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Gilbert and Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic after Thirty Years

Annette R. Federico, ed.

Publication Year: 2011

When it was published in 1979, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imaginationwas hailed as a pathbreaking work of criticism, changing the way future scholars would read Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, the Brontës, George Eliot, and Emily Dickinson. This thirtieth-anniversary collection adds both valuable reassessments and new readings and analyses inspired by Gilbert and Gubar’s approach. It includes work by established and up-and-coming scholars, as well as retrospective accounts of the ways in which The Madwoman in the Attic has influenced teaching, feminist activism, and the lives of women in academia.

 

 

These contributions represent both the diversity of today’s feminist criticism and the tremendous expansion of the nineteenth-century canon. The authors take as their subjects specific nineteenth- and twentieth-century women writers, the state of feminist theory and pedagogy, genre studies, film, race, and postcolonialism, with approaches ranging from ecofeminism to psychoanalysis. And although each essay opens Madwoman to a different page, all provocatively circle back—with admiration and respect, objections and challenges, questions and arguments—to Gilbert and Gubar's groundbreaking work.

 

 

The essays are as diverse as they are provocative. Susan Fraiman describes how Madwoman opened the canon, politicized critical practice, and challenged compulsory heterosexuality, while Marlene Tromp tells how it elegantly embodied many concerns central to second-wave feminism. Other chapters consider Madwoman’s impact on Milton studies, on cinematic adaptations of Wuthering Heights, and on reassessments of Ann Radcliffe as one of the book’s suppressed foremothers.

 

 

In the thirty years since its publication, The Madwoman in the Attic has potently informed literary criticism of women’s writing: its strategic analyses of canonical works and its insights into the interconnections between social environment and human creativity have been absorbed by contemporary critical practices. These essays constitute substantive interventions into established debates and ongoing questions among scholars concerned with defining third-wave feminism, showing that, as a feminist symbol, the raging madwoman still has the power to disrupt conventional ideas about gender, myth, sexuality, and the literary imagination.

 

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword: Conversions of the Mind

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pp. ix-xiv

Note: Because Susan Gubar has been coping with a serious illness, I’ve drafted this foreword on my own. But I hope I’ve spoken for both of us in recounting the excitement, energy, and even joy with which we wrote The Madwoman in the Attic, and, equally important, the pleasure that the responsiveness of our readers inspires in us. ...

Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xviii

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Introduction: “Bursting All the Doors”: The Madwoman in the Attic after Thirty Years

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pp. 1-26

When it was published in 1979, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination was immediately recognized as a pathbreaking work of criticism. Their fresh, confident reexaminations of crucial nineteenthcentury works by women permanently changed the way future scholars...

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1. After Gilbert and Gubar: Madwomen Inspired by Madwoman

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pp. 27-33

“Is a pen a metaphorical penis?” Thus begins Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic, with a first sentence only slightly less famous than that of Pride and Prejudice. This was, of course, back in the dark ages—long before it had become routine for literary critics to re-hearse their childhoods or parse their eroticism in public. Thirty years ago, ...

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2. Modeling the Madwoman: Feminist Movements and the Academy

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pp. 34-59

The most significant collaborative books in my library are The Madwoman in the Attic; Feminist Revolution, an analysis of the methods and practices of second-wave feminism; and Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future, an articulation of the significance and work of third-wave feminism.1 While the coincidence of scholarly and feminist collaboration might ...

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3. Gilbert and Gubar’s Daughters: The Madwoman in the Attic’s Spectre in Milton Studies

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pp. 60-75

When I was a graduate student in the later 1980s, some of my female class-mates had sworn off studying John Milton’s works, particularly Paradise Lost, because of the author’s sexism. My (male) Milton course professor summarily announced early in the semester that we would not be discussing the purported misogynistic constructions of Eve, as apparently his previous classes ...

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4. Feminism to Ecofeminism: The Legacy of Gilbert and Gubar’s Readings of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and The Last Man

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pp. 76-93

The Madwoman in the Attic redefined nineteenth-century women’s literature as a struggle for female self-definition against the literary heritage of Western patriarchal culture. In the process, Gilbert and Gubar transformed Frankenstein from being read as Mary Shelley’s almost accidental articulation of her husband’s intellectual discussions to a novel about Shelley’s...

