Tag Archives: Susan Gubar

The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination Book Review

Over the centuries, women have been portrayed as many things: the innocent victim who is in need of rescue, the slut, the man-hater, the marriage-minded miss, etc. The problem with these images is that they are 2-D and without room to grow beyond the boxed-in perception. The only way to smash these stereotypes is to allow us to tell our own stories from our perspective.

The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (published in 1979), this classic 1970’s second-wave nonfiction book examines how female characters are portrayed in 19th-century novels. Authors Susan Gubar and Sandra M. Gilbert compare the images of women created by male writers as opposed to the images created by female writers. Using the analogy of Bertha Mason (the literal madwoman in the attic) from the Charlotte Bronte novel, Jane Eyre, they dive into the fiction of authors such as Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Mary Shelley, etc.

This book is a classic for a reason. Forty-plus years after its initial publication, it is as relevant today as it was back then. Their theory that women writers have a greater insight and ability to create 3D fully human characters as opposed to the typecast idea of females that some male writers have can still be seen today on both the page and the screen.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Feminism, George Eliot, History, Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, Writing

Still Mad: American Women Writers and the Feminist Imagination Book Review

A good book does more than entertain. It opens doors, minds, and hearts.

Still Mad: American Women Writers and the Feminist Imagination, by Susan Gubar and Sandra M. Gilbert is the follow-up to their acclaimed 1979 book, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. Published last year, it starts in the 1950s and ends in 2020. It explores how women writers such as Erica Jong, Lorraine Hansberry, Betty Friedan, Sylvia Plath, and Margaret Atwood have used both fiction and nonfiction to explore what it is to be female in the modern world. Each writer, in her way, describes the contradictions, sexism, and obstacles that are placed in front of her that are simply due to being born a woman. They also use feminism as a way to call out the bullshit that men have used to prevent us from reaching our full potential.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate International Women’s Day than to write a review of this book. I read their first book years ago and was blown away. My reaction to its sequel was the same. I loved it. It was powerful, it lit a fire under my proverbial behind, and it reminded me how far we still need to go. They take the energy from The Madwoman in the Attic and use it to propel the story forward. In doing so, Gubar and Gilbert inspire younger generations to take the torch from their hands and continue to fight for our rights.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Books, Feminism, History, Writing