A collection of essays that reexamine literature through a feminist gaze from "one of our most versatile and gifted writers" (Joyce Carol Oates). "We think back through our mothers if we are women," wrote Virginia Woolf. In this groundbreaking series of essays, Sandra M. Gilbert explores how our literary mothers have influenced us in our writing and in life. She considers the effects of these literary mothers by examining her own history and the work of such luminaries as ...
A collection of essays that reexamine literature through a feminist gaze from "one of our most versatile and gifted writers" (Joyce Carol Oates).
"We think back through our mothers if we are women," wrote Virginia Woolf. In this groundbreaking series of essays, Sandra M. Gilbert explores how our literary mothers have influenced us in our writing and in life. She considers the effects of these literary mothers by examining her own history and the work of such luminaries as Charlotte Brontë, Emily Dickinson, and Sylvia Plath. In the course of the book, she charts her own development as a feminist, demonstrates ways of understanding the dynamics of gender and genre, and traces the redefinitions of maternity reflected in texts by authors such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning and George Eliot.
Throughout, Gilbert asks major questions about feminism in the twentieth century: Why and how did its ideas become so necessary to women in the sixties and seventies? What have those feminist concepts come to mean in the new century? And above all, how have our intellectual mothers shaped our thoughts today?
The Madwoman in the Attic, a reading of 19th-century women writers, which Gilbert co-wrote with Susan Gubar in 1979, was a landmark of second-wave feminism. It serves as a jumping-off point for this collection of essays spanning three decades and reflecting Gilbert's continuing insights. Most of the initial entries in this volume flow from Gilbert's personal experiences in the forefront of the feminist movement. In "A Fine, White Flying Myth" she discusses the work of Sylvia Plath in light of her own tenure as a guest editor of Mademoiselle four years after Plath had been in that same position in the 1950s. Gilbert speaks of Emily Dickinson's self-mythologizing in order to transform 19th-century notions of womanhood and Jane Eyre as an "an unprecedentedly passionate heroine" who decides to cast off her Christian piety and accept a "hedonistic theology of love." Gilbert's close reading of the writers she calls "our literary mothers"—George Eliot, Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton, Plath, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and others—is persuasive though somewhat pedantic. While it may not appeal to the general reader, this collection contains enough authoritatively reasoned and provocative arguments to make it a candidate for the very women's studies courses Gilbert herself pioneered. (May)
In this collection of essays, some new, but most previously published, noted feminist literary scholar Gilbert (English, emerita, Univ. of California, Davis; coauthor, with Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic) examines women writers within the context of their own experiences and 20th-century feminist studies. The volume is divided into three parts: "Finding Atlantis—and Growing into Feminism," "Reading and Rereading Women's Writing," and "Mother Rites: Maternity, Matriarchy, Creativity." Gilbert opens with an account of the early stages of her career, revealing how she built a successful professional collaboration with Gubar. Later essays focus on specific writers such as Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Charlotte Brontë. Gilbert's expansive discussion demonstrates her mastery of her field. Readers will encounter the passionate and astute voice of a scholar who has clearly embraced her calling. VERDICT Gilbert's contributions to women's studies and feminist literary criticism are considerable, making this a highly recommended collection not just for specialists and students but for everyone interested in feminism within a literary context.—Stacy Russo, Chapman Univ. Libs., Orange, CA
…Gilbert practices a criticism that is careful, precise and methodical in its execution and radically, almost joyfully, revisionist in its intention…In its fierce pride and unapologetic polemics, Rereading Women stands as antidote, weapon and manifesto.
—The Washington Post
Sandra M. Gilbert has published numerous volumes of criticismas well as collections of poetry and a memoir. She is coeditor (with Susan Gubar) of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women and a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle’s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. A Distinguished Professor of English emerita at the University of California, Davis, she lives in Berkeley, California.