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5. Enclosing Fantasies: Jane Eyre

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pp. 94-110

For the little drama enacted on “that day” which opens Jane Eyre is in itself a paradigm of the larger drama that occupies the entire book.1
Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s observation from their chapter “Plain Jane’s Progress: A Dialogue of Self and Soul” from The Madwoman in the Attic contends that Jane Eyre’s red room scene establishes the symbolic pattern for the novel as a whole. Gilbert and Gubar claim that Jane’s incarceration...

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6. Jane Eyre’s Doubles? Colonial Progress and the Tradition of New Woman Writing in India

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pp. 111-126

Bertha Mason—the paradigmatic figure who frames and inspires Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic—represents female anger and confinement in their analysis of Brontë’s Jane Eyre and other texts by nineteenth-century women writers. For Gilbert and Gubar, Bertha is “Jane’s truest and darkest double,” an embodiment of the suppressed rage ...

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7. Revisiting the Attic: Recognizing the Shared Spaces of Jane Eyre and Beloved

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pp. 127-148

To sail into uncharted waters is simultaneously invigorating and terrifying; the act of breaking free of convention is a perilous voyage. Possibility lies beyond the familiar shores, but so too does the burden of unforeseen responsibilities: the explorer by necessity begins to establish the parameters of the new territory. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar embarked on just such a ...

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8. The Legacy of Hell: Wuthering Heights on Film and Gilbert and Gubar’s Feminist Poetics

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pp. 149-169

Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s analysis of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) in The Madwoman in the Attic (1979) remains one of the most influential interpretations of the novel. Under the title “Looking Oppositely: Emily Brontë’s Bible of Hell,” Gilbert and Gubar construct an analytical framework that presents Brontë’s novel as an oppositional “bible” to ...

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9. The Veiled, the Masked, and the Civil War Woman: Louisa May Alcott and the Madwoman Allegory

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pp. 170-182

Though written thirty years ago, The Madwoman in the Attic is still a highly influential text in feminist discussions of the woman writer’s authority. In her discussion of Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s feminist poetics, Rita Felski suggests that the madwoman has become a significant allegory of female authorship, “yoking together spatial imagery, psycho-...

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10. Sensationalizing Women’s Writing: Madwomen in Attics, the Sensational Canon, and Generic Confinement

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pp. 183-202

When Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar directed new attention to nineteenth-century women writers in 1979, they firmly linked together the representation of the confined Victorian antiheroine, the iconic madwoman in the attic as her double, and the female novelist’s self-conscious engagement with her own marginalization. This linkage has become one of the ma-...

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11. Ghosts in the Attic: Gilbert and Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic and the Female Gothic

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pp. 203-216

Nearly thirty years after its initial publication, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth- Century Literary Imagination (1979) remains an influential and ground-breaking work of feminist literary criticism. Despite the problems attendant on the application of a critical master theory to a broad cross-section of ...

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12. Elizabeth Gaskell: A Well-Tempered Madness

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pp. 217-236

Through its insightful scrutiny of language and allusion, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic dissects Victorian women authors’ repressed madness and anger as a coded response to exploitation, domination, marginalization, and economic dependency.1 Gilbert and Gubar’s investigations of canonical works by Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, and ...

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13. Mimesis and Poiesis: Reflections on Gilbert and Gubar’s Reading of Emily Dickinson - Lucia Aiello

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pp. 237-256

In the opening chapters of The Madwoman in the Attic, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar trace the genealogy of the metaphor of literary paternity, and explain how patriarchal ideology has penetrated almost every aspect of literary production throughout the ages. In their view, not only does the masculine perspective connote traditional ways of understanding poetry, it ...

Contributors

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pp. 257-260

Index

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pp. 261-272

Back Cover

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p. BC-BC


E-ISBN-13: 9780826272096
E-ISBN-10: 0826272096
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826219275
Print-ISBN-10: 0826219276

Page Count: 290
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1