Still Mad: American Women Writers and the Feminist Imagination

Norton. Aug. 2021. 416p. ISBN 9780393651713. $27.95. LIT
Gilbert and Gubar, renowned for their 1979 work of feminist literary theory The Madwoman in the Attic, here examine 70 years of work (1950–2020) by American women writers and theorists of feminism’s second wave. They write that, despite social and political advancements, women remain “mad” at the enduring barriers that stymie their progress in many areas. Their book explores this “madness” and provides in-depth analysis of a wide range of literature and theory. The thoroughly researched chapters examine Margaret Atwood, Alison Bechdel, Judith Butler, Ursula Le Guin, Audre Lorde, Kate Millett, Toni Morrison, Sylvia Plath, and Adrienne Rich, among others. Gilbert and Gubar weave the political and social attributes of each decade into their literary analysis to illustrate how feminist thought and the nation changed under the societal transformations wrought by the civil rights movement, sexual revolution, Vietnam War, emergence of the New Right, Me Too movement, and other momentous events. Against these settings, writers challenged patriarchal norms and authority, the book argues. Later chapters discuss theories of intersectionality, poststructuralism, and trans identity that are reshaping feminist concepts along racial, ethnic, and linguistic lines. Despite challenges and social/political oscillations, this excellent book demonstrates the ways that feminism has persisted.
VERDICT Highly recommended for anyone interested in American literature or women’s studies.
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