The Madwoman in the Attic  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

"As if to comment on the unity of all these points—on, that is, the anxiety inducing connections between what women writers tend to see as their parallel confinements in texts, houses, and maternal female bodies—Charlotte Perkins Gilman brought them all together in 1890 in a striking story of female confinement and escape, a paradigmatic tale which (like Jane Eyre) seems to tell the story that all literary women would tell if they could speak their “speechless woe.” “The Yellow Wallpaper,” which Gilman herself called “a description of a case of nervous breakdown,” recounts in the first person the experiences of a woman who is evidently suffering from a severe postpartum psychosis."--The Madwoman in the Attic (1979) by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar

"Even more useful for our project, however, were the recent demonstrations by Ellen Moers and Elaine Showalter that nineteenth century literary women did have both a literature and a culture of their own —that, in other words, by the nineteenth century there was a rich and clearly defined female literary subculture, a community in which women consciously read and related to each other’s works."--The Madwoman in the Attic (1979) by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar

"In The Poetics of Space Gaston Bachelard speaks of “the rationality of the roof” as opposed to “the irrationality of the cellar.” In the attic, he notes, “the day’s experiences can always efface the fears of the night,” while the cellar “becomes buried madness, walled-in tragedy” (pp. 18-20). Thornfield’s attic is, however, in his sense both cellar and attic, the imprisoning lumber-room of the past and the watch-tower from which new prospects are sighted, just as in Jane’s mind mad “restlessness” coexists with “harmonious” reason."--The Madwoman in the Attic (1979) by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar

"It was not at first clear to me exactly what I was, except that I was someone who was being made to do certain things by someone else who was really the same person as myself—I have always called her Lilith. And yet the acts were mine, not Lilith’s."—“Eve's Side of It” (1935) by Laura Riding

Related e



The Madwoman in the Attic : The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (1979) is a book by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. It draws its title from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847), in which Rochester's mad wife Bertha stays locked in the attic.

The book examines Victorian literature from a feminist perspective specifically looks at Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, George Eliot, and Emily Dickinson.

Gilbert and Gubar examine the notion that women writers of the 19th Century were essentially "madwomen" because of the restrictive gender categories enforced upon them both privately and professionally. In their re-examination of these writers, they argue that madness often became a metaphor for suppressed female revolt and anger. They write that the madwoman "is usually in some sense that author's double, an image of her own anxiety and rage." Gilbert and Gubar argue against many popular, explicitly phallocentric literary theories popular at the time. They especially argue against literary critic Harold Bloom's theory of Oedipal poetics, proclaiming that the relationship he describes does not hold true for female authors.

Over 700 pages long, the work is a landmark in feminist literary criticism. While some would argue that it has become outdated, or that the metaphoric framework outlined by Gilbert and Gubar is decidedly limiting, it nonetheless remains an important and still influential, if not foundational feminist work.

Pages linking in as of Dec 2020

Gothic fiction, Jane Austen, John Milton, Sense and Sensibility, Feminist literary criticism, Emma Thompson, Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, 1979 in literature, Villette (novel), David Bowie (1967 album), Wide Sargasso Sea, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, List of feminist literature, Gynocriticism, Sandra Gilbert, Susan Gubar, Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, The Mad Woman in the Attic, Styles and themes of Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Bertha Mason, List of American feminist literature

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Madwoman in the Attic" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools