Toril Moi Sexual Textual Politics

Toril Moi Sexual/Textual Politics Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Toril Moi Sexual/Textual Politics
Toril Moi Sexual/Textual Politics


Virginia Woolf is one of the most influential and celebrated writers of the 20th century, but also one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented by some feminist critics. In her essay Who Is Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Toril Moi challenges the negative and reductive readings of Woolf’s work by Elaine Showalter and other Anglo-American feminists and offers a more nuanced and positive perspective on Woolf’s feminism and literary achievements.

Toril Moi Sexual/Textual Politics Analysis And Critical Appreciation

 The essay Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory, was published in 1985. Moi’s essay is a feminist critique of the negative and dismissive readings of Virginia Woolf by some of her Anglo-American feminist successors, especially Elaine Showalter. Moi argues that Showalter and others have misunderstood Woolf’s concept of androgyny and have failed to appreciate her complex and innovative literary techniques. Moi also proposes a different, more positive feminist reading of Woolf, based on a recognition of her radical challenge to patriarchal norms and values.

In her essay “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, Toril Moi argues that the title of the play is a question about the fear of female creativity. She argues that Woolf’s work challenges traditional notions of gender and sexuality and that this challenge makes her work threatening to those who benefit from the status quo.

Moi begins her essay by discussing the critical reception of Woolf’s work. She notes that Woolf has been criticized for being too feminine, too intellectual, and too experimental. Moi argues that these criticisms are based on a patriarchal view of art and literature, which privileges male creativity over female creativity.

Moi asking the question posed in the title: who is afraid of Virginia Woolf? She suggests that quite a few feminist critics are because they have found Woolf to be a frivolous bohemian, a negligible Bloomsbury aesthete, or a troubled feminist who fled into androgyny to escape her own painful femaleness. Moi focuses on Showalter’s chapter on Woolf in A Literature of Their Own, which she considers to be representative of the negative feminist response to Woolf.

Moi criticizes Showalter for reducing Woolf’s concept of androgyny to a myth that helped her evade confrontation with her own anger and ambition, and for ignoring the political implications of Woolf’s rejection of gender binaries. Moi also challenges Showalter’s claim that A Room of One’s Own is an extremely impersonal and defensive book, which uses techniques such as repetition, exaggeration, parody, whimsy, and multiple viewpoints to create an illusion of spontaneity and intimacy. Moi contends that these techniques are not mere distractions, but rather essential elements of Woolf’s feminist strategy, which aims to subvert the authority of the male-dominated literary tradition and to open up new possibilities for women writers.

Moi then proceeds to offer an alternative feminist reading of Woolf, which takes into account her historical context, her literary innovations, and her political vision. Moi argues that Woolf was not a liberal humanist who believed in the transcendence of gender differences, but rather a radical feminist who exposed the oppression and violence of patriarchy and who advocated for a transformation of society and culture.

Moi shows how Woolf’s concept of androgyny is not a flight from reality, but a creative resistance to the rigid and hierarchical gender roles imposed by patriarchy. Moi also demonstrates how Woolf’s use of multiple perspectives, irony, parody, and fragmentation is not a sign of weakness, but a powerful way of challenging the monolithic and authoritative discourse of patriarchy and creating new forms of expression and representation for women. Moi concludes her essay by summarizing the main features of the feminist response to Woolf’s writings, which she divides into two categories: those who reject Woolf as irrelevant or reactionary, and those who embrace Woolf as an inspiration and a precursor.

Moi then turns to a close reading of Woolf’s work. She argues that Woolf’s writing is characterized by its fluidity and its refusal to conform to traditional gender roles. Moi also argues that Woolf’s work is deeply political and that it challenges the patriarchal structures of society.

Moi’s essay is an insightful and persuasive analysis of the feminist reception of Woolf’s work, which exposes the limitations and biases of some of the previous readings and offers a more nuanced and appreciative interpretation.

Moi’s essay is also an important contribution to feminist literary theory, which shows how Woolf’s writings can be seen as examples of sexual/textual politics, that is, as interventions in the cultural field that challenge the dominant ideology and create new spaces for women’s voices. Moi’s essay is thus a valuable resource for anyone interested in Virginia Woolf’s life and work, as well as in feminist criticism and theory.

