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An analysis of Victorian women writers, this pathbreaking book of feminist literary criticism is now reissued with a substantial new introduction by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar that reveals the origins of their revolutionary realization in the 1970s that "the personal was the political, the sexual was the textual." Contents: The Queen's looking glass: female creativity, m An analysis of Victorian women writers, this pathbreaking book of feminist literary criticism is now reissued with a substantial new introduction by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar that reveals the origins of their revolutionary realization in the 1970s that "the personal was the political, the sexual was the textual." Contents: The Queen's looking glass: female creativity, male images of women, and the metaphor of literary paternity -- Infection in the sentence: the women writer and the anxiety of authorship -- The parables of the cave -- Shut up in prose: gender and genre in Austen's Juvenilia -- Jane Austen's cover story (and its secret agents) -- Milton's bogey: patriarchal poetry and women readers -- Horror's twin: Mary Shelley's monstrous Eve -- Looking oppositely: Emily Brontë's bible of hell -- A secret, inward wound: The professor's pupil -- A dialogue of self and soul: plain Jane's progress -- The genesis of hunger, according to Shirley -- The buried life of Lucy Snowe -- Made keen by loss: George Eliot's veiled vision -- George Eliot as the angel of destruction -- The aesthetics of renunciation -- A woman, white: Emily Dickinson's yarn of pearl.


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An analysis of Victorian women writers, this pathbreaking book of feminist literary criticism is now reissued with a substantial new introduction by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar that reveals the origins of their revolutionary realization in the 1970s that "the personal was the political, the sexual was the textual." Contents: The Queen's looking glass: female creativity, m An analysis of Victorian women writers, this pathbreaking book of feminist literary criticism is now reissued with a substantial new introduction by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar that reveals the origins of their revolutionary realization in the 1970s that "the personal was the political, the sexual was the textual." Contents: The Queen's looking glass: female creativity, male images of women, and the metaphor of literary paternity -- Infection in the sentence: the women writer and the anxiety of authorship -- The parables of the cave -- Shut up in prose: gender and genre in Austen's Juvenilia -- Jane Austen's cover story (and its secret agents) -- Milton's bogey: patriarchal poetry and women readers -- Horror's twin: Mary Shelley's monstrous Eve -- Looking oppositely: Emily Brontë's bible of hell -- A secret, inward wound: The professor's pupil -- A dialogue of self and soul: plain Jane's progress -- The genesis of hunger, according to Shirley -- The buried life of Lucy Snowe -- Made keen by loss: George Eliot's veiled vision -- George Eliot as the angel of destruction -- The aesthetics of renunciation -- A woman, white: Emily Dickinson's yarn of pearl.

30 review for The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Have you ever been bothered by that host of angelically drippy Dickensian heroines? Been more satisfied by the sassy alternatives offered by Jane Eyre or Elizabeth Bennet, but couldn’t pin down exactly why? Wondered what the hell is up with Wuthering Heights? Thought Eve was shafted? Well, act now to order your official Madwoman-in-the-Attic Goggles. Put them on, and literature will never look the same. Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but there has been this confining social dichotomy that women Have you ever been bothered by that host of angelically drippy Dickensian heroines? Been more satisfied by the sassy alternatives offered by Jane Eyre or Elizabeth Bennet, but couldn’t pin down exactly why? Wondered what the hell is up with Wuthering Heights? Thought Eve was shafted? Well, act now to order your official Madwoman-in-the-Attic Goggles. Put them on, and literature will never look the same. Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but there has been this confining social dichotomy that women are either angels or monsters. Madonnas or whores. Yeah, you know the drill. So, through deep readings of the texts and experiences of nineteenth-century female authors writing in English, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar identify a pervasive set of images and structures employed by women writers coping with this dichotomy. I’m talking really, eerily pervasive. Over and over again, the authors trace the complexities of how these women enact fragmented selves on the page. Their various coping mechanisms, though, give their literature its complex architecture, built from affirmations of dominant social roles, the aching renunciation of Christina Rossetti, the dignified rebellion of Jane Eyre and the raving rebellion of her mad double(?) in the attic, marriages of equals, accommodations, all culminating in that nuanced explosion of an Emily Dickinson tackling everything-all-at-once. Though a lot of this wasn’t a surprise, watching the sad, dark, self-denying compromises and mental hell some of these nineteenth-century women writers twisted through was more painful than I expected. Thank you, being alive in 2012. Speaking of 2012, you should know that this is some early feminist literary criticism, here. It can be crude, but analyzing these texts as not merely by authors, but by women authors, is not an irrelevant exercise. Gilbert and Gubar’s taxonomy is so clear and the patterns so convincingly pervasive, that they provide a handy lens through which to read books by men and women; books steeped in the dominant paradigms or reacting against them. True story: I had read, liked, and gone home satisfied from The Painted Veil just a couple of weeks before reading this. After I slipped on my Madwoman Goggles, the themes, imagery, even the title of that whole book went right into focus with an audible click. Yes, the book is flawed. The authors often charge off on elaborate interpretative tangents beyond what the texts can solidly support. There is a strong streak of under-nuanced 1970s feminism. Plus, their exclusive focus on upper-class women in Britain and the US leaves us wondering about contemporaneous writers confined in Other-ness by virtue of class, sexuality, national origin, or anything else outside of the white, bearded Protestant patriarchy. But you know what? Damn -- their taxonomy is enlightening. Damn -- those tangents are lyrical. Damn -- this book must have burst on the lit-crit scene like a veil-rending, mansion-torching mad double of its own. And you know what else?? Damn -- those Madwoman Goggles are scarily relevant to so very, very many modern books. Guaranteed. Or your money back. This book pairs well with: every book ever, but especially tasty with Milton (hissssss), Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, the sisters Brönte, Jane Austen, Ma Mary Wollstencroft and daughter Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, Simone de Beauvoir and George Eliot.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Zanna

