Feminist Analysis Essay

Feminist Literary Analysis

What is it?
Feminist theory is an approach that focuses on the way women are represented in literature. This mode of interpretation is important not only to understanding how gender affects characters in a work, but also in understanding the societal values that are reflected by the work.

Since the world of academe has privileged the male sex for most of history, it is not surprising that the traditional literary canon mostly overlooks or ignores works by female authors. Hence, written women often adhere to traditional gender roles determined by patriarchal, or male dominated, society. Women are often depicted as submissive wives, dutiful homemakers, and selfless nurturers, considered virtuous by right of beauty and dominated by emotions. Feminist theory tries to answer the question of whether a character perpetuates traditional female stereotypes, and to what extent the text supports those views. Though much of feminist scholarship focuses on rediscovering and analyzing works by women authors, feminist theory can be applied to any work. Because of this, there are many varieties of feminist theory.


Historical feminist criticism focuses on how a work correlates with women’s position at a certain point in time. By thinking about the work in its historical context, the reader can better analyze how the characters typify or transgress the gender norms of their society.  For instance, a historical feminist approach could be effectively used to analyze “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” by Katherine Mansfield because the death of an unmarried woman’s father had much different consequences in the 1920s than it does today.

Psychoanalytic feminist criticism focuses on the mental state and the unconscious impulses of a character and how they were formed by early life experiences. Feminist criticism is more specifically interested in the ways in which the social construct of gender have influenced their personality. Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar would be a good novel for psychoanalytic feminist criticism because you could focus on the ways in which patriarchal oppression contributed to or interacted with the heroine’s mental illness.

Marxist/socialist-feminist criticism focuses on the ways in which the socioeconomic system oppresses women based on both class and sex. In A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Feminist Literary Criticism, Maggie Humm explains that “Marxism offers both a way of linking historical evidence of women’s oppression with literary texts and understanding how writers consciously or unconsciously transpose that evidence into their text” (75). A Marxist feminist approach might look at the ways in which a woman is divested of social power by the inability to legally own property.  You could use Marxist feminist approach when analyzing Kate Chopin’s The Awakening by looking at Edna’s perception of her husband’s wealth and her decision to leave the material comfort of his lavish house.

Poststructuralism / deconstruction feminist criticism analyzes the ways in which language is ingrained with the ideologies of the ruling society. In the case of feminist theory, the interest is how language inherently supports patriarchal ideas and is oppressive to women. This is not only because the value judgement language implies, but also because it is an inadequate tool for women’s expression of their experience. For example, you might look at the ways active and passive sentence structures relate to Edna's experience in Kate Chopin's The Awakening. Postructuralism feminist theory is a good approach to more modern works, where sexism or gender expectations might be subtly expressed by connotations.

Black feminist criticism focuses on works both by and about African American women. It focuses heavily on their cultural traditions and history that make a black woman’ experience unique. Toni Morrison’s Beloved could be explored using black feminist criticism because the novel is deeply rooted in Afro-American culture and female characters struggle with both racism and sexism.

Important Feminist Literary Figures

Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1972).

Virginia Woolf, author of A Room of One's Own (1929).

 Simone de Beauvoir, author of The Second Sex (1949).

See also: List of American feminist literature

This is an incomplete list, which may never be able to satisfy certain standards for completeness. Revisions and additions are welcome.

Feminist literature is fiction or nonfiction which supports the feminist goals of defining, establishing and defending equal civil, political, economic and social rights for women. It often identifies women's roles as unequal to those of men – particularly as regards status, privilege and power – and generally portrays the consequences to women, men, families, communities and societies as undesirable.

The following is a list of feminist literature, listed by year of first publication, then within the year alphabetically by title (using the English title rather than the foreign language title if available/applicable). Books and magazines are in italics, all other types of literature are not and are in quotation marks. References lead when possible to a link to the full text of the literature.

