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The madwoman in the at...
Sandra M. Gilbert
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The madwoman in the attic: The woman writer and the nineteenth-century literary imagination

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  2,148 ratings  ·  89 reviews
This pathbreaking book of feminist 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.

Author Biography: Sandra M. Gilbert is professor of English at the University of California at Davis. Susa

Paperback, 719 pages
Published January 28th 1980 by Yale University Press (first published 1980)
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Have you ever been bothered by that host of angelically drippy Dickensian heroines? Been more satisfied by the sassy alternatives offered by Jane Eyre or Elizabeth Bennet, but couldn’t pin down exactly why? Wondered what the hell is up with Wuthering Heights? Thought Eve was shafted?

Well, act now to order your official Madwoman-in-the-Attic Goggles. Put them on, and literature will never look the same.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but there has been this confining social dichotomy that women
The imagination of the title is the boundary of Gilbert and Gubar's reflections, and some qualifications might be added to define the limits and orientation of that imagination, such as whiteness and the English language. All of the women writers they discuss as foremothers and proponents of a specifically female literary culture are white and either English or USian (correct me if I err). Of course it is necessary to have a focus, to delineate a subject for enquiry, but it is important to note ...more
Amanda May
This is what my thesis adviser has called the quintessential text about Victorian women writers, and I find that statement to be absolutely true. Gilbert and Gubar begin with a generalized argument that women writers have a counterpart to the masculine "anxiety of influence" discussed by Harold Bloom. Instead, women undergo an "anxiety of authorship" because unlike male writers, women have no predecessors to emulate. Instead, women, particularly nineteenth century female writers, tended to modif ...more

Although I did not always agree the authors or saw where they were going and why it was certainly...enlightening. A great piece of feminist criticism that is very useful when you study Literature and constantly have to write term papers. Many secondary sources refer to Gilbert & Gubar's "Madwoman" and it was interesting to see and understand why exactly it is perceived as such an important piece.
Feb 25, 2014 Stela rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stela by: Carmen Irimia

I keep thinking that feminism (or every other political or social movement by the way) is a narrow path to follow in a literary analysis. As part of a thorough study, literature is an interesting enough source of feminist examples, and Simone de Beauvoir used it brilliantly in The Second Sex, but the reverse is not equally advisable.

For, in my opinion, The Madwoman in the Attic forces, like Procust once upon a time, an entire literature written by 19th century women to sleep in the bed of the f
Leslee Friedman
I know this is considered passe by most of the lit crit set, particularly post-colonial theorists. That said, it changed my life. And I really think that it's one of the best places a girl can start reading about feminist theory, even if she leaves behind this school of thinking later. If nothing else, the first essay in the book is worth a read.
“Is a pen a metaphorical penis?”

Thus begins, rather perfectly, this seminal (oblique phallic pun alert!) work in feminist literary theory.

I wish I’d read this during my senior year in college, when I was writing my thesis on Woolf and her portrayal of women artists; I’d have been utterly riveted. (In fact, I’m somewhat surprised my thesis adviser didn’t encourage me to read this book for general context, as important as it is.) So, yes, this tome marks a very important moment in feminist lit th
Oct 08, 2008 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: school Assignment
The Madwoman in the Attic The Madwoman in the Attic struck one of the first blows for feminist literary criticism and a uniquely female literary tradition. It's near and dear to my heart because it's the first extended lit-crit I've ever read, and also because it's about my favorite bunch of novels: Victorian (well, 19th century) women's fiction. There's also an awesome section on Victorian poetry. Hellooo, Goblin Market!