    The imagination of the title is the boundary of Gilbert and Gubar's reflections, and some qualifications might be added to define the limits and orientation of that imagination, such as whiteness and the English language. All of the women writers they discuss as foremothers and proponents of a specifically female literary culture are white and either English or USian (correct me if I err). Of course it is necessary to have a focus, to delineate a subject for enquiry, but it is important to note The imagination of the title is the boundary of Gilbert and Gubar's reflections, and some qualifications might be added to define the limits and orientation of that imagination, such as whiteness and the English language. All of the women writers they discuss as foremothers and proponents of a specifically female literary culture are white and either English or USian (correct me if I err). Of course it is necessary to have a focus, to delineate a subject for enquiry, but it is important to note that we are not only examining white material but examining it through whiteness, thus Gilbert and Gubar's feminist readings make seemingly uncritical use of the 'dark' Other against whom white women are defined:Bertha is Jane's truest and darkest double: she is the angry aspect of the orphan child, the ferocious secret self Jane has been trying to repress... 'The novelist who exploits psychological Doubles juxtaposes two characters, the one representing the socially acceptable or conventional personality, the other externalising the free, uninhibited, often criminal self'Apart from a parenthetical remark about Betha's origin/colour, discussion of the issue of race does not enter this section at all. The very title of the book thus finally serves to erase race as a feminist concern, since the figure of the madwoman in the attic, a direct reference to the character (in Jane Eyre) of Bertha Mason, who is black, is made to stand for a group of white British and USian writers, who in turn represent women in general as maddened by the circumstances of the period. Another trope discussed at length is the aesthetic, often fetishised illness and feebleness of the nineteenth century young woman both in life and literature, but the authors miss the fact that this effectively disabled body is a white body specifically defined against the able, fertile, working body of the black woman, a distinction that enables the denial of femininity/womanhood/humanity to black women. In their excited introduction to this edition, the authors acknowledge rather than answer the critique of their work from this kind of angle by Gayatri Spivak. My intention is not to castigate them or to warn folks off this impressive and enjoyable book! But I do want to suggest that there is a lot of decolonisation left undone for the reader to be aware of... Because really, you wouldn't want to miss out on reading this, if you've ever read Austen, Eliot, Emily Dickinson or the Brontes. Especially if you've ever watched an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and thought oh no, no, no! It really isn't all about the desirability of a rich and handsome young man! There's so much more to it. Because Gilbert and Gubar have carefully excavated and investigated the so-much-more of the great women writers of the so-called golden age, revealing explicit and latent themes that speak to feminist consciousness. Their approach is to 'trust the tale not the teller' in reading feminist meanings into characters and interactions, but their discoveries never feel arbitrary and in general I found them convincing, even where they evidently disagreed with other critics. Their method is close reading, generally working text by text, but also interlinking to flesh out an image of each author's (often changing and evolving) sensibilities and concerns. The personal is hugely important to them, and the preliminary discussion of women's anxiety merely about merely assuming the heavily male-defined mantle of author is crucial for all of the writers they discuss. There is much biographical content, and an air of empathy that only strengthens the overall impression of rigour. Comparative comments seem rare to me, and I appreciated them as treats:Every negative stereotype protested by Charlotte Bronte is transformed into a virtue by George Eliot. While Bronte curses the fact than women are denied intellectual development, Eliot admits the terrible effects of this malnourishment but also implies that emotional life is thereby enriched for women. While Bronte shows how difficult it is for women to be assertive, Eliot dramatises the virtues of a uniquely female culture based on supportive camaraderie instead of masculine competition. While Bronte dramatises the suffocating sense of imprisonment born of female confinement, Eliot celebrates the ingenuity of women whose love can make "one little room, an everywhere." And while Bronte envies men the freedom of their authority, Eliot argues that such authority actually keeps men from experiencing their own physical and psychic authenticity.I also enjoyed the highly imaginative and poetic discussion of weaving, sewing and embroidery, presented in the concluding chapters on Emily Dickinson, but relevant to other authors too. I came back to this exploration when reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: Carson McCullers describes men knitting and sewing in different contexts, and I saw this as part of her disruptive re/unwriting of gender. The men in question have characteristics that might be seen as wifely or feminine (cooking daily for another man, design skill, attention to detail, pleasure in homemaking and beauty, desire to care for children) and their weaving-work draws attention to these attributes. References to classical mythology abound, but the authors constantly look beyond simplistic parallels and look for half-submerged layers of meaning that often seem to have been deliberately veiled (veiling is another theme afforded scrutiny) by the authors under discussion. The tradition Gilbert and Gubar claim to have defined and traced seems to have this rather coy mode of concealment as a key tenet. Perhaps the most affecting passage, for me, is their comparison of Emily Dickinson with her contemporary, Walt Whitman, foregrounding again female anxiety of authorship, about taking up spaceAs most readers know, the cornerstone of Whitman's epic meditation is a powerful assertion of identity now entitled 'Song of Myself' and in that first edition [of Leaves of Grass, published 1855] called 'Walt Whitman'. Because the 1st edition appeared without its author's name on the title page, some critics have spoken of the work's near 'anonymity', and perhaps, by comparison with those later editions... which were decorated not only with the poet's name and photograph but with facsimilies of his signature, this early version was unusually reticent. But of course what was modesty for Whitman would have been mad self-assertion for Dickinson [...] He didn't need to put his name on the title page because he and his poem were coextensive... Whitman's expansive lines, moreover, continually and swaggeringly declared the enormity of his cosmic/prophetic powers. 'I celebrate myself and sing myself' his poem begins magisterially, 'and what I assume, you shall assume' promising in bardic self-confidence that if you 'stop this day and night with me... you shall possess the origin of all poems.' While Dickinson, the 'slightest in the House,' reconciles herself to being Nobody, Whitman genially enquires 'Do I contradict myself?/Very well then, I contradict myself,/(I am large, I contain multitudes).' While Dickinson trembles in her room, with the door just ajar, Whitman cries 'Unscrew the locks from the doors!/ Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!'Next time I find myself folded up on the tube between men seated legs so far akimbo they block my path I shall remember Emily and Walt, and push back.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stela

