To speak of "Feminism" as a Theory is already a reduction. However, in terms of its Theory (rather than as its reality as a historical movement in effect for some centuries) feminism might be categorized into three general groups:
1. Theories having an essentialist focus (including psychoanalytic and French feminism).
2. Theories aimed at defining or establishing a feminist literary canon or theories seeking to re-interpret and re-vision literature (and culture and history and so forth) from a less patriarchal slant (including gynocriticism, liberal feminism).
3. Theories focusing on sexual difference and sexual politics (including gender studies, lesbian studies, cultural feminism, radical feminism, and socialist/materialist feminism).
Further, women (and men) needed to consider what it meant to be a woman, to consider how much of what society has often deemed inherently female traits, are culturally and socially constructed. Simone de Beauvoir's study, The Second Sex, though perhaps flawed by Beauvoir's own body politics, nevertheless served as a groundbreaking book of feminism, that questioned the "othering" of women by western philosophy. Early projects in feminist Theory included resurrecting women's literature that in many cases had never been considered seriously or had been erased over time (e.g., Charlotte Perkins Gilman was quite prominent in the early 20th century but was virtually unknown until her work was "re-discovered" later in the century). Since the 1960s the writings of many women have been rediscovered, reconsidered, and collected in large anthologies such as The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. However, merely unearthing women's literature did not ensure its prominence. In order to assess women's writings the amount of preconceptions inherent in a literary canon dominated by male beliefs and male writers needed to be re- evaluated. Betty Friedan's The Feminist Mystique (1963), Kate Millet's Sexual Politics (1970), Teresa de Lauretis's Alice Doesn't: Feminism, Semiotics, Cinema (1984), Annette Kolodny's The Lay of the Land (1975), Judith Fetterly's The Resisting Reader (1978), Elaine Showalter's A Literature of Their Own (1977), and Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic (1979) are just a handful of the many critiques that questioned cultural, sexual, intellectual, and/or psychological stereotypes about women.
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