Moi then turns to a close reading of Woolf’s work. She argues that Woolf’s writing is characterized by its fluidity and its refusal to conform to traditional gender roles. Moi also argues that Woolf’s work is deeply political and that it challenges the patriarchal structures of society.

Moi concludes by arguing that Woolf’s work is still relevant today. She argues that Woolf’s work continues to challenge traditional notions of gender and sexuality and that it continues to be a source of inspiration for feminists and other progressives.

Moi’s essay is not only a defense of Woolf’s feminism but also a tribute to her genius and legacy. Moi celebrates Woolf’s courage, honesty, humour, and imagination, and invites us to read her work with fresh eyes and open minds. Moi’s essay is a valuable contribution to the feminist literary theory and criticism of Woolf’s work, and a compelling invitation to revisit one of the greatest writers of all time.


Thus, Moi’s essay is a powerful defense of Woolf’s work and a reminder of the importance of female creativity. Toril Moi‘s Sexual Textual Politics essay Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Feminist Readings of Woolf offers a compelling alternative to Elaine Showalter’s negative critique of Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own.

Moi defends Woolf’s feminism and literary innovation by showing how she uses various textual and structural techniques to create a complex and radical message that challenges patriarchal discourse and proposes a new form of subjectivity and community for women writers.

Moi shows how Woolf’s essay is not only a personal testimony but also a political intervention that exposes the material and ideological conditions that oppress women writers and calls for a collective struggle for freedom and creativity.

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I. A. Richards As A Critic

I. A. Richards As A Critic | Ivor Armstrong Richards

I. A. Richards As A Critic
I. A. Richards As A Critic


            I. A. Richards is the most influential Critic in twentieth-century Anglo-American Criticism. He along with T. S. Eliot regarded as the founder or father of New Criticism. He was born in 1893. He was a student of Moral Science at Cambridge University and his experience as a teacher proved very fruitful. Among the modern I. A. Richards is the only critic who has formulated a systematic and complete theory of literary art. The study of the text on which new criticism is based was started by no another than Richards himself. All new critics, whether it is John Crow Ranson, Cleanth Brooks, William K Wimsatt, and Robert Penn Warren are much influenced by the work of Ivor Armstrong Richards.

As A Critic Works

            As a critic, I. A. Richards is remembered for five important books, which he wrote either independently or in collaboration with others. Among such books include – The Foundation Of Aesthetics, The Meaning Of Meaning, The Principles of Literary Criticism, Practical Criticism, and Coleridge On Imagination.

            The first book The Foundation Of Aesthetics is published in 1922. It has been written in collaboration with two friends Ogden and James Wood. In this book, Richard tries to give his analysis of the concept of Aesthetic Beauty.

            His second book entitled The Meaning of Meaning was published in 1923. Richard wrote this book too in collaboration with Ogden. In this book, Richard distinguishes between the symbolic use of language in Science and its emotive use in poetry.

            Richard’s third book The Principles of Literary Criticism is the most outstanding work of English Criticism. This book came out in 1924 and created almost a revolution in the field of English Literary Criticism. In this book I. A. Richard formulated a systematic and complete theory of poetry. He also explains his psychological theory of value and explores the emotive language of Poetry.

            Richard’s Practical Criticism was published in 1929 and it is based on his lecture room experiments conducted in Cambridge. According to him a poet writes to communicate and language is the means of that communication language consists of words so the study of words is significant to understand the meaning.

The meaning of words depends on:



By Sense, it meant something that is communicated by the plain literal meaning of the words.


Feeling refers to emotions, emotional attitudes, desire, and will pleasure. Words express feelings.


Tone means the writer’s attitude towards his audience. The writer chooses his words and arranges them keeping in mind the taste of his readers.


Speaker intention or purpose modifies the speech. It is the effects that one tries to produce.

The Sound Of a word has
 much to do with the feeling
 it evokes.”

According to I. A. Richards, There are three types of Good Critic:

Firstly, A Critic should be a learned person. He has strong control over words and the effect they produce.