    I keep thinking that feminism (or every other political or social movement by the way) is a narrow path to follow in a literary analysis. As part of a thorough study, literature is an interesting enough source of feminist examples, and Simone de Beauvoir used it brilliantly in The Second Sex, but the reverse is not equally advisable. For, in my opinion, The Madwoman in the Attic forces, like Procust once upon a time, an entire literature written by 19th century women to sleep in the bed of the f I keep thinking that feminism (or every other political or social movement by the way) is a narrow path to follow in a literary analysis. As part of a thorough study, literature is an interesting enough source of feminist examples, and Simone de Beauvoir used it brilliantly in The Second Sex, but the reverse is not equally advisable. For, in my opinion, The Madwoman in the Attic forces, like Procust once upon a time, an entire literature written by 19th century women to sleep in the bed of the feminist theory and, any time it cannot, it is eagerly coerced by cuttings (hence the omissions and the out of context) or crushings (hence the misinterpretations). The study is organized around three subsequent ideas: the existence of an authorship anxiety (provoked by the women writers' need to be heard, understood and taken seriously) that led to the creation of palimpsest works (that is, with hidden meanings), mainly creating a Poetics close to the Snow White allegory (the princess locked by men in the crystal coffin fighting to reveal herself as the Queen). The most important myth to be smashed in order to bring out this woman writer is a men writers' stereotype: the idealization of the submissive woman (the angel) and the satire of the revolted one (the devil): ...repeatedly, throughout most male literature, a sweet heroine inside the house (...) is opposed to a vicious bitch outside. Every innocent bride is haunted by a madwoman in the attic, say the authors, correctly observing that Bertha Mason Rochester is an avatar of Jane Eyre. Indeed, Charlotte Brontë's heroine is truly a feminist, a rebellious woman who refuses to blindly accept society rules and standards, capable of sacrifice (angel) but also of revolt (demon), hence the author's use of the opposed properties of fire and ice to describe Jane's experiences. Of course, the feminism theory works well with Charlotte Brontë's novels, but does it equally so with her sister's Wuthering Heights? Undoubtedly, our critics have a very good point when they stress that Catherine is the key of the novel and the other characters are created mainly to emphasize her, since the novel "studies the evolution of Catherine Earnshaw into Catherine Heathcliff and Catherine Linton, and then her return through Catherine Linton II and Catherine Heathcliff II to her 'proper' role as Catherine Earnshaw II." But is Catherine an angel/ demon or only a damned? A most interesting and valuable observation in the study concerns the heroine's choice: Catherine's fall is both fated and unconventional, a fall "upward" from hell to heaven. So, I cannot help asking, is her fall into heaven (excellent metaphor) a result of her specific feminine nature, or of her general human nature? And the same question arises for Rosamund and Dorothea, the heroines of George Eliot's Middlemarch, in spite of what Gilbert & Gubar seem to think: Dorothea and Rosamund can only express their dissatisfaction with provincial life by choosing suitors who seem to be possible means of escaping confinement and ennui. However neither is truly confined but by their own misrepresentations. Dorothea is a dedicated young woman who mistakes intellectual admiration for love. Rosamund, on the other hand, is a conceited, egotistical fool, narcissistic and sometimes utterly stupid. Their unhappiness is not really generated by their female condition, but by their own insecurities, ambitions and stubbornness. Finally, an author who definitely shouldn't have appeared as a feminist at all is Jane Austen, whose prose emphasizes women's qualities and flaws, although never considering them men's fault. So I find it hard to discover, as the study does, an absconded message in her novels: Neither fainting into silence nor self-destructing into verbosity, Elizabeth Bennett, Emma Woodhouse and Ann Elliot echo their creator in their duplicitous ability to speak with the tact that saves them from suicidal somnambulism on the one hand and contaminating vulgarity on the other, as they exploit the evasions and reservations of feminine gentility. Overall, an interesting essay which could have been brilliant, hadn't it tried to subordinate an entire feminine literature to a thesis. Some observations are memorable, like the one that sees in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein a mock of Milton's Paradise Lost, with Frankenstein enacting the roles of Adam and Satan like a child playing a role, to be transformed by his own acting into Eve - a female in disguise. A long reading, but worthwhile nevertheless.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amanda May

