All serious art, music, literature is a critical act. It is so, firstly, in the sense of Matthew Arnold's phrase: a criticism of life. Be it realistic, fantastic, Utopian or satiric, the construct of the artist is a counter-statement to the world.
Literature and the arts are also criticism in a more particular and practical sense. They embody an expository reflection on, a value judgement of, the inheritance and context to which they pertain.
Women began their inner emancipation by their access to literature, by access to the world through books; an access they could not have socially or politically, or of course economically, in the world at large.