15th century[edit]

16th century[edit]

17th century[edit]

  • Poem 92, called Philosophical Satire, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1600s)[5]
  • A Muzzle for Melastomus, the Cynical Baiter of, and Foul-mouthed Barker Against Eve's Sex. Or An Apologetical Answer to that Irreligious and Illiterate Pamphlet Made by Jo. Sw. And By Him Entitled, "The Arraignment of Women", Rachel Speght (1617)
  • Ester Hath Hang'd Haman: An Answer To a Lewd Pamphlet, Entitled "The Arraignment of Women," With the Arraignment of Lewd, Idle Forward, and Unconstant Men, and Husbands, Ester Sowernam (1617)
  • Swetnam the Woman-Hater, Anonymous (1620)
  • Égalité des hommes et des femmes, Marie Le Jars de Gournay (1622)
  • Grief des dames, Marie Le Jars de Gournay (1626)
  • Women's Speaking Justified, Proved, and Allowed of by the Scriptures, All such as speak by the Spirit and Power of the Lord Jesus. And how Women were the first that Preached the Tidings of the Resurrection of Jesus, and were sent by Christ's own Command, before he Ascended to the Father, John 20. 17., Margaret Fell (1667)[6]
  • An Essay to Revive the Antient [sic] Education of Gentlewomen in Religion, Manners, Arts & Tongues, with An Answer to the Objections Against this Way of Education., Bathsua Makin (1673)
  • De l'égalité des deux sexes, François Poullain de la Barre (1673) [7]
  • De l’Éducation des dames pour la conduite de l’esprit dans les sciences et dans les mœurs, entretiens, François Poullain de la Barre (1674)[8]
  • La Princesse de Clèves, Madame de Lafayette (1678)
  • Female Advocate or, an Answer to a Late Satyr Against the Pride, Lust and Inconstancy, &c. of Woman. Written by a Lady in Vindication of her Sex, Sarah Fyge Egerton (1686)[9]
  • A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, for the Advancement of Their True and Greatest Interest, Mary Astell (1694)
  • An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex. In Which Are Inserted the Characters of a Pedant, a Squire, a Beau, a Vertuoso, a Poetaster, a City-Critick, &c. In a Letter to a Lady. Written by a Lady, Judith Drake (1697)[10]
  • A Serious Proposal, Part II, Mary Astell (1697)
  • The Adventure of the Black Lady, Aphra Behn (1697)[11]

18th century[edit]

  • Some Reflections Upon Marriage, Occasioned by the Duke and Dutchess of Mazarine's Case; Which is Also Considered., Mary Astell (1700)
  • The Ladies' Defence, Or, a Dialogue Between Sir John Brute, Sir William Loveall, Melissa, and a Parson, Lady Mary Chudleigh (1701)
  • The Education of Women, Daniel Defoe (1719)[12]
  • The Emulation, Sarah Fyge (1719)
  • The Woman's Labour, Mary Collier (1739)[13]
  • An Essay on Woman in Three Epistles, Mary Leapor (1763)
  • Letters on Women's Rights, Abigail and John Adams (1776)[14]
  • Desultory Thoughts upon the Utility of Encouraging a Degree of Self-Complacency, Especially in Female Bosoms, Judith Sargent Murray (1784)[15]
  • Philosophie eines Weibs: Von einer Beobachterin,Marianne Ehrmann (1784)
  • Mary: A Fiction, Mary Wollstonecraft (1788)[16]
  • Petition of Women of the Third Estate to the King (1789)[17]
  • "Women's Petition to the [French] National Assembly" (1789)[18]
  • On the Admission of Women to the Rights of Citizenship, Marquis de Condorcet (1790)[19]
  • "On the Equality of the Sexes", Judith Sargent Murray, from The Massachusetts Magazine, or, Monthly Museum Concerning the Literature, History, Politics, Arts, Manners, Amusements of the Age, Vol. II (1790)[20]
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft (1791)[21]
  • Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen, Olympe de Gouges (1791)
  • The Rights of Women [including the Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen], Olympe de Gouges (1791)
  • Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft (1798)[22]

19th century[edit]