    This is what my thesis adviser has called the quintessential text about Victorian women writers, and I find that statement to be absolutely true. Gilbert and Gubar begin with a generalized argument that women writers have a counterpart to the masculine "anxiety of influence" discussed by Harold Bloom. Instead, women undergo an "anxiety of authorship" because unlike male writers, women have no predecessors to emulate. Instead, women, particularly nineteenth century female writers, tended to modif This is what my thesis adviser has called the quintessential text about Victorian women writers, and I find that statement to be absolutely true. Gilbert and Gubar begin with a generalized argument that women writers have a counterpart to the masculine "anxiety of influence" discussed by Harold Bloom. Instead, women undergo an "anxiety of authorship" because unlike male writers, women have no predecessors to emulate. Instead, women, particularly nineteenth century female writers, tended to modify or rewrite masculine discourse in order to make it their own, particularly Milton. Much of the book, however, is focused on the identity of the female writer. Women writers were "monsters" and "madwomen" in that they were not entirely traditional; they were attempting to enter a sphere that had been dominated mainly by males. Gilbert and Gubar argue that women writers were forced to create double, duplicitous, or even multifarious identities to sustain the traditional female roles of mother, wife, and daughter while at the same time what was traditionally a masculine role. This identity crisis was reflected in their writing. Although the first few chapters of the book lay a general foundation, more author/work-specific chapters focus on Milton's masculine mythology and how it was modified by women writers like Mary Shelley, Jane Austen's novels, Charlotte Brontë's novels, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, George Eliot's novels, and the verse of Emily Dickinson, among others. Despite the fact that I was forced to reduce this masterpiece to about 9 pages of potentially useful information, most of which will probably wind up as footnotes in my thesis, I found the text both well-written and enjoyable. I am only sorry I was unable to extract more useful information from it, as the authors I am using (Gaskell, Anne Brontë, and Braddon) were mentioned in passing (if at all). Nonetheless, I found this to be a very valuable resource, one that is not only over-brimming with essential information about canonical Victorian women but also accessible and engaging. If working with Victorian women, particularly the identity of Victorian women, whether that be the authors, their narrators/protagonists, or their verse, this is a must-read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tamara Agha-Jaffar

