No Man's Land (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
At the beginning of the long-awaited first volume of No Man’s Land: Volume I, The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar describe the problems they faced in producing a sequel to The Madwoman in the Attic (1979), their path-breaking study of nineteenth century women writers. “Comical colleagues ... insisted that it would be hard to construct ’Daughter of Madwoman’ or ’Madwoman Meets Abbott and Costello’ (or even ’Madwoman Meets the Lost Generation’),” Gilbert and Gubar recall in their preface. Their colleagues proved to be correct. As the study of British and American women writers progressed, it expanded into an investigation of works by men as well as by women, viewed in the social as well as the literary context of the last one hundred years. Eventually, the single-volume No Man’s Land that the collaborators had originally projected became three books, with volume 1, entitled The War of the Words, laying the groundwork for Sexchanges and Letters from the Front.
In Sexchanges, Gilbert and Gubar plan to examine some precursors of modernism, offering close readings of works by, among others, H. Rider Haggard, Olive Schreiner, Willa Cather, and Edith Wharton. In Letters from the Front, they will discuss works by such feminist modernists and postmodernists as Virginia Woolf, Zora Neale Hurston, and H. D. The War of...
(The entire section is 2067 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
Ammons, Elizabeth. Conflicting Stories: American Women Writers at the Turn into the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. Deals with seventeen women writers from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. Ammons finds underlying themes of unity as these writers, in a wide range of narrative forms, strove to give voice to women’s concerns.
Armstrong, Nancy. Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. Armstrong explores the role of women in shaping modern literary and social institutions. Her detailed historical discussion leads to implicit criticism of Gilbert and Gubar’s stress on victimization.
Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979. An excellent study of major women writers in nineteenth century England, this precursor to No Man’s Land received wide critical acclaim.
Moi, Toril. Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory. London: Routledge, 1985. A useful guide to key issues in feminist literary analysis, this small volume contains a detailed critique of Gilbert and Gubar’s approach.
Showalter, Elaine, ed. Speaking of Gender. New York: Routledge, 1989. These essays by leading...
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