Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Susan Griffin’s Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her is the result of a lecture that Griffin was asked to deliver on women and ecology, and is, in its author’s words, “an unconventional book.” Juxtaposing the objective, authoritative, and detached voice of patriarchy with the emotional, initially tentative, and collective voices of women, Griffin posits a dialogue between these voices that reveals the significance of cultural and gender-based points of view regarding nature. By refusing to be limited by literary conventions commonly associated with prose, Griffin manages to blend the genres of prose and poetry in a critique of the relationships between Western civilization and nature, between men and women, and between objectivity and emotion.

Woman and Nature explores the traditional Western identification of woman with Earth and, in this sense, is a cultural anthropology chronicling the attitudes surrounding this identification. Griffin’s extensive research ranges from philosopher Plato to psychologist Sigmund Freud, from novelist Charlotte Perkins Gilman to poet Adrienne Rich, and the illustrations that she provides from her research result in the inclusion of many voices. The two predominating voices in the book—that of patriarchy and that of the “other,” notably woman—are indicated by different type-styles both to represent the dialogue between the two voices visually and to allow the reader to see how...

(The entire section is 455 words.)


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Although Woman and Nature was hailed as “extraordinary” (Publishers Weekly), “stirring” (Library Journal), and “visionary prediction” (Ms.), it is not poet Susan Griffin’s best-known work. Griffin—who has won such awards as the Ina Coolbrith Award for Poetry, an Emmy Award, a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant, and a Kentucky Foundation for Women grant—is perhaps best known for another work of social criticism, Pornography and Silence: Culture’s Revolt Against Nature (1981). Griffin’s scholarly interests also include the narrative techniques of Henry James and the nature of authorship. Much of Griffin’s later thinking and writing, however, can be traced to many of the themes and the blendings of genre evident in Woman and Nature.

Like Mary Daly, whom Griffin acknowledges as an influence in her writing of Woman and Nature, Griffin seeks to rethink and reinvent the manner and the very words women use to name their own experiences. The resulting book is not conventional in its form or scope, but it is certainly a powerful statement and an indictment of the silencing of woman and of nature throughout Western thought. Griffin deliberately limits the scope of Woman and Nature to Western civilization, and she cites expansively from the traditional canons across centuries and national boundaries. By challenging literary conventions as well as received histories and interpretations, Griffin enables the reader of Woman and Nature to participate in a feminist revision of the Western worldview as she encourages female scholarship.


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Charney, Diane Joy. Review of Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her. Library Journal 104 (February 1, 1979): 414. Charney gives a brief review of the book under the heading of “Social Science,” summing up the main theme as being one of discoveries about the nature of matter in conjunction with man’s opinions about the nature of woman.

Miner, Valerie. Review of Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her. Ms. 7 (April, 1979): 85-86. In an extensive review of Woman and Nature, Miner discusses the “new words, tones and rhythm” of the book. Named an encouraging and helpful critic by Griffin in the “Acknowledgments” section of her book, Miner is a sensitive reader of the text who considers it to be a tour de force in places.

Spayde, Jon. Review of A Chorus of Stones, by Susan Griffin. Utne Reader, May/June, 1993, 120-121. Spayde reviews Griffin’s A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War (1992), referring to Woman and Nature as “her harrowing history of Western ideas of womanhood.”

Willis, Ellen. “Nature’s Revenge.” The New York Times Book Review, July 12, 1981, 9. While reviewing Griffin’s Pornography and Silence and Andrea Dworkin’s Pornography: Men Possessing Women (1981), Willis notes many of the techniques—the juxtaposition of conflicting viewpoints and the blending of genres—that Griffin made use of in her earlier work, Woman and Nature.