    The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination forges a ground-breaking contribution to feminist literary criticism. In this study, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar argue for the existence of a distinctly female literary imagination in women writers of nineteenth-century. Their landmark study has influenced how we read women writers ever since. Gilbert and Gubar systematically deconstruct the obstacles women authors faced and how their struggles are The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination forges a ground-breaking contribution to feminist literary criticism. In this study, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar argue for the existence of a distinctly female literary imagination in women writers of nineteenth-century. Their landmark study has influenced how we read women writers ever since. Gilbert and Gubar systematically deconstruct the obstacles women authors faced and how their struggles are manifested in their works, beginning with the fundamental perception that literary authorship was perceived as an exclusively male activity, a patriarchal endeavor, bestowing ownership and authority on the work. As such, it not only excluded women from authorship, it asserted that women who were authors defied their essential nature, i.e. they were being “unfeminine.” Unlike their male counterparts who suffered from an “anxiety of influence,” women authors suffered from an “anxiety of authorship.” Among the many patriarchal constructs inhibiting women’s writing were the stereotypical depictions of her as either angel or monster; the circumscribed space she was forced to inhabit in society; her limited sphere of permissible activities; the plethora of literary texts saturated with male hegemony and female subordination; the misogyny of Milton’s Paradise Lost; the trap of “feminine” roles in patriarchal homes; the deliberate malnourishment for her writing; the assumption of a vapid intellectual life; and the interiorization of her as Other. Through their brilliant analysis of the writings of such authors as Jane Austen, Christina Rossetti, the Brontë sisters, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Simone de Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and through references to numerous others, Gilbert and Gubar demonstrate the strategies for artistic survival women developed to counteract these crippling constructs. Comprehensive in scope, the study weaves the author’s biography with detailed textual analysis and discussion of her work to show how her thoughts evolved and in what ways and to what degree she was able to counteract patriarchal constructs. By interpreting the literature through the “mad woman” lens, Gilbert and Gubar open the literary work to subtleties and nuances, revealing sub-merged layers of meaning that may otherwise have been overlooked. This is a fascinating study, a consummate tome of feminist literary criticism, and so well deserving of the high praise it has received. It is highly recommended as a valuable resource for students of Victorian women writers and for the readers who love to immerse themselves in the literary masterpieces they crafted.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    The Madwoman in the Attic The Madwoman in the Attic struck one of the first blows for feminist literary criticism and a uniquely female literary tradition. It's near and dear to my heart because it's the first extended lit-crit I've ever read, and also because it's about my favorite bunch of novels: Victorian (well, 19th century) women's fiction. There's also an awesome section on Victorian poetry. Hellooo, Goblin Market! The basic theory of the book is that women writers twisted the Madonna/who The Madwoman in the Attic The Madwoman in the Attic struck one of the first blows for feminist literary criticism and a uniquely female literary tradition. It's near and dear to my heart because it's the first extended lit-crit I've ever read, and also because it's about my favorite bunch of novels: Victorian (well, 19th century) women's fiction. There's also an awesome section on Victorian poetry. Hellooo, Goblin Market! The basic theory of the book is that women writers twisted the Madonna/whore stereotype back in on itself, using doubles and alter egos to show different paths women take in a patriarchy, and alternate modes of handling female confinement: submission, madness, deception, searching for an equal (male) partner. This book is where the theory of Bertha Mason, Rochester's mad first wife, as Jane's alter ego, an expression of her inner rage, first became popularized. Gilbert and Gubar--aka the "Gs" as a friend calls them--also discuss about some of my other favorite literary interpretations: Heathcliff, yes THAT Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights as the essential feminine, the unfettered wild womanly spirit that Cathy must subsume to enter society. Catherine deBourgh Pride and Prejudice as a possible projection of Elizabeth's future. The sea, in Persuasion Persuasion, as representing an egalitiarian, romantic space far from the gender roles of society where equality is possible. Or how about Will Ladislaw in Middlemarch Middlemarch as the ideal partner for a woman because of his matriarchal lineage, his cast-out status, and his lack of threatening qualities. (He's a real ladies' man). Obviously, I eschew the idea of literary theory as being some sort of be-all and en-dall. Certainly feminist, marxist, Freudian, historicist or whatever theories all need to be balanced with each other and an appreciation of the texts we read themselves. But sometimes lit-crit can be fun, and this book is one of those times!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Brilliant. Although I did not always agree the authors or saw where they were going and why it was certainly...enlightening. A great piece of feminist criticism that is very useful when you study Literature and constantly have to write term papers. Many secondary sources refer to Gilbert & Gubar's "Madwoman" and it was interesting to see and understand why exactly it is perceived as such an important piece. Brilliant. Although I did not always agree the authors or saw where they were going and why it was certainly...enlightening. A great piece of feminist criticism that is very useful when you study Literature and constantly have to write term papers. Many secondary sources refer to Gilbert & Gubar's "Madwoman" and it was interesting to see and understand why exactly it is perceived as such an important piece.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    “Is a pen a metaphorical penis?” Thus begins, rather perfectly, this seminal (oblique phallic pun alert!) work in feminist literary theory. I wish I’d read this during my senior year in college, when I was writing my thesis on Woolf and her portrayal of women artists; I’d have been utterly riveted. (In fact, I’m somewhat surprised my thesis adviser didn’t encourage me to read this book for general context, as important as it is.) So, yes, this tome marks a very important moment in feminist lit th “Is a pen a metaphorical penis?” Thus begins, rather perfectly, this seminal (oblique phallic pun alert!) work in feminist literary theory. I wish I’d read this during my senior year in college, when I was writing my thesis on Woolf and her portrayal of women artists; I’d have been utterly riveted. (In fact, I’m somewhat surprised my thesis adviser didn’t encourage me to read this book for general context, as important as it is.) So, yes, this tome marks a very important moment in feminist lit theory. It deserves five stars for what it ignited and illuminated, but I’m giving it three because I didn’t enjoy it half as much as I expected I would (perceiving the star system as deeply subjective and personal and not a commentary on the importance of a work in the context of the entire canon). I love feminist theory and literature, so this should have been a slam dunk, but academic writing bogs me down with its pompousness, the excessively allusive and proud prose, the dismissive generalizations. But I loved this kind of thing in college; excessively academic-style writing really revved my engine; alas, no more. The essays are also so topic-specific (e.g., “Gender and Genre in Austen’s Juvenilia”) that they are mystical and meaningless unless you’re currently immersed in that particular text. I did, however, particularly enjoy the long piece on Emily Dickinson, which is obviously easier to get into, as the poems are often quoted in full. An important book but not a terribly enjoyable one.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Militantly Romantic

    I know this is considered passe by most of the lit crit set, particularly post-colonial theorists. That said, it changed my life. And I really think that it's one of the best places a girl can start reading about feminist theory, even if she leaves behind this school of thinking later. If nothing else, the first essay in the book is worth a read. I know this is considered passe by most of the lit crit set, particularly post-colonial theorists. That said, it changed my life. And I really think that it's one of the best places a girl can start reading about feminist theory, even if she leaves behind this school of thinking later. If nothing else, the first essay in the book is worth a read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    See my review on my book blog: http://quirkyreader.livejournal.com/2... See my review on my book blog: http://quirkyreader.livejournal.com/2...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lukas Evan

    Somehow I missed out on feminist literary criticism during my undergraduate English classes.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Petra

