Critical Condition: Feminism at the Turn of the Century by Susan Gubar (review)
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women's relationship to the streets, and walking as performance art. Solnit also analyzes the influence ofthe automobile and the construction ofthe suburbs on walking as an everyday practice. This history brings together various European and Asian traditions ofwalking as well. Solnit's project is massive in scope, but she does a fine job guiding the reader through her manifold history, providing signposts throughout to remind us ofwhere we have been and where she is taking us. As always with Solnit's work part ofthe pleasure is her narrative presence. She does not simply organize and report information, but writes about subjects that truly engage her, often drawing on personal experience to inform her analysis. Similar to her earlier books, Savage Dreams (1994) and A Book ofMigrations (1997), she augments her research in Wanderlustwith stories ofhikes, city rambles, protests, and conversations with friends as well as interviews with experts. After reading this book, readers will likely be struck by thesheer volume ofinformation and the variety ofapproaches she brings to this particular history ofwalking. Solnit clearly documents her sources, and this list is an invaluable resource in itself. For anyone interested in researching, teaching, or reading about walking, Wanderlust provides a clear, accessible map through an unwieldy subject, offering critical insights into walking through the complexities ofhistory, science, culture, politics, and religion. Susan Gubar. Critical Condition: Feminism at the Turn ofthe Century. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. 237p. Gwendolyn James Columbia Basin College For many underrepresented groups including blacks, women, and homosexuals, the twentieth century was a time ofrapid political change in the United States. As their movements toward equal representation grew in numbers, so did their representation in the realms ofliterature and academia. The issue of"fairness" or academic moralism took on a new shape as these groups began to dismantle the assumption of oneness within die academic community. In 1979, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar published The Madwoman in theAttic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination, an ambitious book which helped to map the landscape offeminist criticism for a generation ofscholars. Together, they have published numerous works since then, alongwith numerous works published since then, including The Norton Anthology ofLiterature by Women. In her new 140 # ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW * SPRING 2001 book, Critical Condition, Gubar assesses the changes in feminist thought during the past two decades. In some ways, Gubar's new collection hits the mark. She deftly works through issues offeminist theory within the academy, addressing issues ofrace, sexual preference , and religion as they define and shape the nature ofscholarly practice. Her assessment ofthe current condition offeminist studies is astute: her "sense ofbeing poised between causes for regret and for celebration" is well-defined as she discusses the work of artists, writers, and academic professionals. She repeatedly stresses that the condition of feminist studies "has itself become critical because ofa number ofheated disputes that have put its proponents at odds." This becomes problematic within the larger context ofthe book for a number ofreasons. For one, although the book's title suggests it is about "feminism"perse, it is almost exclusively focused on academic feminism. Readers looking for awider perspective will find little to engage their interests in this book. While this isn't necessarily a problem, it becomes one because Gubar herselfsees current feminist theory as largely irrelevant to everyday life. She points out that in our specialized worlds, we often speak only to ourselves in "calcified" prose; thus, our message isn't ever heard beyond the walls of our cloister. However, Gubar uses her own share ofcalcified prose throughout this book as she makes her observations. Because she describes her book as an attempt to suggest points ofre-unification, the very language in which her message is delivered seems contrary to that goal. Gubar also missteps slightly in her essay, "Women Artists and Contemporary Racechanges." This essay attempts to analyze some very complex works by Black women artists whose primary focus is on the multi-layered issues surrounding race and gender. Her readings ofdiese works are most convincing; however, she seems to ignore important aspects ofthese works as they are situated in their own unique Black feminist context. For example, in her analysis...