  • Indiana, George Sand (pen name of Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin) (1832)
  • "Marriage Law Protest", Robert Dale Owen (1832)[23]
  • Valentine, George Sand (pen name of Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin) (1832)
  • Lélia, George Sand (pen name of Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin) (1833)
  • Jacques, George Sand (pen name of Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin) (1834)
  • The History of the Condition of Women in Various Ages and Nations, Lydia Maria Child (1835)[24]
  • Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, Sarah Grimke (1837)
  • "Remarks Comprising in Substance Judge Hertell's Argument in the House of Assembly in the State of New York in the Session of 1837 in Support of the Bill to Restore to Married Women the 'Right of Property' as Guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States", Judge Thomas Hertell (1837)
  • The Times that Try Men's Souls, Maria Weston Chapman (1837)[25]
  • Woman, Harriet Martineau (1837)[26]
  • On Marriage, Harriet Martineau (1838)[27]


  • The Great Lawsuit, Margaret Fuller (1843)[28]
  • Brief History of the Condition of Women: in Various Ages and Nations, Volume 2, Lydia Maria Child (1845)[29]
  • "The Rights and Condition of Women", Samuel May (1845)[30]
  • Woman in the Nineteenth Century, Margaret Fuller (1845)[31]
  • Poganka (The Heathen Woman), by Narcyza Żmichowska (1846)[32]
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë (1847)[33]
  • "Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions", Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1848)[34]
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Brontë (1848)
  • "Voting Rights Speech", Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1848)[35]
  • "Discourse on Woman", Lucretia Mott (1849)[36]


  • Woman and Her Needs, Elizabeth Oakes Smith (1850-1851)[37]
  • Ain't I a Woman? speech, Sojourner Truth (1851)[38]
  • "Enfranchisement of Women", Harriet Taylor Mill, from the Westminster Review (1851)
  • "Speech at the National Woman's Rights Convention", Ernestine Rose (1851)[39]
  • "The Responsibilities of Woman", Clarina Howard Nichols (1851)[40]
  • "Speech at the National Woman's Rights Convention", Matilda Joslyn Gage (1852)[41]
  • Villette, Charlotte Brontë (1853)
  • What Time of Night It Is, Sojourner Truth (1853)[42]
  • Women's Rights, William Lloyd Garrison (1853)[43]
  • "A Brief Summary in Plain Language of the Most Important Laws Concerning Women", Barbara Bodichon (1854)
  • "Address to the Legislature of New York", Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1854)[44]
  • "English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth Century", Caroline Norton (1854)[45]
  • "A Letter to the Queen On Lord Chancellor Cranworth's Marriage and Divorce Bill", Caroline Norton (1855)[46]
  • Marriage of Lucy Stone Under Protest, Lucy Stone, Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and Henry Blackwell (1855)[47]
  • Ruth Hall, Fanny Fern (1855)[48]
  • "The Right of Women to Exercise the Elective Franchise", Agnes Pochin (1855)
  • Hertha, Fredrika Bremer (1856)[49]
  • "Consistent democracy. The elective franchise for women. Twenty-five testimonies of prominent men, viz: ex-Gov. Anthony of R.I., Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, Rev. Wm.H. Channing [etc.]" (1858)[50]
  • "Female Ministry, Or, Woman's Right to Preach the Gospel", Catherine Booth (1859)[51]
  • "Ought Women to Learn the Alphabet?", Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1859)[52]


  • "A Practical Illustration of 'Woman's Right to Labor;' or, A Letter from Marie E. Zakrzewska, M.D., Late of Berlin, Prussia", Caroline H. Dall (ed.) (1860)[53]
  • A Slave's Appeal, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1860)[54]
  • Female Teaching, Catherine Booth (1861)[55]
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs (1861)
  • "A Woman's Philosophy of Woman; or Woman Affranchised. An Answer to Michelet, Proudhon, Girardin, Legouve, Comte, and Other Modern Innovators", Jenny d'Héricourt (1864)
  • A Long Fatal Love Chase, Louisa May Alcott (1866)
  • "Objections to the Enfranchisement of Women Considered", Barbara Bodichon (1866)[56]
  • The Higher Education of Women, Emily Davies (1866)[57]
  • "Address To The First Anniversary Of The American Equal Rights Association", Frances D. Gage (1867)[58]
  • "Keeping the Thing Going While Things Are Stirring", Sojourner Truth (1867)[59]
  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (1868)
  • "The Destructive Male", Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1868)[60]
  • "The Education and Employment of Women", Josephine Butler (1868)[61]
  • Criminals, Idiots, Women, and Minors, Frances Power Cobbe (1869)[62]
  • The Subjection of Women, John Stuart Mill (1869)[63]
  • The Woman with Prospects, Concepción Arenal (Seville, Spain) (1869)
  • Women and Politics, Charles Kingsley (1869)[64]