Secondly, he must be a sound judge of values and have adequate knowledge of psychology.

Thirdly, he must be able to distinguish experiences from one another.

I. A. Richards himself possesses these qualities. Richard did a great service to literary criticism by linking it with psychology.

            His later publication included Coleridge On Imagination published in 1934. I. A. Richard gave us six distinct senses of the word Imagination.

  • Production of Image.
  • The use of figurative Language.
  • The Narrower sense.
  • Inventiveness imagination.
  • The Scientific imagination.
  • The Sense of musical delight.

            In simpler form, I. A. Richards says that a poet arranges his experiences and lays them in a style that is not possible for an ordinary person. So the poet always does it better.


            Thus, we can say that Richard has done a great service to literary criticism by linking it with psychology. A number of scholars have emerged as critics and interpreted literature in order to help a common reader. But I. A. Richards is considered the pioneer of them. His contribution to the field of Criticism is incomparable and his works influenced a lot of modern critics.

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T. S. Eliot As A Critic

T. S. Eliot As A Critic

T. S. Eliot As A Critic
T. S. Eliot As A Critic


         T. S. Eliot is one of the greatest literary critics of England from the point of view of the bulk and quality of his critical writings. T. S. Eliot, full name Thomas Stearns Eliot was also a Poet, Essayist, Publisher, Playwright, Literary critic, and Editor of England. He is considered one of the 20th-century major poets. His five-hundred-one essays published as reviews and articles from time to the time have had a reading influence on literary criticism. Eliot made English criticism look different. His criticism was revolutionary which inverted the critical tradition of the whole of English literature.

John Hayward On T. S. Eliot

John Hayward a famous literary critic and probably known as a friend and advisor of T. S. Eliot says about him:

“I cannot think of a critic who has been
 more widely read and discussed
 in his own lifetime; and not only
 in English but in almost every language,
 expect Russian.

            Eliot’s criticism has revolutionized the great writers of the past three centuries. His recognition of the greatness of the Metaphysical poets of the 17th century resulted in the Metaphysical revival of the 20th century. The credit for the renewal of interest in Jacobean Dramatist goes to Eliot. He has restored Dryden and other Augustan Poets to their place. According to Eliot, the end of criticism is to bring readjustment between the old and the new. He say:

“From time to time it desirable that some critic
  shall appear to review the past of our literature,
  and set the poets and the poems in a new order.”

            Such criticism is rare for they must possess, besides the ability for judgment, powerful liberty of mind to identify and interpret their own values and category of admiration for their generation.

“John Howard,” says:

“Matthew Arnold was such a critic as were Coleridge,
 Johnson and Dryden before him; and such in our own day, is Eliot himself.”

            Eliot’s criticism offers both a reassessment and a reaction to earlier writers. He called himself “a classicist in literature”. His vital contribution is the reaction against “romanticism and Humanism” which brought a classical revival in art and criticism. He rejected the romantic view of the individual’s perfectibility, stressed the doctrine of original sin, and exposed the futility of the romantic faith in the “Inner Voice, A critic must follow objective standards and must conform to tradition. A sense of tradition, respect for order, and authority are central to Eliot’s classicism. In his objectivity and logical attitude Eliot must closely resemble Aristotle.

A.G. George On T. S. Eliot

A. G. George says:

“Eliot’s theory of the impersonality
 is the greatest theory. On the nature 
 of the process after Wordsworth’s
 romantic conception of poetry.”

            Poetry was an expression of the emotions and personality of romantics ‘Wordsworth’ said that “Poetry was an overflow of powerful emotions and its origin is in Emotion’s recollected in tranquility”. Eliot rejects this view and says that poetry is not an expression of emotion and personality but an escape from them. Eliot’s view on the nature of the poetic process is equally revolutionary. According to him, poetry is not inspiration it is organization. The poet’s mind is like a vessel in which are stored numerous feelings emotions and experiences.

            Perfect poetry results when instead of “dissociation of sensibility” there is “Unification of Sensibility”. The critic stressed that the aim of poetry is to give pleasure or to teach morally. Eliot devised numerous critical concepts that gained wide currency and has a brand influence on criticism.

