evidence, and the form & language of the text itself.

          With reference to theoretical background, Eglinton offers a deeper definition of “patriarchy” and also references the term “biological essentialism”. Because each of these paradigms have fueled the need for a feminist cause and exist in every text that concerns women’s rights, it is essential to Eglinton that the critic establish knowledge about them.

      He also emphasizes a reading which focuses on the political structures that existed alongside the time period of the text, along with the dominant arrangement of ideas concerning “philosophy, religion, science, and humanities” in regards to the woman’s role in the piece. Looking closely at biographical evidence, Eglinton says, is also important for the critic in their analysis. In other words, a piece of literature should be read in consideration of the relationships between men and women, women and women, as well as the author’s personal relationships outside of their texts. In the final section concerning the text itself, the author discusses what feminist critics traditionally look for about the “ideological stance of the text in relation to patriarchy”. This investigation should include attention on the portrayal of the female body and feminine experiences recorded in literary texts. Furthermore, in studying the tone, language, and point-of-view of the text in correlation with locating the ideological agenda of the author, the critic will be able to identify the author’s overall feminist perspective, if there is one.

        An obviously refreshing aspect of this book is that it was written by a male. Yet, Yonge Eglinton’s tone is even-keeled, unbiased, and wholeheartedly aware of the patriarchal society which exists and is especially portrayed in literature. He stresses the importance of women in the field and their power to shift the tides when given the chance to print and distribute their voices. Additionally, he engages some of the most powerful sources in feminist literature (Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir) to incite the reader to ponder the main issues of the cause.

        This is a helpful book for any writing student who wishes to explore the arena of feminism and be able to think and write critically about texts concerning the subject, which are endless. If you want to look at a book through a feminist lens, Eglinton offers a myriad of questions to begin your journey. A good example is, “How is the female body portrayed in the text? Does the female body…reflect cultural, social, and political norms?” As a student taking a course on Literature, Gender, and Sexuality this semester, these questions were especially helpful for me in reflecting on the readings I’ve been doing in that space.

       Overall, I appreciated Eglinton’s pragmatic approach to learning how to read and write about feminism and its theories. His writing being simple and concise was a crucial element to being able to grasp such typically exhausting material. If you’re looking to get a straightforward lesson on feminist literary criticism in a mere hours time of reading, look to Eglinton as a trusty source.

Works Referenced

Eglinton, Yonge. Feminist Theory: An Introductory Handbook. CreateSpace

     Independent Publishing Platform, 2015. Print.


Book Jacket


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