  • "About Marrying Too Young" from The Revolution, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1870)[65]
  • "Are Women A Class?", Lillie Blake (1870)[66]
  • "Our Policy: An Address to Women Concerning the Suffrage", Frances Power Cobbe (1870)[67]
  • Endorsing Women's Enfranchisement, Adelle Hazlett (1871)[68]
  • "Letters to and from Polly Plum", Polly Plum (pen name of Mary Ann Colclough) (1871)[69]
  • On the Progress of Education and Industrial Avocations for Women, Matilda Joslyn Gage (1871)[70]
  • "Put Us In Your Place" from The Revolution, Lillie Blake (1871)[71]
  • On Woman's Right to Suffrage, Susan B. Anthony (1872)[72]
  • Reasons For and Against the Enfranchisement of Women, Barbara Bodichon (1872)[73]
  • The Adventures of a Woman in Search of her Rights, Florence Claxton (1872)
  • Martha (Polish: Marta), a novel by Eliza Orzeszkowa (1873)[74]
  • "Sentencing of Susan B. Anthony for the Crime of Voting" (1873)[75]
  • "Uncivil Liberty: An Essay to Show the Injustice and Impolicy of Ruling Woman Without Her Consent", Ezra Heywood (1873)
  • Woman: Man's Equal, Thomas Webster (1873)[76]
  • "Women's Temperance Movement", Mark Twain (1873)[77]
  • Papa's Own Girl, Marie Howland (1874)
  • "Some Thoughts on the Present Aspect of the Crusade Against the State Regulation of Vice", Catherine Booth (1874)[78]
  • Blackwell, Antoinette (1976) [first published 1875]. The Sexes Throughout Nature. Hyperion Press. ISBN 0-88355-349-X. [79]
  • Declaration of Rights for Women, by the National Woman Suffrage Association (1876)[80]
  • Why Women Desire the Franchise, Frances Power Cobbe (1877)[81]
  • "An Appeal to the Men of New Zealand", Femina (pen name of Mary Ann Muller) (1878)[82]
  • A Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen (1879)[83]
  • Social Purity, Josephine Butler (1879)[84]


  • Mizora, Mary Lane (1880–81)
  • Common Sense About Women, Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1881)[85]
  • Women and the Alphabet: A Series of Essays, Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1881)
  • Die Frauenfrage in Deutschland, Augusta Bender (1883)
  • The Constitutional Rights of the Women of the United States, Isabella Beecher Hooker (1883)[86]
  • The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner (1883)[87]
  • The Woman in her House, Concepción Arenal (1883)
  • What Shall We Do With our Daughters? Superfluous Women and Other Lectures, Mary A. Livermore (1883)[88]
  • The Iniquity of State Regulated Vice, Catherine Booth (1884)[89]
  • "The Need of Liberal Divorce Laws" from the North American Review, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1884)[90]
  • The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Friedrich Engels (1884)[91]
  • "Has Christianity Benefited Woman?", Elizabeth Cady Stanton, from the North American Review (1885)[92]
  • Men, Women, And Gods, And Other Lectures, Helen H. Gardener (1885)[93]
  • Cathy the Caryatid (Polish: Kaśka Kariatyda), a novel by Gabriela Zapolska (1886)
  • The Woman Question, Edward Aveling and Eleanor Marx Aveling (1886)[94]
  • Misogyny in Excelsis, Annie Besant (1887)[95]
  • Women and Men, Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1888)[96]
  • Women Who Go To College, Arthur Gilman (1888)[97]
  • New Amazonia, Elizabeth Burgoyne Corbett (1889)
  • Ein deutsches Mädchen in Amerika, Augusta Bender (1893)