    This book has been on my TBR for a while after it has been recommended in so many lectures. And no wonder because this book was incredibly detailed account on the most important women writes in 19th century UK and America. I felt a bit underwhelmed at some points but I think it was more because I am not very well known with the theories the book discussed than that this was a badly written book. Having read most of the novels that were discussed in the book, this opened the whole new view of man This book has been on my TBR for a while after it has been recommended in so many lectures. And no wonder because this book was incredibly detailed account on the most important women writes in 19th century UK and America. I felt a bit underwhelmed at some points but I think it was more because I am not very well known with the theories the book discussed than that this was a badly written book. Having read most of the novels that were discussed in the book, this opened the whole new view of many of my favourite books and made me want to reread such classics as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. This book also increased my wish to learn more about literary analysis and deepen my knowledge about 19th century literature in other ways than reading the actual works.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Flynn

    Once cutting edge, now a classic, a monument of feminist literary criticism that still holds up despite the many things that have happened since in the world and in academia. Took me months to read this, skipping around and between different other things, but it was fantastic! The Wuthering Heights chapter is especially fascinating. And I am always up for a new excuse to think about Middlemarch, and of course, Jane Austen. I am also now inspired to continue with Paradise Lost and to look anew at Once cutting edge, now a classic, a monument of feminist literary criticism that still holds up despite the many things that have happened since in the world and in academia. Took me months to read this, skipping around and between different other things, but it was fantastic! The Wuthering Heights chapter is especially fascinating. And I am always up for a new excuse to think about Middlemarch, and of course, Jane Austen. I am also now inspired to continue with Paradise Lost and to look anew at Emily Dickinson, who I've always had a certain impatience with. I borrowed this from the library, but I may have to buy it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Perez

    Disclaimer: I've read parts of this already before. Partially the parts on Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Villette. Disclaimer: I've read parts of this already before. Partially the parts on Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Villette.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ann-Cathrine (Literamour)

    Wow! No wonder this is a crucial text in literary feminism. It covers a massive amount of works by 19th century English and American female writers with traces up to Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. I have discovered gems through this book which I had previously avoided or not found interesting (Little Women) as well as developing a deeper appreciation for the Brontë's, whose works I did not enjoy reading but I acknowledge their deep impact upon the literary world - and even more so now. in fact, Wow! No wonder this is a crucial text in literary feminism. It covers a massive amount of works by 19th century English and American female writers with traces up to Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. I have discovered gems through this book which I had previously avoided or not found interesting (Little Women) as well as developing a deeper appreciation for the Brontë's, whose works I did not enjoy reading but I acknowledge their deep impact upon the literary world - and even more so now. in fact, I have added their collective works to my TBR pile along with any Emily Dickinson I can get my hands on. Somehow, I really wonder how I did not see these things when encountering them in my English lit-studies at university, but perhaps there was simply not the time to dig that deep down into their works for me to become invested. In short, this is a must-read, if only for the last chapter on Emily Dickinson and her embodiment and enactment of what the other female writers wrote about. I literally had to check myself a couple of times for tears filling up my eyes. Such ruthless devotion to her art to the point of self-annihilation.. I can only express my feelings and opinion on this book with the same phrase as I started this review, WOW!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I've been reading this for some time, and decided to go back to it after reading Showalter's new book. I don't always agree with the authors, but generally find their analysis thought-provoking. Update: well, I've finished, and as mentioned before, I read this over a long period of time and in some cases came back to it because I read the work in question (I reread Wuthering Heights and The Goblin Market both last year). In other cases, I wish I'd read the work more recently (as with Shirley and I've been reading this for some time, and decided to go back to it after reading Showalter's new book. I don't always agree with the authors, but generally find their analysis thought-provoking. Update: well, I've finished, and as mentioned before, I read this over a long period of time and in some cases came back to it because I read the work in question (I reread Wuthering Heights and The Goblin Market both last year). In other cases, I wish I'd read the work more recently (as with Shirley and Villette) or that the author had done more with the specific works (George Eliot, though I quite appreciated the analysis there, especially of Daniel Deronda). All that aside, while in some cases I wanted to argue with the authors (and in some cases thought they were right on or, better, incredibly insightful), I found this a worthwhile and interesting read about a bunch of books that are interesting and worthwhile in their own right. Less inherently enjoyable as a read for me than the Showalter, but it's a different book. I also know it's has been considered ground-breaking, but I don't have a sufficient grasp of literary criticism and its history to react to that.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carol Douglas

    I just re-read this important book on nineteenth-century women writers. It's so beautifully written and full of interesting analysis that I can hardly do justice to it. Nineteenth-century women wrote in a world steeped in even more male bias than women face today. They "told all the truth but told it slant," as Emily Dickenson said. Even, no especially, Jane Austen's work was full of complaints about men's belittling women and control of what was deemed "literature." There are illuminating cha I just re-read this important book on nineteenth-century women writers. It's so beautifully written and full of interesting analysis that I can hardly do justice to it. Nineteenth-century women wrote in a world steeped in even more male bias than women face today. They "told all the truth but told it slant," as Emily Dickenson said. Even, no especially, Jane Austen's work was full of complaints about men's belittling women and control of what was deemed "literature." There are illuminating chapters on Austen, the Bronte sisters, and George Eliot. Emily Bronte raged most obviously. This book provides an excellent guide to Wuthering Heights. I remember being startled when I first read this book and saw Heathcliff described as in ways a female character, but now I see the point. The book discusses poets as well as novelists: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, and Emily Dickenson. I'll never see Dickenson the same way again. This book shows her as intentionally subversive, though eventually imprisoned in her own myth. If you have any love for these writers, do read this book. It will enrich your understanding of them.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kari

