Gubar, Susan (David) 1944-
GUBAR, Susan (David) 1944-
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Department of English, Indiana University—Bloomington, Bloomington, IN 47405-1101.
CAREER: University of Illinois, faculty member, prior to 1973; Indiana University—Bloomington, Bloomington, member of faculty, 1973—, currently distinguished professor of English.
AWARDS, HONORS: Pulitzer Prize nomination and National Book Critics Circle Award nomination, outstanding book of criticism (with Sandra M. Gilbert), both 1979, for The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination; "woman of the year" citation, Ms. magazine, 1986, for The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Tradition in English.
(With Sandra M. Gilbert) The Madwoman in the Attic: A Study of Women and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1979, 2nd edition with new introduction by the authors, 2000.
(With Sandra M. Gilbert) No Man's Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), Volume 1: The War of the Words, 1988, Volume 2: Sexchanges, 1989, Volume 3: Letters from the Front, 1994.
(With Sandra M. Gilbert) Masterpiece Theatre: An Academic Melodrama (literary satire), Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1995.
Poetry after Auschwitz: Remembering What One Never Knew, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times Book Review.
(With Sandra M. Gilbert, and coauthor of introduction) Shakespeare's Sisters: Feminist Essays on Women Poets, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1979.
(With Sandra M. Gilbert) The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Tradition in English, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1985, 2nd edition, 1996.
(With Sandra M. Gilbert) The Female Imagination and the Modernist Aesthetic, Gordon & Breach Science Publishers (New York, NY), 1986.
(With Joan Hoff) For Adult Users Only: The Dilemma of Violent Pornography, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1989.
(With Jonathan Kamholtz) English Inside and Out: The Places of Literary Criticism, Routledge & Kegan Paul (New York, NY), 1992.
(With Sandra M. Gilbert and Diana O'Hehir) Mother-songs: Poems for, by, and about Mothers, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1995.
SIDELIGHTS: Literary theorist Susan Gubar, along with her frequent collaborator Sandra M. Gilbert, has produced a number of groundbreaking works of literary criticism that focus on the work of women writers. In their 1979 classic, The Madwoman in the Attic: A Study of Women and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, Gubar and Gilbert argue that nineteenth-century women writers were forced to write within the confines of a male-dominated literary tradition that equated the pen with the penis. Viewed as trespassers in the domain of male writers, women who took up the pen risked being condemned as unfeminine. At the same time, female authors—such as Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, Mary Shelley, George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), and Emily Dickinson—who attempted to defy the male tradition or explore a new viewpoint received ridicule as "lady novelists" or "female poetasters." Consequently, maintain the authors, women writers became both fearful that they lacked true artistic expression and angry because they felt trapped within the powerful patriarchal structure. Repressing their rage and fear, women writers of the nineteenth century began to subvert the male tradition in which they wrote, clandestinely developing a literary style distinctly their own.
In New Leader, Phoebe Pettingell labeled the authors' "close textual readings . . . insightful and valuable." LeAnne Schreiber noted in the New York Times Book Review that in developing a "complex and compelling understanding of the subterfuges that have made the work of women such as Emily Brontë and Mary Shelley seem puzzling and odd," Gubar and Gilbert present "the first persuasive case for the existence of a distinctly female imagination." Similarly, Carolyn G. Heilbrun of the Washington Post Book World deemed The Madwoman in the Attic "a pivotal book, one of those after which we will never think the same again."
The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Tradition in English "is a landmark not only in feminism but in the study of literature," reported Laura Shapiro in Newsweek. She stated that the book makes "possible, for the first time, a realistic perspective on literary achievement." The tome, which "showcases a wealth of acknowledged treasures," focuses on the work of women writers throughout history to the present. Shapiro added, "Many of [the editors'] choices have no bearing on feminism as such, but all of them reflect the editors' belief, expressed in their introduction, that women's writing reveals a relationship to the world that is necessarily different from men's." Julia Epstein observed in the Washington Post Book World that the Norton Anthology of Literature by Women "resoundingly endorses a centuries-old tradition of women's writing and a matrilineal evolution of styles and subjects. Its publication, therefore, bears witness to the coming of age of feminist literary scholarship."
In addition, Epstein remarked, the anthology "also redraws boundaries, shifting the usual period designations in a way better suited to women's history, considering a range of genres often dismissed (letters, diaries, polemics) and broadening the English-speaking world to embrace geographically diverse writers from India to New Zealand, Canada to Australia." In the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Diane Middlebrook described the book as "a capacious and readable volume. . . . It is encyclopedic." She further explained, "Organized chronologically, this collection demonstrates that women have participated vigorously in every period, trend, fashion, experiment and genre of writing in English. The editors themselves, however, are adroitly contemporary in their own outlook." Middlebrook concluded that "the most obvious strength of this anthology, though, is its representation of modern and contemporary female writers."
