It is not possible in the space which I have available to give a comprehensive account of the development of feminist literary theories and their practice.1 Feminism is a pluralist mode, where many different approaches are available: it seldom seeks to be proscriptive and consequently several very different approaches to literary texts all adopt the label ‘feminist’. The placing of this essay in the middle of the present collection signals that feminist literary criticism ‘borrows’ or appropriates from other theoretical discourses. A feminist critic may choose to concentrate her (or occasionally his) attention on the formal or aesthetic qualities of a text; or she may make the political positioning of the text her central focus. This essay does both, using, for example, some of the assumptions of structuralism, psychoanalysis, deconstruction and Marxism in its analysis of Jefferies’s story. But the essay makes no claim that it represents the definitive feminist account of the story; indeed, such a claim would simply reinforce the proscriptive and authoritarian readings of some other forms of theory which feminist theories and practices seek to challenge.
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