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I am working on a paper that subverts feminist critics who view George Eliot's character Maggie Tulliver in Mill on the Floss as a typical fallen woman. I want to do a re-evaluation of this character and try and give her some light in the midst of oppressive critiques.

My question to you is within the feminist movement is there a common agreement that a person/character can only be liberated or oppressed. By this I mean that is feminism black and white? Another question I have is when did feminist critique on literature begin?

Thanks in advance,

Martha Munioz


Martha --

Unfortunately, I haven't read Mill on the Floss, so I can't comment on the specific character. In general, feminism isn't black and white -- though I think that it is sometimes portrayed that way. I think there are few women who are legitimately liberated -- which is less of a critique on them and more of a general comment on the power of our society.

Women can only be so liberated in a culture that continues to be racist and sexist -- there are automatic boundaries.

As far as women being oppressed, the entire goal of feminism is to liberate those women, so it's a process and I think feminism recognizes that. In terms of the history of feminist literary critique, you should certainly reference the work of Caroline Heilbrun and Nancy Miller -- both have prioritized this genre. Specifically, Heilbrun's Writing A Woman's Life. I actually just re-read and it's so chock-full of information.

Good luck,

-- Amy