The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

Annette Kolodny, "Dancing Through the Minefield"

What are some implications of the title?

What are some differences in tone and reference between Kolodny's essay and "The Laugh of the Medusa"?

During what time period were the feminist literary critical works which Kolodny cites written?

What were some of the purposes of these early critics, as she categorizes them? (2146-51)

What is meant in this context to speak of rereading a text or resisting its implied messages? (2150) Are these useful techniques to use in other contexts than the discussion of gender as well?

What is her answer to the notion that if a woman author had been good enough to be remembered, her work would have survived? (2152) What notion of a "literary canon" does this notion imply?

What does it mean to say that our choices in the present alter our sense of past literary history? (2153-54) Can you think of examples?

What is Kolodny's answer to the claim that we read literature to understand the past "as it really was"? Would Hayden White have agreed with this view? (2154-55)

How does feminist criticism support the claim that "literary history is a fiction"? (2155)

What is meant by the claim that "insofar as we are taught how to read, what we engage are not texts but paradigms"? (2155-56) How does this affect the way trained readers read texts? What forms of competence are necessary in order to read a text successfully? (2157)

Why, in her view, is it necessary to "reexamine not only our aesthetics but, as well, the inherent biases and assumptions informating the critical methods which (in part) shape our aesthetic responses? (2158)

How, if at all, may this be done?

How should the informed, feminist reader respond to well-respected works of the past such as Spenser's Fairie Queene, Shakespeare's plays, and Milton's Paradise Lost? (2159) Should they be denied aesthetic value?

In addition to a skepticism toward previous notions of inclusion and desire for the acceptance of women's literary expression, what does Kolodny believe should be the purpose of feminist criticism? (2160) Why does she consider this goal more "radical"?

How does Kolodny evaluate what she sees as the lack of "systematic coherence" of feminist criticism? (2160) What importance does she place on the fact that different feminist critics may offer different readings of the same text or part thereof?

What in the place of a dogmatic methodology should readers with feminist sympathies bring to their reading of literature? (2163) What is the place of ideology within her system? (2164)

What relationship does the form of feminist pluralism she advocates bear to action? How does this view of criticism compare with that of other authors we have read?

Why do you think this essay became widely read during the 1980s and 90s? Which other strands of critical theory are consistent with Kolodny's views?


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