The basic theory of the book is that women writers twisted the Madonna/who
This was a fascinating read and gave me a deeper insight into some of my favourite pieces of nineteenth century literature. Gilbert and Gubar explore in detail the work of a wide variety of authors such as Austen, the Bronte's, Eliot, Dickinson, Rossetti, and Shelley. It's a huge tome of a book so does require a bit of a commitment to reading it, but I believe it is thoroughly worth it. It was a ground breaking book for feminist criticism at the time and will inform and influence the way in whic ...more
I took a Female Gothic course in Scotland one year, and this book became my Bible. It was chock full of information about novels written by females in the nineteenth-century. However, that just scratches the surface as Madwoman also rebels against the phallocentric standards that existed in the time of the great female authors such as Bronte, Austen, Shelley, etc.

Gilbert and Gubar have done amazing jobs analyzing and critiquing the Gothic novels and exploring the madwomen that exist within not
Lukas Evan
Somehow I missed out on feminist literary criticism during my undergraduate English classes.
I've been reading this for some time, and decided to go back to it after reading Showalter's new book. I don't always agree with the authors, but generally find their analysis thought-provoking.

Update: well, I've finished, and as mentioned before, I read this over a long period of time and in some cases came back to it because I read the work in question (I reread Wuthering Heights and The Goblin Market both last year). In other cases, I wish I'd read the work more recently (as with Shirley and
I read bits of this classic tome of 70's feminist criticism over the years, but this time I read a little bit over breakfast each day until I'd read it cover-to-cover. Now it's falling apart and I have to get some strong tape to reattach the cover. And I miss my breakfast ritual so much. It brought me back to that time years ago when the parts about Milton & Frankenstein blew my mind, but also gave me some new things to think about in the Charlotte Bronte section, since I'm always thinking a ...more
Carla Remy
I thought I liked seminal 1970s feminist literary criticism, but it was too much. I mean, if you haven't just read the books they're covering it's hard to follow. I've read "frankenstein" - 20 years ago. I've read all the Austen novels, but at least a decade ago. I can't recall every character, every nuance. So this just made me feel it was time to do some re-reading. I was looking forward to the "wuthering heights" chapter, and it was good, but it helps that I've read WH 4 times. I gave up befo ...more
Brenda Clough
An excellent book, full of insight! You do have to know the works in question. Luckily the volume is divided out more or less by the books analyzed, so you can skip the George Eliot section if you haven't read MIDDLEMARCH.
I was thrilled by the analysis of JANE EYRE, and can see why this was seminal.
The 600+ page tome of dense literary criticism is not for the lighthearted and, to be honest, I would not recommend reading it straight through. Gilbert and Gubar fail to deliver on their promised thesis of the overarching theme of angel versus monster in texts written by female authors in the nineteenth century.

That said, if you've read the books they're discussing, it can be fascinating. My favorite parts by far were the take down of the Snow White tale and the chapters on Wuthering Heights, J
Ghada Hisham
Women have been submissive, looked down upon, treated as an inferior being , and had no right to rebel. Women had no right to vote , they had no right to write and say their opinion. Women were supposed to get married, take care of her dwelling and her family. A good woman who looks after her family was considered an 'Angel in the house', whilst a woman who wanted to write or even wanted to say her opinion was regarded as a 'monster'. They were financially dependent. Women were doubly oppressed ...more
Christopher H.
This is an absolutely indispensable and priceless book. You can skip about and fall in love with each and every chapter in this book! So incredibly enlightening. Gilbert is brilliant!
Nicole G.
Jul 02, 2015 Nicole G. marked it as 0-unfinished  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
So this book has shown me that I am woefully ill-read with regard to 19th century literature particularly by women. Need to change that and perhaps pick this book up again.
Apr 16, 2008 Kelly marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19th-century
A book about the books I love. Nearly all the reviews of this are glowing or life changing. It would be a shame to miss out on it.
Wow! No wonder this is a crucial text in literary feminism. It covers a massive amount of works by 19th century English and American female writers with traces up to Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath.
I have discovered gems through this book which I had previously avoided or not found interesting (Little Women) as well as developing a deeper appreciation for the Brontë's, whose works I did not enjoy reading but I acknowledge their deep impact upon the literary world - and even more so now. in fact,
For my seminar on "Authorship", I've only read the first one hundred pages of this book. Not the entire thing, that may come later, but is too focused on a specific set of authors to be of interest right now.

