Form and Content
Adrienne Rich’s On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978 is a collection of twenty-two essays, some of which appeared earlier in such journals as Chrysalis: A Magazine of Women’s Culture, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, and Heresies: A Feminist Magazine of Art and Politics. Others have served as introductions to books, and a few are previously unpublished talks. In a 1979 review of the work, literary critic Ellen Moers noted a misleading title, given its hint of “whining and whimpering,” believing that Feminism, Pedagogy, and Literature would have more aptly described the content.
The essays deal with such matters as child care, consciousness-raising, tokenism, women’s studies programs, male psychiatrists, motherhood, lesbianism, black feminism, abortion, sexual harassment on the job, woman beating, equal pay, pornography, and the rights of lesbian mothers. Rich makes a strong argument for a woman-centered university where female teachers would not need to seek male mentor approval, or the female student teacher/father approval. She devotes whole segments to Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre (1847); writers Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, Anne Sexton, and Eleanor Ross Taylor; and the war in Vietnam.
In these essays, Rich associates women with victimhood, men with violence, and heterosexuality with rape. She tends toward a romantic vision of a female-dominated...
(The entire section is 470 words.)