The War of the Words, the first volume of No Man's Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century is "a thoroughly provocative (and provocatively thorough) revisioning of the genesis of modernism," claimed Janice Kulyk Keefer in the Toronto Globe and Mail. She continued: "The central premise of No Man's Land—that the radical departures that characterize such classics as The Waste Land, Ulysses and The Waves derive from context of sexual as well as social, political and economic conflict—is developed by means of a thematic overview of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century texts that showcase women's attempts to assert their right not to primacy but to a place in the predominantly masculine world of letters," Kulyk Keefer admired the authors' treatment of misogyny and their attention to female linguistic issues, yet she found "problematic" their attempts to define what they term "the female affiliation complex," a female-oriented historical literary tradition. She concluded that Gubar and Gilbert "have produced a challenging and engaging introduction to a central feature of the cultural movement that continues to shape our century."
Wendy Lesser described The War of the Words in the Washington Post Book World as a "fascinating, controversial, and ambiguous study of the post-Victorian period." The critic questioned both the authors' "specific interpretation of texts" and their perception of "the extent to which men as a class have banded together as a literary mafia." She admired their writing, however: "Their prose is fluid and accessible, yet intelligent and pointed; they mingle analytic remarks with expository summaries in a way that shows both respect and consideration for the reader." Barbara Hardy commented in the Times Literary Supplement that "No Man's Land figures a crisis of male impotence and aggression, a woman's projected utopia, and the territory of contemporary conflicts and confusions. The revisionary word-play acts out a central theme, that of men and women struggling both with and for language." She added, "Although it sprawls through time, space and hosts of examples, The War of the Words is not really a large, loose, baggy monster, but sharply attentive to the business of illustrating extremes of anxiety and confidence, aggression and submission, and making them into a pattern."
About Sexchanges, the second volume of No Man's Land, Walter Kendrick of the New York Times Book Review wrote that it "is not so much a sequel to The War of the Words as a supplement to it, another layer of brush strokes on a still unfinished canvas." Kendrick believed that if No Man's Land as a whole "achieves its . . . goal, it will set the direction of feminist criticism for the next generation of students and scholars." The reviewer further commented that "success seems likely, because Ms. Gilbert and Ms. Gubar write with facility and have a knack for subsuming complex problems under easily memorable labels."
Letters from the Front, Volume Three in the No Man's Land series, covers the period beginning in the 1930s. Analyzing the works of writers such as Virginia Woolf, Marianne Moore, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Zora Neale Hurston, Gubar and Gilbert "read women's 20th-century literary productions as letters from the shifting fronts of the 'sex war,'" commented Mark Hussey in the New York Times Book Review. While commending parts of the volume, Hussey noted that the authors' "tendency to see everything in terms of war and conflict often makes for simplistic analysis." Helen Carr, reviewing Letters from the Front in the New Statesman and Society, reacted similarly, remarking that "much of the critical account is a relentlessly reductive or strained reading of texts to wrench out images of violence and prove their point." While declaring that the volume "has nothing like the panache and drive" of The Madwoman in the Attic, Carr claimed that No Man's Land "helps to make clear the rich and varied contribution made by women writers to the modernist movement."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Cain, William E., editor, Making Feminist History: The Literary Scholarship of Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 1994.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 145, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.
American Literary History, winter, 1999, Jannifer DeVere Brody, review of Racechanges: White Skin, Black Face in American Culture, p. 736.
American Literature, March, 1980, Annette Kolodny, review of The Madwoman in the Attic: A Study of Women and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, pp. 128-132.
Atlantic, August, 1985, Phyllis Rose, "Women Writers and Feminist Critics," pp. 88-91.
Belles Lettres, spring, 1995, Roberta Rubenstein, "Altering the Critical Landscape," pp. 30-31.
Christian Science Monitor, February 11, 1980, Valerie Miner, review of The Madwoman in the Attic, p. B12.
CLA Journal, March, 2002, review of Racechanges, p. 405.
Comparative Literature, spring, 1991, Margot Norris, review of No Man's Land: The Place of the Women Writer in the Twentieth Century, Volume 1: The War of the Words, pp. 199-201.
Contemporary Sociology, July, 1990, "The Fate of Women Writers," pp. 511-513.
Criticism: Quarterly for Literature and the Arts, fall, 1989, Anne Herrmann, review of No Man's Land, Volume 2: Sexchanges, pp. 507-512.
English Language Notes, September, 1990, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, review of The War of the Words, pp. 73-77.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 13, 1988, Janice Kulyk Keefer, review of The War of the Words.
Harper's, December, 1979.
Journal of American Studies, August, 1999, Susan E. Rogers, review of Racechanges, p. 368.