The Madwoman in the Attic is a cornerstone in feminist (literary) scholarship, and rightly so. It is well-conceived and well-written, and probably above all true. Although the contents of this book - or the first one hundred pages -, listing how women writers in the nineteenth century strugg
Wonderful to read such an articulate and insightful explanation of things I'd sensed or wondered about but never quite realized as true. The chapter on Jane Eyre is worth the price of admission.

I read parts of this for a film review of Lincoln I needed to write for class, and I kept meaning to read all of it, but hadn't gotten the chance. (I've also had it checked out from the library for a better part of a year, so I might need to give it back soon.) Anyway, this is an awesome piece of literary criticism - but it is serious literary criticism. If your memory of some of the classics they discuss is vague, it can be hard at parts to follow them, but you can't ignore the awesome force of
This is dated, certainly - it was published in, what, 1976? - but it's a must-read for literary critics, for students of criticism, and for women who are also readers. Gilbert and Gubar's take on Bloom's "anxiety of influence," their detailed analyses of some of the most famous works by female authors, and their creative, often poetic approach to critical/academic writing helps define the genre of feminist criticism and lay the foundation for our future explorations. Even if it's dated, even tho ...more
Fernanda Schmitt
One of the best books in feminist literary criticism of all times!
Esse livro é muito importante para o meu trabalho academico.
This is a useful collection of essays. I skipped the chapters dealing with works I hadn't read starting half-way through, because the analysis became repetitive. A very thorough and ground-breaking work that may seem a little "dated" and heavy-handed to today's critics. I recommend taking this work in pieces as a companion to the works analyzed, though the overall effect of reading it at once is illuminating in a different way.
A classic of feminist criticism.
J. Alfred
This tome of feminism is downright brilliant. In short, Gilbert and Gubar show that almost all the female authors of the 1800s have radical foils for their main characters which are, in a sense, their repressed desires-- thus Jane Eyre is, in a sense, Bertha Rochester, and wants to burn down the patriarchal enclosure that has held her in since she was a kid. And so on!
One can feel one's brain swelling while one reads this, and there's a masterful discussion of Emily Dickinson at the end that fun
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  • A Literature Of Their Own: British Women Novelists From Brontë To Lessing
  • Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel
  • How to Suppress Women's Writing
  • Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England
  • Sexual Politics
  • Is Heathcliff a Murderer?: Great Puzzles in Nineteenth-Century Fiction
  • This Sex Which Is Not One
  • The Rise of the Novel
  • Seduction and Betrayal: Women and Literature
  • The Brontë Myth
  • Writing a Woman's Life
  • Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire
  • Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body
  • Women and Writing
  • Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory
  • Women of the Left Bank
  • Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution
  • Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture
Sandra M. Gilbert is the author of numerous volumes of criticism and poetry, as well as a memoir. She is coeditor (with Susan Gubar) of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. A Distinguished Professor of English emerita at the University of California, Davis, she lives in Berkeley, California.
More about Sandra M. Gilbert...
The Norton Anthology Of Literature By Women: The Traditions In English The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Traditions in English, Vol. 2 Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism: A Norton Reader The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Traditions in English, Vol. 1 Inventions of Farewell: A Collection of Elegies

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“A life of feminine submission, of 'contemplative purity,' is a life of silence, a life that has no pen and no story, while a life of female rebellion, of 'significant action,' is a life that must be silenced, a life whose monstrous pen tells a terrible story.” 2 likes
“A life of feminine submission, of 'contemplative purity,' a life of silence, a life that has no pen and no story, while a life of female rebellion, of 'significant action,' is a life that must be silenced, a life whose monstrous pen tells a terrible story.” 1 likes
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