6 Easy Steps to Critique a Novel by a Female AuthorMarch 11, 2020

International Women's Day is celebrated on March 8, and Australia is one of several nations that... you already know or you're not really interested to know at all. You must critique a novel by a female author, which can be a daunting task. Are you up to it?

You have been taught about creative writing particularly on form and genre study (prose), and one of the options, which you proudly call your new-found ability, is how your skills in creative writing come to the fore when you need it most. If not for your workshop experience, which thrive in a friendly and supportive environment, you might be groping in the dark (so to speak). You only need to look at what you've learned from another vantage point, as a female perspective is unique. You can ask your coursemates, all Film major students if they have seen any films by Ida Lupino, if not the earlier adaptations of "Little Women". (You would know if one shouts "Christopher Columbus!") The Me Too would prompt you to read Elfriede Jelinek's "The Piano Teacher" again. (Your curiosity was piqued after your tutor had conflicting views about this disturbing, if not eye-opening, novel.) If you're studying literature, you're likely to read a selection of Virginia Woolf's works and a sample of Sylvia Plath's poems. It won't be your first, though. (You have been living in the woods if you haven't read any Jane Austen novel and/or "Wuthering Heights" and/or "Jane Eyre".) If you're studying else, you still have to critique a book by a female author. You might have read an article on novelists wary of critiquing other novelists, but you don't have any issues. Look at your previous lessons, but think about feelings. Try empathy.

Preparation Notes: Guide to a Perfectly Acceptable Essay

What do you find most intriguing/disturbing about the book? You must focus on a particular novel, so you can answer this question (and the remaining questions) with clarity. You choose Elfriede Jelinek's "The Piano Teacher", which change your perception about Austria. (You always associated Austria with "The Sound of Music".) There couldn't be a more controlling woman than Erika Kohut, who has too many issues. You thought that she was an abnormality until Me Too. Is the (patriarchal) system to be blamed at all? Whatever happened to free will and you wonder about the pursuit of happiness. (Erika could be another Maria, but the lead character would be a mirror image of the author.) Does it answer the next question?

How does this intriguing/disturbing aspect affect you? There's no doubt that Erika's controlling nature affects you so much. Does it give those good chicks a bad name? Your coursemate, a comic geek, cites a line from Joel Schumacher's "Batman & Robin", probably the least-likely source for your paper. It's intriguing nonetheless. If there are other aspects that affect you, it might enable you to formulate an answer to the next one.

Does this intriguing/disturbing aspect illustrated with clarity? It can be the bondage, ir not the pain (or pleasure), also the struggles to maintain that control. Nothing would prepare you for that shocking ending. Must Erika stab herself on her right shoulder? If that is not clear enough, then you should consider the next question.

Does it matter if it's written by a woman? Mike Haneke adapted "The Piano Teacher" to the big screen, and one of your coursemates happened to see it twice. He figured out that it would be a Freudian equivalent, which disappointed you. Jelinek's depiction of Erika would be far from the tormented heroines from the classics that you have read. There's still a similarity between the two, which made you wonder if Anna Karenina would choose to live (if Leo Tolstoy didn't write it).

What is the extent to which this particular book can be seen as feminist? "The Piano Teacher" may depict an unflattering picture of Vienna, which should remind you of the poor suburbs in Paris. (Your tutor admitted that she experienced culture shock while watching "Girlhood", where Céline Sciamma didn't show the places of interest in Paris.) If defiance could be counted as feminist, then it would be a resounding yes.

Do you see a relationship between the author's politics and sexual politics? It's easy to answer this question after you read the answers to the previous questions. You talked about it to your coursemate, who cited “Basic Instinct” and “Enough”. It's a hit-or-miss thing, but you couldn't take Hollywood as Gospel. You're thinking of one of those foreign films with (English) subtitles. It may not be good enough, but there could be a good (online) article that would support your thesis.


Your paper must indicate that your new thesis has been proved, and there could be broader implications that you might consider as possible topics for your next assignments. You could end your paper with a quote, not funny punctuation mistakes. (It shows that you're paying close attention to the details, if not try to read between the lines.) You could think of a historical context, which may (or may not) be an introduction of a new idea. Save it for your next essay, though.

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