The Madwoman in the Attic : The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literacy Imagination, Paperback

The Madwoman in the Attic : The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literacy Imagination Paperback

Part of the Yale Nota Bene series

4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


In this work of feminist literary criticism the authors explore the works of many major 19th-century women writers.

They chart a tangible desire expressed for freedom from the restraints of a confining patriarchal society and trace a distinctive female literary tradition.




Free Home Delivery

on all orders

Pick up orders

from local bookshops


Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

This is must-reading for anyone who loves to read serious literature. My copy is dog-eared and marked up; I use it for reference and short reading, as it reads for me more like a text-book than a page-turner. However, it is on my bedside table. This was a watershed influence on my intellectual life. Highly recommended.

Review by

Another university textbook I've been meaning to read cover-to-cover for a long time. Famous enough that everyone ignores the clever title and just calls it "Gilbert &amp; Gubar", over 600 pages long, and with in-depth studies of half a dozen of the biggest names in nineteenth-century literature, it's a daunting prospect. Happily it turns out to be eminently readable, much more so than I remember from when I was writing essays - maybe my standards have changed?The really important thing about it, of course, is that it's one of the books that made respectable the idea that we need to look at the work of women writers in terms of their role as women in the society of the time, and also bearing in mind that they were writing for a largely female audience. (G&amp;G appeared in 1979, about the same time as Elaine Showalter's <i>A literature of their own</i>.) Where more recent feminist critique tends to mix in other theoretical approaches, G&amp;G look almost exclusively at how women writers deal with and aare influenced by the situation of women in the society of their times, and their own role as women writers in particular. How do you deal with the assertive act of speaking out in print in a society where the ideal of feminine behaviour is supposed to be passive and silent? Despite the famous, aggressively Freudian, opening line, there is little or no recourse to the usual male authority-figures of lit-crit (Marx, Freud, Derrida, Barthes, Foucault...). Virginia Woolf, of course, is quoted heavily, and G&amp;G have quite a bit to say about how 19th century women writers saw each others' work.One part I found especially interesting was the discussion of how women writers engaged with Milton: maybe an obvious question to pose for <i>Frankenstein</i> and <i>Middlemarch</i>, but not at all self-evident for <i>Wuthering Heights</i> until you've seen their analysis. With hindsight, one of the surprising things about the book is the way it sticks to the narrowly-defined "canon" of 19th century English writing - there is only the very briefest discussion of Victorian popular novelists who have since fallen out of favour (Mrs Oliphant, Charlotte M. Yonge, Harriet Beecher Stowe, etc.), and apart from Emily Dickinson there is nothing about women writers who were relatively unknown in their own time. Obviously the reason for this is that they want to concentrate their energy on the writers who have received the lioness's share of critical attention and show how looking at them as women can change our perception of their work and what it is trying to say. Rediscovering writers who were unfairly neglected isn't part of their remit. But it does mean that you shouldn't try to use this book on its own to get a view of women's writing in 19th century England (and New England...). Let alone anywhere else.

Also by Sandra M. Gilbert   |  View all