  • Objective co-relative.
  • Dissociation of sensibility.
  • Unification of Sensibility.


  Thus, Eliot’s influence as a critic has been wide constant, fruitful, and inspiring. He has corrected and educated the taste of his readers and brought about a rethinking regarding the function of poetry and the nature of the poetic process. He gave a new direction and new tools for criticism. As a critic, T. S. Eliot was greatest than anyone in English Literature.

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The Function Of Criticism At The Present Time

The Function of Criticism at the Present Time By Matthew Arnold

The Function Of Criticism At The Present Time
The Function Of Criticism At The Present Time


       The essay “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time” was published by Mattew Arnold in his first collection of critical writing Essays In Criticism in 1865. It deals with the phenomenon of criticism. In this essay, he points out some basic rules for criticism, which according to him separate the original criticism from the fake one.

About Matthew Arnold

Mattew Arnold was a Victorian poet and critic. He is considered to be the first modern critic and could be called the Critics of Critics. He started his literary career by writing poetry. At the age of 31, he published his first piece of criticism as a Preface to the Poems’ 1853, and then for the rest of his life the full thirty-five years he only wrote about criticism and critic. As a critic, he talks about social issues, science, religion, and education.

Arnold’s criticism career falls into three periods.

1. The First Period (1853 – 1866)

In this period he produced the following work.

  1. The Preface to the Poem 1853.
  2. On Translating Homer 1856.
  3. Essays in Criticism, first series 1865.
  4. On the study of Celtic literature 1866.

2. The Second Period (1867 – 1885)

                  In this period he was involved for more than a decade in political, educational, social, and religious controversies of the day. The chief work of this period:

  1. Culture and Anarchy 1869.
  2. Literature and Dogma 1875.

3. The Third Period (1875 to his death)

In this period he retired from contemporary controversies and devoted himself again to his literary studies.

  • Essay in Criticism, Second series (1888)

            In the function of criticism at the present time, Arnold says Literary Criticism is an evaluation analysis, description, and interpretation of literary work. He defines criticism as:

“A disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought of in the world, and thus to establish a current of fresh and true ideas.

According to him:

  • A critic needs to be free from two prejudices; historical and personal.
  • Historical prejudice is when the critic resorts to viewing through the lens of the past and neglects the present in the work.
  • Personal prejudice refers to a personal liking that can be judged.

By the definition of criticism provided by Arnold, there are three tasks for the critic.

  1. The first task is the critic’s duty to learn; for that, he must “See things as they really are.”
  2. The second task is to hand on this idea to others, to convert the world to make “The best ideas prevail.”
  3. The third task requires the critic to create a favorable atmosphere for the creation.

Literary Criticism and Creativity

          Arnold also believes that the creator of a text is greater than its critic because “Creative activity is the True Function of Man”, however, it is the critic who draws the true meaning of that particular work of literature. Arnold criticizes the literature produced during the Victorian age. To him, there is a failure of criticism due to the division of society and intellectuals into small political and religious groups that make them incapable of seeing things in their true states. He gives the example of various works of literature which were written to promote the writer’s political agendas.

  1. The Edinburgh represents views of the wings.
  2. The Quarterly review represents the views of Tories.
  3. The British Quarterly Review represents the views of political dissenters.
  4. The times represent the views of the Rich Englishman.

            Arnold takes the example of two poets – Goethe and Byron. Both Goethe and Bayron had great productive power yet the work of Goethe is more productive than that of Byron because the former had a rich cultural background which the latter lacked. Similarly, Shakespeare was not a deep reader. His fame and glory were only because his age had a climate of great ideas. Next, he says that French Revolution, with its writers like Rousseau and Voltaire, was more powerful than the English Revolution of Charles. The works written on the French Revolution are tremendous and well appreciated yet they are biased as they combine politics with thought.