Journal of English and Germanic Philology, July, 1989, Kathleen Blake, review of The War of the Words and Sexchanges, pp. 454-457; October, 1995, Kathleen Blake, review of Sexchanges, pp. 591-596; April, 1996, Kathleen Blake, review of No Man's Land, Volume 3: Letters from the Front, pp. 269-271.
Journal of Gender Studies, July, 2001, Katie McGowran, review of Critical Condition: Feminism at the Turn of the Century, p. 221.
Journal of Modern Literature, spring, 1999, Irving Malin, review of Racechanges, p. 441.
Library Journal, December, 2002, Ulrich Baer, review of Poetry after Auschwitz: Remembering What One Never Knew, p. 126.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 12, 1985, Diane Middlebrook, review of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Tradition in English, p. 1.
Ms., February, 1980, Louise Bernikow, review of The Madwoman in the Attic, p. 39; January, 1986, Laura Shapiro, "Gilbert and Gubar" (interview), p. 59.
Nation, July 2, 1988, Julie Abraham, "Modern Romancers," pp. 27-28.
New England Quarterly, March, 1984, David Porter, "Dickinson's Readers," pp. 106-110.
New Leader, February 25, 1980, Phoebe Pettingell, review of The Madwoman in the Attic, pp. 16-17.
New Republic, March 10, 1986, Denis Donoghue, "A Criticism of One's Own," pp. 30-34; February 19, 1990, p. 27.
New Statesman, April 1, 1988, Jenny Turner, "Very Much Afraid of Virginia Woolf," pp. 24-25.
New Statesman and Society, October 7, 1994, Helen Carr, review of Letters from the Front, p. 45.
Newsweek, July 15, 1985, Laura Shapiro, review of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, p. 65.
New York Review of Books, December 20, 1979, Rosemary Dinnage, "Re-creating Eve," pp. 6, 8; May 31, 1990, p. 23; April 27, 2000, Kwame Anthony Appiah, review of Critical Condition, p. 42.
New York Times Book Review, December 9, 1979, LeAnne Schreiber, review of The Madwoman in the Attic, April 28, 1985, p. 13; February 7, 1988, p. 12; February 19, 1989, Walter Kendrick, review of Sexchanges, p. 9; November 6, 1994, Mark Hussey, review of Letters from the Front, p. 27.
NWSA Journal, spring, 2001, Joyce Y. Karpay, review of Critical Condition, p. 189.
Philological Quarterly, summer, 1980, Katherine Frank, review of The Madwoman in the Attic, pp. 381-383.
Publishers Weekly, March 27, 1995, p. 79; January 31, 2000, review of Critical Condition, p. 97.
Review of English Studies, August, 1982, Penny Boumelha, review of The Madwoman in the Attic, pp. 345-347.
Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, winter, 1997, Suzanne Juhasz, review of Letters from the Front, p. 458; spring, 2000, Dana D. Nelson, review of Racechanges, p. 912; autumn, 2001, Alys Eve Weinbaum, review of Critical Condition, p. 294.
Studies in the Novel, spring, 1989, Katherine Fishburn, review of The War of the Words, pp. 104-107; winter, 1990, Katherine Fishburn, review of Sexchanges, pp. 472-476.
Times Literary Supplement, August 8, 1980, Rosemary Ashton, "The Strongly Female Tradition," p. 901; June 3, 1988, Barbara Hardy, review of The War of the Words, p. 621; June 2, 1989, Terry Castle, "Pursuing the Amazonian Dream," pp. 607-608; January 12, 1990, p. 32; May 28, 1993, p. 11; June 30, 1995, Gillian Beer, review of No Man's Land, pp. 6-7; June 14, 1996, Elaine Showalter, "Miss Marple at the MLA," p. 9; March 17, 2000, Lorna Sage, "Learning New Titles," p. 26.
Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, spring, 1989, Pamela L. Caughie, "The (En)gendering of Literary History"; spring, 1989, Celia Patterson, review of Sexchanges, pp. 128-130; fall, 1995, Ann Ardis, review of Letters from the Front, pp. 366-369; spring, 1999, Anne Stavney, review of Racechanges, pp. 124-125.
Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 1981, Margaret Miller, "Angels and Monsters of Feminist Fiction," pp. 358-361.
Washington Post Book World, November 25, 1979, Carolyn G. Heilbrun, review of The Madwoman in the Attic, pp. 4, 6; June 2, 1985, Julia Epstein, review of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, p. 10; January 17, 1988, Wendy Lesser, review of The War of the Words, p. 4; July 13, 1997, Gayle Pemberton, "Minstrels and Their Masks," p. 4.
Women and Language, spring, 2001, review of The Madwoman in the Attic, p. 39.
Women's Review of Books, June, 2000, Maureen T. Reddy, review of Critical Condition, p. 17.
Yale Review, winter, 1980.*