  • "Sex Slavery", Voltairine de Cleyre (1890) [98]
  • Le Droit des femmes, meaning Women's Rights (1869 to 1891)
  • A Doll's House Repaired, Eleanor Marx Aveling (1891)[99]
  • The Woman's Movement in the South, A.P. Mayo (1891)[100]
  • "Transactions of the National Council of Women of the United States" (1891)[101]
  • A Voice from the South, Anna J. Cooper (1892)
  • "Hearing of the Woman Suffrage Association" (1892)[102]
  • Solitude of Self, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1892)[103]
  • "The Yellow Wallpaper", Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892)[104]
  • The New Woman (Polish: Emancypantki), a novel by Bolesław Prus (1890–93)
  • So That Women May Receive the Vote, Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia (1893)[105]
  • "The Progress of Fifty Years", Lucy Stone (1893)[106]
  • Unveiling a Parallel, Alice Ilgenfritz Jones & Ella Merchant (1893)[107]
  • Woman, Church, and State, Matilda Joslyn Gage (1893)[108]
  • Women's Cause is One and Universal, Anna Julia Cooper (1893)[109]
  • "Speech on Women's Suffrage", Carrie Chapman Catt (1894)[110]
  • "The Story of an Hour", Kate Chopin (1894)[111]
  • The New Woman, Winona Branch Sawyer (1895)[112]
  • "What Becomes of the Girl Graduates", Winona Branch Sawyer (1895)[113]
  • "Anarchy and the Sex Question" from the New York World, Emma Goldman (1896)[114]
  • "Only in Conjunction With the Proletarian Woman Will Socialism Be Victorious", Clara Zetkin (1896)[115]
  • The Proletarian in the Home, Eleanor Marx Aveling (1896)[116]
  • The Women of To-Morrow, William Hard (1896)[117]
  • Truth Before Everything, Catherine Booth (1897)[118]
  • "Why Go To College? An Address by Alice Freeman Palmer, Formerly President of Wellesley College", Alice Freeman Palmer (1897)[119]
  • Eighty Years and More, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1898)[120]
  • The Renaissance of Girls' Education in England, a Record of Fifty Years Progress, Alice Zimmern (1898)[120]
  • "The Storm", Kate Chopin (1898)
  • The Woman's Bible, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1898)[121]
  • Women and Economics, Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1898)[122]
  • Arqtiq, Anna Adolph (1899)
  • The Awakening, Kate Chopin (1899)[123]

20th century[edit]


  • "Are Homogenous Divorce Laws in All the States Desirable?" from the North American Review, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1900)[124]
  • "Inspired" Marriage, Robert Ingersoll (1900)[125]
  • "Progress of the American Woman" from the North American Review, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1900)[126]
  • A Bundle of Fallacies, Dora Montefiore (1901)[127]
  • Die Frauenfrage ihre geschichtliche Entwicklung und wirtschaftliche Seite, Lily Braun (1901)[128]
  • "Votes for Women", Mark Twain (1901)[129]
  • Woman, Kate Austin (1901)[130]
  • "A Response to "Republics Versus Women" by Mrs. Kate Trimble Wolsey", Dora Montefiore (1903)[131]
  • "Declaration of Principles", by the National American Woman Suffrage Association (1904)[132]
  • "What Interest does the Women's Movement have in Solving the Homosexual Problem?" by Anna Rüling (1904)[133]
  • "Sultana's Dream" from The Indian Ladies Magazine, Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1905)[134]
  • The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton (1905)
  • Blackburn S.D.P., Dora Montefiore (1906)[135]
  • Kobiety (Women), Zofia Nałkowska (1906 Polish novel)
  • "German Socialist Women's Movement", Clara Zetkin (1906)[136]
  • Jus Suffragii, the official journal of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (1906 to 1924)
  • Love's Coming of Age, Edward Carpenter (1906)[137]
  • Social-Democracy & Woman Suffrage, Clara Zetkin (1906)[137]
  • "Some Words to Socialist Women", Dora Montefiore (1907)[138]
  • "A Response to "Why I am Opposed to Female Suffrage" by E. Belfort Bax", Dora Montefiore (1909)[139]
  • "A Review of "Women's Work and Wages" by Edward Cadbury M., Cecile Matheson and George Shann", Dora Montefiore (1909)[140]
  • Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1909)[141]
  • "Items of Interest", Dora Montefiore (1909)[142]
  • "Items of Interest from Other Countries", Dora Montefiore (1909)[143]

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