            Thus, In the essay “The Function Of Criticism, Matthew Arnold says that critic judgment should be from their own mind without any biases and should communicate fresh knowledge to their readers. It is criticism that has most significantly influenced French and German Literature. The Function of the Critic is not just criticizing a work of art or passing judgment, but presenting the facts so that the reader may make his or her own judgment.

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Varsha Singh
S. T. Coleridge

S. T. Coleridge as a Critic | Samuel Taylor Coleridge as a Critic

S. T. Coleridge
S. T. Coleridge As a Critic


            “S.T. Coleridge” is one of the greatest literary critics and his greatness has been almost recognized universally. He occupies, without doubt, the first place among English literary critics. ‘Saintsbury’ praises him a lot and compared him with Aristotle and Longinus. He is considered the father of impressionistic criticism. He introduced philosophy and psychology into literary criticism. Coleridge is the first English critic to base his literary criticism on philosophical principles. He was a close friend of another Romantic poet ‘William Wordsworth’. Together they co-authored ‘Lyrical Ballads’. Coleridge contributed only four poems to this work. He belonged to the group of ‘Older Romantic Poets’.

            Coleridge himself endeavored ‘to establish the principles of writing rather than to furnish rules on how to pass judgment on what has been written by others. Coleridge was influenced by the thoughts of German philosophers especially ‘Immanuel Kant’ and ‘Joseph Schelling’.

S. T. Coleridge Critical Works

            Coleridge is one of the greatest Poets–Critics that England has ever produced. His fame as a Critic Rests on his two most important critical works –

  • Biographia Literaria
  • Lectures on Shakespeare

“Biographia Literaria” is a critical autobiography by ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge’ published in 1817 in two volumes of 23 Chapters. It is also an explanation and criticism of ‘Wordsworth’s theory of poetry’. According to poetry. According to ‘Arthur Symons’. Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria is,

            “­_______ the greatest book of
            Criticism in English.”

           ‘Rene Wellek’ is of the view that Coleridge is a link, between German Transcendentalism and English Romanticism.

            I . A. Richard considers Coleridge the forced runner “of the modern science of Semantics”.

            Coleridge says that the subject of the poem, people, and other objects should be chosen from ordinary life. The language of poetry should be the language of real life. It should be taken from the rustic and village life. According to Coleridge, there are two types of poetry:-

  • Natural Poetry
  • Supernatural Poetry

           In ‘Biographia Literaria’ he also discussed the difference between – ‘Fancy and Imagination’ which are two distinct and widely different faculties. ‘Fancy’ merely assembles and juxtaposes images without transforming them. On the other hand, Imagination is a Modifying Power’ and it can transform images into a whole new entity. In contrast to Francy, ‘Imagination is Creative’.

           Primary Imagination is defined as the power of receiving impressions of the external world through the senses – such as sight, touch, smell, hearing, etc. It is a spontaneous act. Secondary imagination makes artistic creation possible. It is more active, more a result of volition, more conscious, and more voluntary than the primary one.

           Poetic talent is the skill and knowledge required for writing poetry. It can be acquired and cultivated. Poetic Genius is superior to poetic talent.

           In the Biographia literaria’s chapter 14, Coleridge talked about ‘Willing Suspension of Disbelief’. It is a formula for justifying fantastic or non-realistic elements in literature.

           “Lectures on Shakespeare” took place between about 1808 and 1819. Coleridge focused on a handful of plays:- ‘Hamlet’, ‘The Tempest’, ‘Richard II’, ‘Othello’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Love’s Labour’s lost’ and ‘Macbeth’. He admired ‘King Lear’ and ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ but hated ‘Measure for Measure’. In his lectures, Coleridge often compared Shakespeare to other writers such as – ‘Spencer and Motion’.

           Rather than finding fault with Shakespeare for his lack of attention to the classical unities, Coleridge suggested Shakespeare’s plays had their own ‘Organic Regularity’.


               Thus, it was only in the 20th century that Coleridge’s literary criticism has been truly understood and recognition and appreciation followed. Today, ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s reputation stands very high, and many critics are considered “S. T. Coleridge” a source of inspiration and illumination.

            Today ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s reputation stands very high and many critics are considered ‘Coleridge’ a source of inspiration and illumination.

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