No Man's Land

The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century, Volume 3: Letters from the Front

Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar

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August 31, 1994
496 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
20 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300056310
Cloth

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How do writers and their readers imagine the future in a turbulent time of sex war and sex change? And how have transformations of gender and genre affected literary representations of "woman," "man," "family," and "society"?

This final volume in Gilbert and Gubar's landmark three-part No Man's Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century argues that throughout the twentieth century women of letters have found themselves on a confusing cultural front and that most, increasingly aware of the artifice of gender, have dispatched missives recording some form of the "future shock" associated with profound changes in the roles and rules governing sexuality.

Divided into two parts, Letters from the Front is chronological in organization, with the first section focusing on such writers of the modernist period as Virginia Woolf, Zora Neale Hurston, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Marianne Moore, and H.D., and the second devoted to authors who came to prominence after the Second World War, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Sylvia Plath, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, and A.S. Byatt.

Embroiled in the sex antagonism that Gilbert and Gubar traced in The War of the Words and in the sexual experimentations that they studied in Sexchanges, all these artists struggled to envision the inscription of hitherto untold stories on what H.D. called "the blank pages/of the unwritten volume of the new." Through the works of the first group, Gilbert and Gubar focus in particular on the demise of any single normative definition of the feminine and the rise of masquerades of "femininity" amounting to "female female impersonation." In the writings of the second group, the critics pay special attention to proliferating revisions of the family romance—revisions significantly inflected by differences in race, class, and ethnicity—and to the rise of masquerades of masculinity, or "male male impersonation."

Throughout, Gilbert and Gubar discuss the impact on literature of such crucial historical events as the Harlem Renaissance, the Second World War, and the "sexual revolution" of the sixties. What kind of future might such a past engender? Their book concludes with a fantasia on "The Further Adventures of Snow White" in which their bravura retellings of the Grimm fairy tale illustrate ways in which future writing about gender might develop.

Sandra M. Gilbert is professor of English at the University of California at Davis. Susan Gubar is professor of English at Indiana University. They are also authors of The Madwoman in the Attic and editors of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women.

"This book, like the two preceding volumes of No Man's Land, is of absolutely paramount importance. Together the three volumes provide a remarkable history of gender's influence on the literature of the last two centuries."—Carolyn G. Heilbrun

"A satisfying conclusion to an ambitious project."—Kirkus Reviews

"Gilbert and Gubar have done more than any other feminist critic to create the idea of a tradition of writing by women, and women writers should continue to celebrate their accomplishment. Because they are unusually adept at providing deft accounts of what happens in a great deal of writing by 20th-century women, readers will be able to use Letters From the Front as a lively companion to the literature of the period."—Janet Gezari, Boston Globe

"Conceived with a grandeur and carried out with an ambition, learning and eloquence that set a standard for other work in the field. Whatever the fashions in feminist literary criticism, Gilbert and Gubar remain giants."—Elaine Showalter, London Review of Books

"Dauntlessly addressing major critical questions ranging form the shape of the literary canon to the significance of particular literary texts and historical events, the authors have forged new interpretive links between social and literary history and literary analysis."—Roberta Rubenstein, Belles Lettres

"Sweeping in the issues it considers, and finely-honed and meticulous in the detail of close reading and analysis [the book] characteristically offers. . . . This represents and impressive body of work by any standards, and it forms an oeuvre which has provided new directions and new challenges for mainstream Anglo-American feminist critics in each of its phases. . . . Gilbert and Gubar feel themselves to be part of the great social project of feminism to which they are, in their field, most notable contributors."—Kate Fulbrook, American Studies

"As [Gilbert and Gubar] have moved through the centuries, with gender as the lens for observing literature in its relation to culture (and vice versa), they have read, and written about, just about everything. Their ability to elucidate such diverse material with wisdom and wit is by now legendary."—Suzanne Juhasz, Signs

"Letters From the Front is the third volume in Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar's monumental trilogy, No Man's Land, their ambitious study of landmarks in twentieth-century women's writing. As idiosyncratic in its view of history as was their seductive and influential Madwoman in the Attic, No Man's Land uses the metaphor of war—and significantly the space between the official battle lines—to chart the vast territory of modern women's literary practice and its sources of conflict."—Judy Simons, Review of English Studies

"Following some current theoretical models, Gilbert and Gubar demonstrate that works representing a multiethnic and diverse female literary tradition can be effectively examined when juxtaposed to men's writing."—Jane Lilienfeld, American Literature

No Man's Land
The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century, Volume 1: The War of the Words

Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar

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The Madwoman in the Attic
The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination

Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar

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No Man's Land
The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century, Volume 2: Sexchanges

Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar

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