Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Already established as a powerful feminist poet, Adrienne Rich ventured into the field of social criticism with the publication of Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. A self-identified feminist/lesbian/socialist, Rich made the transition to a new genre of writing with a carefully annotated scholarly work which departs from traditional impersonal research by combining a comprehensive feminist analysis of the institution of motherhood (objective research) with Rich’s personal experience of struggle as a mother and a poet (subjective experience). Written as a collection of essays with a common theme, Of Woman Born explores the dark and disturbing side of motherhood in discourse that counters popular romanticized views of maternity.

Rich’s life and emotions are laid bare as Of Woman Born weaves scholarly analysis with anecdotes and insights from her experiences of motherhood, as both a parent of three sons and as a daughter herself. Anger, tenderness, loneliness, and guilt contribute to the experience of alienation in the modern reality of motherhood. Alienation, or the separation of the institution of motherhood from the authentic experience of mothering, is the driving force of Rich’s analysis throughout the book. History, anthropology, mythology, literature, sociology, and psychology provide Of Woman Born with key resources for describing and explaining the alienation experienced by women. Rich...

(The entire section is 573 words.)