At its most naive, image criticism leaves feminist literary theory at an impasse. It is very noticeable that all of Millett’s and de Beauvoir’s main literary case studies, and a large majority of Ellmann’s examples, were taken from male-authored texts. They noticed the dishonesty of the images, but their works did not interrogate the literary quality of the models they examined. There was no question that the works of Lawrence or de Montherlant or Mailer deserved to be read as literature. While each of the three feminist critics mounted a critique of the content of the works they described, they did not suggest that women readers might be better off reading the works of female writers in the hope of finding ‘better’ content. Their works thus risked merely reiterating that men do not write well or accurately about women. They did not, in other words, expand the canon of works that are supposed to be worth reading to texts authored by women. Why not?
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