Masterplots II: Nonfiction Series The Madwoman in the Attic Analysis
In keeping with the spirit of “re-vision” that Gilbert and Gubar see as essential to the worldview of nineteenth century women authors, The Madwoman in the Attic analyzes how these “outsiders” reformed the patriarchal house of literature they had inherited. The authors’ discussion of Jane Austen’s work notes the conflict between criticism of patriarchal domination and the desire to conform to the virtues of modesty and self-effacement considered fitting a female, particularly one who dared enter the male realm of authorship. Austen’s response to sentimental novels, upon whose heroines many young women modeled themselves, was Love and Friendship, a work written in 1789 which at once ridicules the extremes of exaggerated, melodramatic events and characters and yet portrays the personalities and daring of such heroines as preferable to the saccharine sterility and passivity of the well-bred young lady of the day. In such novels as Northanger Abbey (1818), Gilbert and Gubar see a tension in Austen’s uneasy acceptance, through parody, of an inherited masculine form of fiction that idealizes female passivity and silence.
In the writings of Austen and the other authors treated in this work, doubles act as more than mere foils to heroines; they allow for female authors to express their ambivalence about patriarchal customs and their own place as writers within a misogynist literary tradition. “Jane Austen’s Cover...
(The entire section is 1485 words.)
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