The Madwoman in the Attic

The Madwoman in the Attic : The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literacy Imagination

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An analysis of Victorial 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." "The classic argument for a women's literary tradition."-Scott Heller, Chronicle of Higher Education "The authors force us to take a new look at the grandes dames of English literature, and the result is that they will never seem quite the same again."-Le Anne Schreiber, New York Times Book Review "Imperative reading."-Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Washington Post Book World "A masterpiece."-Carolyn See, Los Angeles Times Book Review "The Madwoman in the Attic, The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century, originally published in 1979, has long since become a classic, one of the most important works of literary criticism of the 20th century. This new edition contains an introduction titled 'The Madwoman in the Academy' that is, quite simply, a delight to read, warmly witty, provocative, informative and illuminating." -Joyce Carol Oates, Princeton University "A groundbreaking study of women writers...The book brought the concerns of feminism to the study of female writers and presented the case for the existence of a distinctly feminine imagination."-Martin Arnold, The New York Times "The authors are brilliant academics but they wear their erudition lightly. It remains imperative reading for those who want to understand better the grandes dames of English literature, and is still one of the most powerful pieces of writing from a feminist point of view. Argumentative, polemical, witty and thought-provoking, this is a book which will make the reader return to the original texts." -Yorkshire Post (Leeds) "A feminist classic and still one of the best books on the female Victorian writers."-Judith Shulevitz, New York Times Book Reviewshow more

Product details

  • Paperback | 762 pages
  • 132 x 202 x 60mm | 699.99g
  • Yale University Press
  • New Haven, United States
  • English
  • 2nd Revised ed.
  • 0300084587
  • 9780300084580
  • 30,347

About Sandra M. Gilbert

Sandra M. Gilbert is professor of English at the University of California at Davis. Susan Gubar is professor of English and women's studies at Indiana University. They are the co-authors of the three-volume No Man's Land, also published by Yale University more

Review Text

This book asks the question: If the pen is a metaphorical penis, where does that leave women writers? Answer: Not out in the cold, but boxed in the architectural shapes of patriarchal society (from the parlor to the glass coffin) and of paternal literary forms. When a woman picks up the pen, argue English professors Gilbert and Gubar (Univ. of Calif., Davis, and Indiana Univ., respectively), she is transformed from the angel of papa's house to slimy monster and falls victim to understandable anxiety. Consequently, they say, the work of 19th-century women writers is haunted by complementary images of confinement and agoraphobia; the heroine often is trapped in her mirror like Snow White or, like Jane Eyre, twin to the madwoman in the attic. Aware of their fall from Lilith's primordial power, the women writers spin images of disease and more subtle fantasies of subversion. The authors advance this picture of the female literary imagination in three relentlessly metaphoric chapters moving "toward a feminist poetics," then illustrate and amplify their theory by close (sometimes microscopic) readings of Austen, the Brontes, Eliot, Dickinson, and a score of other writers. At times their analysis strikes brilliant sparks, but at others it is merely convoluted. On a poem by Christina Rossetti, they write: "Plainly, the very act of poetic assertion, with its challenge to attempt self-definition or at least self-confrontation, elicits evasions, anxieties, hostilities, in brief painful preoccupations,' from all competitors, so that the jolly poetry game paradoxically contains the germ of just that gloom it seems designed to dispel." But on the whole it's an ambitious and provocative attempt to reevaluate some of the best and least of 19th-century writers in terms of an aesthetic of their own. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

2,719 ratings
4.18 out of 5 stars
5 41% (1,111)
4 40% (1,101)
3 16% (426)
2 2% (61)
1 1% (20)
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