    This was a fascinating read and gave me a deeper insight into some of my favourite pieces of nineteenth century literature. Gilbert and Gubar explore in detail the work of a wide variety of authors such as Austen, the Bronte's, Eliot, Dickinson, Rossetti, and Shelley. It's a huge tome of a book so does require a bit of a commitment to reading it, but I believe it is thoroughly worth it. It was a ground breaking book for feminist criticism at the time and will inform and influence the way in whic This was a fascinating read and gave me a deeper insight into some of my favourite pieces of nineteenth century literature. Gilbert and Gubar explore in detail the work of a wide variety of authors such as Austen, the Bronte's, Eliot, Dickinson, Rossetti, and Shelley. It's a huge tome of a book so does require a bit of a commitment to reading it, but I believe it is thoroughly worth it. It was a ground breaking book for feminist criticism at the time and will inform and influence the way in which you read the texts discussed as well as other works by female authors. Many of the works by women in the nineteenth century had an undercurrent of expression against the oppression, criticism and expectation placed upon them. Through writing many of them found the freedom that was otherwise unavailable to them. At the end of the year there will be a new publication looking at this text and its influence. Thirty years on it will interesting to see how the ideas are reassessed, challenged and reviewed.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carla Remy

    I thought I liked seminal 1970s feminist literary criticism, but it was too much. I mean, if you haven't just read the books they're covering it's hard to follow. I've read "frankenstein" - 20 years ago. I've read all the Austen novels, but at least a decade ago. I can't recall every character, every nuance. So this just made me feel it was time to do some re-reading. I was looking forward to the "wuthering heights" chapter, and it was good, but it helps that I've read WH 4 times. I gave up befo I thought I liked seminal 1970s feminist literary criticism, but it was too much. I mean, if you haven't just read the books they're covering it's hard to follow. I've read "frankenstein" - 20 years ago. I've read all the Austen novels, but at least a decade ago. I can't recall every character, every nuance. So this just made me feel it was time to do some re-reading. I was looking forward to the "wuthering heights" chapter, and it was good, but it helps that I've read WH 4 times. I gave up before Charlotte Bronte and George Eliot. Charlotte annoys me (to be nice I'll call it a love/hate relationship) and I've only read one thing by Eliot. It's interesting that Mary W-S and Emily B were influenced by Milton, but I don't care much about him, not being a poetry person. There were a few good things I took from this book though.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    The 600+ page tome of dense literary criticism is not for the lighthearted and, to be honest, I would not recommend reading it straight through. Gilbert and Gubar fail to deliver on their promised thesis of the overarching theme of angel versus monster in texts written by female authors in the nineteenth century. That said, if you've read the books they're discussing, it can be fascinating. My favorite parts by far were the take down of the Snow White tale and the chapters on Wuthering Heights, J The 600+ page tome of dense literary criticism is not for the lighthearted and, to be honest, I would not recommend reading it straight through. Gilbert and Gubar fail to deliver on their promised thesis of the overarching theme of angel versus monster in texts written by female authors in the nineteenth century. That said, if you've read the books they're discussing, it can be fascinating. My favorite parts by far were the take down of the Snow White tale and the chapters on Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Villette. I'm sure if I remembered more from Austen, Eliot, and Dickinson, I would have enjoyed the text more.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I took a Female Gothic course in Scotland one year, and this book became my Bible. It was chock full of information about novels written by females in the nineteenth-century. However, that just scratches the surface as Madwoman also rebels against the phallocentric standards that existed in the time of the great female authors such as Bronte, Austen, Shelley, etc. Gilbert and Gubar have done amazing jobs analyzing and critiquing the Gothic novels and exploring the madwomen that exist within not I took a Female Gothic course in Scotland one year, and this book became my Bible. It was chock full of information about novels written by females in the nineteenth-century. However, that just scratches the surface as Madwoman also rebels against the phallocentric standards that existed in the time of the great female authors such as Bronte, Austen, Shelley, etc. Gilbert and Gubar have done amazing jobs analyzing and critiquing the Gothic novels and exploring the madwomen that exist within not only the novels but the authors themselves.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Yawn . . . look, I'll save you the 700 pages: various men interpreted female writers in sexist ways in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There you go. Plus sprinkle in some random quotations from Bachelard or whoever. At least she avoids jargon, mostly, but this is just the least interesting sort of literary criticism possible; all nuance is lost, as all descriptions of female authors or their novels or fictional characters exist only as nails for the sole hammer at hand (i.e. trite Yawn . . . look, I'll save you the 700 pages: various men interpreted female writers in sexist ways in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There you go. Plus sprinkle in some random quotations from Bachelard or whoever. At least she avoids jargon, mostly, but this is just the least interesting sort of literary criticism possible; all nuance is lost, as all descriptions of female authors or their novels or fictional characters exist only as nails for the sole hammer at hand (i.e. trite feminist hermeneutics).

