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Deriving its title from the character of Bertha in Charlotte Bronte's JANE EYRE, who was locked in an attic by her husband Rochester, this book is a must-have for those in literary criticism and gender studies.
Co-authors Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar examine Victorian literature from a feminist perspective, specifically looking at the works of Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, the Bronte Sisters, George Eliot and Emily Dickinson.
MADWOMAN is but one of the works by Gilbert, a professor of English, and Gubar, a professor of both English and Women's Studies. Considered a ground-breaking work in multiple fields, the text is viewed as one of second-wave feminism's most important texts.
The book's central notion is that 19th century women writers were restrained to creating female characters who fit into one of only two roles: "angel" or "monster." This was in specific response to male writers who saw women as either purely angelic females or rebellious - and often insane - madwomen. Throughout the work, Gilbert and Gubar stress the need for women writers to destroy both stereotypes as neither represents womanhood (for writers or the general population). The authors quote Virgina Woolf, imploring women writers to "kill the aesthetic ideal through which they themselves have been 'killed' into art."
While the book is lengthy, its arguments and analysis are fascinating, funny and written with fire. Certainly not something to be read over a weekend, it's a foundational work that's worth owning for students of English, Gender Studies, Sociology and Media Studies. Much of the analysis can easily be moved from the Victorian age to successive eras with regard to the portrayal of women in literature, film and television. A serious must have for those interested in gender issues!
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