Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Susan David Gubar (GEW-bar) was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1944. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in English literature from City University of New York in 1965. In 1968 she completed her M.A. at the University of Michigan and in 1972 received her Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. Following a year of teaching at the University of Chicago, Gubar joined the faculty at Indiana University in 1973, where she became a distinguished professor of English and women’s studies.
Gubar’s distinctive approach to feminist literary analysis has been classified by many scholars as woman-centered. Other feminist scholars whose works are considered in this category include Sandra Gilbert, Luce Irigaray, Kate Millett, Adrienne Rich, and Elaine Showalter. The term “woman-centered” refers to critical approaches that focus on women’s lives, suggesting that though often neglected in literature and academics, their experiences merit publication, readership, and serious study. The impact of gender on the literary form is central to woman-centered studies, often focusing on the need for authentic forms of expression for women’s voices and the quest for a woman’s language.
In 1979 Susan Gubar and her colleague Sandra Gilbert saw the publication of the first of their many jointly written works of literary criticism, The Madwoman in the Attic. Recognized as a landmark work of feminist literary theory, their work was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize. Their study focused on texts written by nineteenth century British and American women novelists and poets, including Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, George Eliot, and Emily Dickinson. The book grew out of a women’s literature course the two friends team-taught at Indiana University in the early 1970’s. Their hope was to recover and delineate a female literary tradition and aesthetic. What they found instead were concerns about the representation of women in...
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Susan Gubar studied at City College of New York, the University of Michigan, and the University of Iowa. She has taught at Indiana University at Bloomington since 1973. Gilbert and Gubar began collaborating on literary criticism in the mid-1970’s while both taught at Indiana University. Each had previously published extensively, but their discussions led them to new discoveries about literature. The excitement generated by their joint exploration of the subject matter is evident throughout the volumes they have produced as a team. After Sandra Gilbert left Indiana in 1975, she and Susan Gubar continued working together through phone calls and extensive travel. The focus in their writing on women writers’ sense of identity reflects the women’s movement’s attempts to redefine women’s place in society. Gilbert and Gubar’s persuasive arguments that literary works reflect the time and culture in which they are written, as well as the gender of the author, helped to revolutionize literary criticism. Many previous critical schools treated works of literature as timeless monuments to human greatness. Gilbert and Gubar’s collaborative method embodies the ideal of solidarity between women, which is central to the women’s movement.
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Auerbach, Nina. Romantic Imprisonment: Women and Other Glorified Outcasts. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985. Auerbach’s study of women in nineteenth century literature is similar in scope and perspective to Gilbert and Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic. Representations of women in fiction are viewed as reflections of their place in the patriarchal social order.
Cain, William E., ed. Making Feminist History: The Literary Scholarship of Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar. New York: Garland, 1994.
Eagleton, Mary, ed. Feminist Literary Theory: A Reader. 2d ed. Oxford, England: Blackwell, 1996. A number of essays included in Eagleton’s anthology examine The Madwoman in the Attic in the context of matriarchal reading and writing. Other essays substantiate the groundbreaking importance of their work in both literary and women’s studies and support Gilbert and Gubar’s position as theorists of note in an expanding matrix of feminist critics.
Jacobus, Mary. Review of The Madwoman in the Attic, by Susan D. Gubar and Sandra Gilbert. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 6, no. 3 (1981). Rejects the idea that women authors are, by their very gender, more able to authentically portray the experiences of women in fiction than are their male counterparts. Jacobus contends that nineteenth century women writers would have been heavily influenced by the patriarchal order of their time and that their fictional portrayals of women would reinforce, rather than subvert, such an order.
Moi, Torrill. Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory. London: Methuen, 1985. Praises The Madwoman in the Attic for being a work of theoretically relevant feminist criticism but questions whether female characters and their authors should be identified as each other’s doubles.