Marginalized & Minimized

by Suzanne W. Churchill


Prevailing theories of the avant-garde privilege formal experimentation, radical innovation, and rejection of tradition. These priorities exclude the work of many women writers and artists. The criterion of excellence that defines the historical avant-garde is inadequate to account fully for the range of avant-garde strategies practiced by women. This criterion associates the conventional with middlebrow tastes and feminine sensibilities, so that to write unconventionally is to be marked as unfeminine, while the deployment of conventional themes and forms is disparaged as reflecting bourgeois allegiances rather than avant-garde aesthetics. Accordingly, women writers who defy convention are marginalized, while those who uphold conventions are minimized. Rather than adding women writers and artists to existing theories of the avant-garde, we must change the value systems, reading practices, and paradigms that have justified their exclusion.