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brenda Clough

    An excellent book, full of insight! You do have to know the works in question. Luckily the volume is divided out more or less by the books analyzed, so you can skip the George Eliot section if you haven't read MIDDLEMARCH. I was thrilled by the analysis of JANE EYRE, and can see why this was seminal. An excellent book, full of insight! You do have to know the works in question. Luckily the volume is divided out more or less by the books analyzed, so you can skip the George Eliot section if you haven't read MIDDLEMARCH. I was thrilled by the analysis of JANE EYRE, and can see why this was seminal.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dana Stabenow

    Where does feminist literature come from? There was a there there.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)

    This is an absolutely indispensable and priceless book. You can skip about and fall in love with each and every chapter in this book! So incredibly enlightening. Gilbert is brilliant!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sue Davis

    Really helpful for understanding Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Second time I read the section that analyzes Jane Eyre.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    Gilbert and Gubar have dared to create a tangible feminist aesthetic in this book and I am here for it. They address the angel in the house/ monster paradigm with fierce analysis and in depth discussion, proposing that the madwoman is a palimpsestuous double alongside the conventional heroine (such as in Jane Eyre) - and then go on to create a new definition on what it means to be a woman writer. The Anxiety of Authorship: a woman writer is not only anxious about making a statement in literary t Gilbert and Gubar have dared to create a tangible feminist aesthetic in this book and I am here for it. They address the angel in the house/ monster paradigm with fierce analysis and in depth discussion, proposing that the madwoman is a palimpsestuous double alongside the conventional heroine (such as in Jane Eyre) - and then go on to create a new definition on what it means to be a woman writer. The Anxiety of Authorship: a woman writer is not only anxious about making a statement in literary tradition that is as ‘good as a man’ for ‘a woman’, but also to live up to her ‘foremothers’ - those women who have already marked their place in literary tradition. I am using this for my assignment in MA English Literature and I am finding it so fascinating and informative. Yet, there’s always flaws: far too long, the argument could be clearer and more concise, the metaphors become TOO transcendent and border on being lost to the literary ether, and it definitely has a bias towards white, British/American authors. However, what I like about this book is that it leaves room for other female critics. Gilbert and Gubar have said ‘yes we are the literary criticism foremothers, but we do not want you to be anxious so here is room for you - go MAD.’

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Kammerdiener

    "A life of feminine submission, of 'contemplative purity,' is a life of silence, a life that has no pen and no story, while a life of female rebellion, of 'significant action,' is a life that must be silenced, a life whose monstrous pen tells a terrible story." Some of the most entertaining and well-written academia I've ever come across. Gilbert & Gubar are absolutely brilliant. Excuse me as I pull the entirety of my nineteenth-century female library down from my shelves for an extensive rer "A life of feminine submission, of 'contemplative purity,' is a life of silence, a life that has no pen and no story, while a life of female rebellion, of 'significant action,' is a life that must be silenced, a life whose monstrous pen tells a terrible story." Some of the most entertaining and well-written academia I've ever come across. Gilbert & Gubar are absolutely brilliant. Excuse me as I pull the entirety of my nineteenth-century female library down from my shelves for an extensive reread.

  29. 5 out of 5

    James Tanner

    'A Dialogue of Self: Plain Jane's Progress', used in study of Jane Eyre in Landmarks in literature and module and English Lit Dissertation. 'A Dialogue of Self: Plain Jane's Progress', used in study of Jane Eyre in Landmarks in literature and module and English Lit Dissertation.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lorraine

    I just finished The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. I skimmed small sections of this book for my MA thesis but in no way read the text (which is highly unfortunate because I think that ultimately, G&G's methodology is probably superior to what I used of Elaine Showalter's at a critical juncture, but that's neither here nor there). This book was published in 1979, which is significant for me because that's the year in which I was born. I have a profound respect for these I just finished The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. I skimmed small sections of this book for my MA thesis but in no way read the text (which is highly unfortunate because I think that ultimately, G&G's methodology is probably superior to what I used of Elaine Showalter's at a critical juncture, but that's neither here nor there). This book was published in 1979, which is significant for me because that's the year in which I was born. I have a profound respect for these two women who engineered a way of reading 18th and 19th century women writers that is still valid and compelling thirty years later--no mean feat in academia. In fact, if you are going to talk about women writers from those two centuries, you *have* to acknowledge G&G, even if it's only to refute them. Charting the themes of imprisonment and escape, ice and fire (snow), madness and sexuality, this book offers a female literary history of these two centuries. In addition, there's a lot of really, really exciting word play going on in this book. One of my favorite instances is the one in which they discuss Heathcliff hanging Isabella's dog on the bridle (bridal) hook. I think that G&G rely far too heavily on autobiographical readings of these women writers' texts, but given the nature of their project, that predilection isn't surprising. This book also reminded me how much I really don't care for Emily Dickinson's poetry. Isolated poems I enjoy; her autobiography I find very interesting; but when forced to read twenty or so of her poems in a row, I find myself wanting to tear out my hair. Although G&G make a really fascinating argument for Dickinson's bizarre punctutation (all those dashes) as analogous to a sewing stitch that links different ideas, bottom line is that it throws me out of the poem, every damn time.

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