Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Thanks to the Holy Spirit

My friends, life is good, God is infinitely good, and, courtesy of the latter, I have a thesis topic. The following attempt at a description contains as many common terms and as few English-majorish qualifiers as I could muster; so please be patient with me, and I’ll try to explain the general direction my pursuit of the subjectively perfect thesis topic has taken me.

Roughly within the last century, a new wave of literary critics has struggled to re-interpret and fathom the depths of the classics of English literature. I won’t go into the various forms here, but they each promoted radically different perspectives on how a work is to be read. Some said words don’t have objective meanings, and so the meaning of the work is only an interpretation by an individual, a community, or a specific, temporal context or culture. Others insisted that the work of art had to communicate some sort of universal truth.

Spanning the gamut of literary theories were the new feminist literary critics. They looked at written art and artists through the tinted glasses of modern feminism (to contrast it with the early equal-rights “feminists”). Thus, Jane Eyre, Ophelia, Lizzy Bennet and other female characters were victims of a male dominated, misogynistic society. They were to be praised for traits like ingenuity, just anger, independence, self-sufficiency, emotional forbearance, etc. The feminist critics examine female authors of note in the same manner.

I would like to study the rhetoric of these women and hopefully demonstrate how their terminology and perspective is self-defeating if their quest is truly to reclaim the proper dignity and equality due to the female sex in the modern world. Too much of their language emphasizes a master/slave relationship between men and women. In the same strain, they seem not to aspire to equality and complementary with men, but rather superiority through male-virtues (note how similar some of the virtues they extol in female characters sounds like the ideal Hemmingway-esque modern man.) In addition, by employing this type of rhetoric, they lose sight of the true beauty of the “feminine genius.” They neglect to praise females displaying sensitivity, humility, sacrificial love, receptivity, or a mothering spirit. I would argue that the female characters they extol were not intriguing to centuries of readers because of their foresight and adaptation of the “ideal” modern woman’s character, but because of their realistic portrayal of universal feminine virtues and attributes.

Obviously, this is a direction, not a specific topic. I would probably trim it down to a study of 1-3 critics or critiqued characters. I have a lot of reading and studying to do in order to actually form an educated opinion and thesis on the topic; since, as of now, I only have vague surmises drawn from my studies in several previous classes and discussion with my thesis advisor. Fortunately, I have a directed study on my thesis topic this semester and will be waiting until next semester to actually write it.

Keep me and my “opus Dei” in your prayers; you are all in mine.


Blogger Filia Dei said...


May I suggest Bella Wilfer and Lizzie Hexam in 'Our Mutual Friend' to you. Not neccessarily because they fit your theme, just because they are good freinds of mine and I think you'd like 'em.

I'll pray for your thesis if you pray for mine. Both of them, actually...

9/14/2005 3:01 PM  
Blogger coiledrose said...

Good luck. Sounds very interesting, and I'd love to have a chance to read it when you're all finished.

9/14/2005 3:10 PM  
Anonymous Over 40 said...

Will your work be posted on your blog? I think you have a great topic for you thesis and pray you are given the wisdom to write the truth in a document that will speak to those who have been owned by the message of the modern feminists.

9/21/2005 8:31 PM  
Blogger Kelly Jo said...

The thesis will be 40 pages minimum so I won't be posting it on the blog. However, if a) you are really interested and b) I'm satisfied with the finished product, I'd be happy to e-mail it to anyone interested next spring upon completion. Meanwhile, prayers are very much appreciated!

Also, my topic is becoming more and more refined as a go along. At the moment, it looks like I'll focus less on the linguistical side and more on the refutation of their basic presuppositions. The more I explored feminist linguistics, I realized that they put an inordinate amount of effort into finding a "feminine style" or the "semiotic" language of a pre-brainwashed child in a male-dominated society or the importance of changing "postman" to "postperson" or other such nonsense. I didn't want my discussion of real terminology to get too bogged down by their social and linguistical engineering agenda.
Thus, I'm looking at focusing more on the basic misunderstandings about the feminine nature/place in society and how they lead to a false interpretation of female authors/characters in the canon. Ergo, I get to read vonHildebrand, Edith Stein, JPII, and such people as well as all the well-intentioned but confused feminist critics.

9/23/2005 3:48 PM  

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