How does Elaine Showalter use Ardener’s Diagram to redefine the relationship between the “dominant group” and “muted group in her essay 'Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness'?”

Women have been left out of culture and history because history is considered to be a male centered term. Again there are some places where men cannot enter. In defining female culture, historians make a clear distinction between the male considered appropriate roles, activities, tastes, behaviors for women and the reality of women’s lives. Women’s sphere is defined and maintained by men. By this, women constitute a muted group.

To redefine the relationship between the “dominant group” and “muted group” Showalter takes help from Ardener’s Diagram. By the term “muted” Edwin Ardener suggests problems both of language and power. Both muted and dominant group (male) unconsciously generates beliefs but the dominant group controls the forms or structures which make the muted group bound to express their beliefs through the allowable forms of dominant structure. Ardener shows a diagram on the relationship of the dominant and muted group.

In the diagram, much of the muted circle “Y” falls within the boundaries of dominant circle “X”, there is also a crescent of ‘Y” which is outside the dominant boundary and is called “wild”. This wild zone is considered as women’s culture specially which means literary no man’s land, a place forbidden to men. The opposite thing happens to man’s “X” zone. Experimentally, it stands for the aspects of the female lifestyle which are outside of men. “X” zone of male alien to women. But metaphysically it has no corresponding male zone because all of male consciousness is within the circle of dominant structure and female knows all about male. Here from the male point of view, the wild “Y” is always imaginary. In terms of cultural anthropology, women know what the male crescent is like but men do not know what is in the wild.

In some feminist criticism, the wild zone becomes the place for the women-centered criticism, theory and art. It makes the invisible visible, the silent speak. French feminist critics would like to make the wild zone the theoretical base of women’s difference. In their texts, the wild zone becomes the place for the revolutionary women’s language, the language of everything that is repressed. Many forms of American radical feminism also romantically assert that women are closer to nature or environment. So, they should build the place fully independent from the control and influence of “male dominated” institutions- the news media, the health, education legal systems, art, theatre and literary worlds.

But we must admit that no writing is possible without dominant structure. No writing, no criticism, no publication is fully independent from the economic and political pressures of the male dominated society. The most important implication of this model is that women’s fiction can be read as a double voiced discourse containing a ‘dominant” and “a muted story.”

The concept of a woman’s text in the wild zone is a playful abstraction. Women’s writing is a “double voiced discourse” that always embodies the social, literary, and cultural heritages of both the muted and the dominant.  Every step that feminist criticism takes toward defining women’s writing is a step toward self- understanding as well. Women writing are not then inside and outside of the male tradition, they are inside two tradition. Indeed, the female territory might well be envisioned as one long order, not as a separate country, but as open access to the sea.

The more important aspect of Ardener’s model is that there are muted groups other than women such as the blacks in America. In America the blacks belong to the muted group and the white dominant group. The dominant structure may determine many muted structures. For example a black America woman poet may be affected by both racial and sexual politics. So, cultural situation should not determine women’s writing, but women’s writing should be considered in the background of cultural pattern.

This reminds Alien Showlter about the duty and responsibility of female writers. A female writer who writes under the influence of the male dominated culture is more or less influenced by that culture. Now the duty of gynocriticism is to precisely map out the cultural field of women and prevent the influences of the dominant look on the muted group.

Regarding the major literary movements, Elaine Showlter says, in the history of literature women also have no place. The movement Renaissance was not a movement for women. The Romantic Movement was also not for women. Now it is the duty of “gynocriticism” to provide women with a respective place in the history of literature.

In order to make the rule of muted group more clear Alien Showlter says, from female perspective a text is not only mothered but also parented. A women’s text confronts both paternal and maternal forerunner and must deal with the problems and advantages of both lines of inheritance.

Thus, women’s text is rich in the experience of both muted group and dominant group. In this way, she uses Ardener’s model to show the condition as well as the possibility of women.