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About the Author

A poet, feminist critic, and professor of English at the University of California at Davis, Gilbert received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1968. Her early work addressed canonical male figures, but in the 1970s she began to focus on women writers from a feminist perspective, teaming up with show more Susan Gubar in what has proven to be a very influential collaboration. In 1979 they published their first joint efforts, a collection of feminist essays on women poets, Shakespeare's Sisters, and The Madwoman in the Attic, an exploration of major nineteenth-century women writers, which has had a major role in defining feminist scholarship. This massive volume takes its title from Jane Eyre's "mad" and monstrous double, Bertha, hidden away in the attic by Jane's would-be lover, Rochester; Gilbert and Gubar see figures like Bertha as resisting patriarchy, subversive surrogates for the docile heroines who populate nineteenth-century fiction by women. Although Gilbert and Gubar's ideas have been very influential, many critics, particularly poststructuralists, have taken issue with them. For Gilbert and Gubar, a woman writer is by definition angry, and her text will express that anger, albeit in disguised or distorted form. Reading hinges on knowing the sex of the author, rather than on a careful analysis of the text itself and the multivalency of its language. Gilbert and Gubar's work is part of a debate about essentialist and antiessentialist feminist theories, which has addressed issues like "the signature" (the significance of knowledge about the author and authorial intentions) and gendered expression in general. (Bowker Author Biography) Sandra M. Gilbert's most recent poetry collection is "Blood Pressure". She teaches at the University of California, Davis. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
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Works by Sandra M. Gilbert

Ghost Volcano: Poems (1995) 28 copies
The Culinary Imagination: From Myth to Modernity (2014) — Author — 25 copies
Wrongful Death: A Memoir (1995) 23 copies
Blood Pressure (1988) 19 copies
Mothersongs: Poems For, By, and About Mothers (1995) — Editor — 15 copies
Emily's Bread (1984) 14 copies
Aftermath: Poems (2011) 14 copies
Belongings: Poems (2004) 11 copies
Masterpiece Theatre (1995) 10 copies
Judgment Day: Poems (2019) 3 copies
Summer Kitchen (1983) 3 copies

Associated Works

The Secret Garden (1911) — Introduction, some editions — 35,552 copies
Orlando: A Biography (1928) — Introduction, some editions — 10,673 copies
The Awakening (1899) — Editor, some editions — 9,217 copies
The Awakening and Selected Stories (1899) — Editor, some editions — 1,210 copies
My Brilliant Career (1901) — Introduction, some editions — 1,206 copies
The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction (1983) — Contributor — 1,136 copies
The Classic Fairy Tales [Norton Critical Edition] (1998) — Contributor — 1,018 copies
Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama (1995) — Contributor, some editions — 927 copies
The Awakening [Norton Critical Edition, 1st ed.] (1976) — Contributor — 823 copies
Criticism: Major Statements (1964) — Contributor — 223 copies
Aurora Leigh [Norton Critical Edition] (1996) — Contributor — 174 copies
The State of the Language [1990] (1979) — Contributor — 88 copies
Writing and Sexual Difference (Phoenix Series) (1982) — Contributor — 61 copies
The Poetics of Gender (1986) — Contributor — 50 copies
The Brontë Sisters (Bloom's BioCritiques) (2002) — Contributor — 15 copies
Textual Analysis: Some Readers Reading (1986) — Contributor — 12 copies
The Oxford handbook of the elegy (2010) — Contributor — 9 copies
Victorian Women Poets: A Critical Reader (1996) — Contributor — 9 copies


19th century (465) 20th century (439) American (204) American literature (310) anthology (440) British (360) British literature (337) children (643) children's (1,122) children's books (201) children's fiction (246) children's literature (697) classic (1,729) classics (1,771) ebook (214) England (629) English (212) English literature (291) fairy tales (264) fantasy (418) feminism (723) fiction (5,418) friendship (310) gardens (254) gender (311) historical fiction (355) Kindle (201) literary criticism (355) literature (1,087) non-fiction (299) novel (795) orphans (308) own (302) poetry (250) read (727) short stories (351) to-read (1,929) unread (228) women (365) young adult (333)

Common Knowledge



Yes, it's dated, but for my generation this was so exciting. This made going to grad school feel like punk rock (for grad students, so, y'know, not that punk). We were going to change the academy & then the world & Gilbert & Gubar were showing us how.
Try to read this book as if it's the first or at most second piece of feminist criticism you've ever read. Imagine Austen & the Brontes and Dickinson constantly trivialized and George Eliot lauded for her masculine writing in everything you've seen before. Try to think about Bertha Rochester's life as completely unproblematic. Then read this book and you'll get a sense of what we felt.… (more)
1 vote
susanbooks | 5 other reviews | Nov 17, 2018 |
beautiful collection, must buy a copy for myself
viviennestrauss | Jul 29, 2016 |
Another university textbook I've been meaning to read cover-to-cover for a long time. Famous enough that everyone ignores the clever title and just calls it "Gilbert & Gubar", over 600 pages long, and with in-depth studies of half a dozen of the biggest names in nineteenth-century literature, it's a daunting prospect. Happily it turns out to be eminently readable, much more so than I remember from when I was writing essays - maybe my standards have changed?

The really important thing about it, of course, is that it's one of the books that made respectable the idea that we need to look at the work of women writers in terms of their role as women in the society of the time, and also bearing in mind that they were writing for a largely female audience. (G&G appeared in 1979, about the same time as Elaine Showalter's A literature of their own.) Where more recent feminist critique tends to mix in other theoretical approaches, G&G look almost exclusively at how women writers deal with and aare influenced by the situation of women in the society of their times, and their own role as women writers in particular. How do you deal with the assertive act of speaking out in print in a society where the ideal of feminine behaviour is supposed to be passive and silent? Despite the famous, aggressively Freudian, opening line, there is little or no recourse to the usual male authority-figures of lit-crit (Marx, Freud, Derrida, Barthes, Foucault...). Virginia Woolf, of course, is quoted heavily, and G&G have quite a bit to say about how 19th century women writers saw each others' work.

One part I found especially interesting was the discussion of how women writers engaged with Milton: maybe an obvious question to pose for Frankenstein and Middlemarch, but not at all self-evident for Wuthering Heights until you've seen their analysis.

With hindsight, one of the surprising things about the book is the way it sticks to the narrowly-defined "canon" of 19th century English writing - there is only the very briefest discussion of Victorian popular novelists who have since fallen out of favour (Mrs Oliphant, Charlotte M. Yonge, Harriet Beecher Stowe, etc.), and apart from Emily Dickinson there is nothing about women writers who were relatively unknown in their own time. Obviously the reason for this is that they want to concentrate their energy on the writers who have received the lioness's share of critical attention and show how looking at them as women can change our perception of their work and what it is trying to say. Rediscovering writers who were unfairly neglected isn't part of their remit. But it does mean that you shouldn't try to use this book on its own to get a view of women's writing in 19th century England (and New England...). Let alone anywhere else.
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1 vote
thorold | 5 other reviews | Jul 20, 2015 |
Liked first few chapters, but fell victim to book overload
beckydj | 1 other review | Jun 7, 2015 |



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