Wednesday, May 22, 2013

No Man's Land, Volume 2: Sexchanges

1989, undated later edition, from Yale University Press
Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar
No Man's Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century, Volume 2: Sexchanges
Original price unknown, purchase price $2.00
Very worn paperback with broken spine

I read a library copy of Gilbert & Gubar's Madwoman in the Attic (1979) twenty years after its initial publication and loved it.  But then it did focus on 19th-century women's writing, not just their title character, from Jane Eyre (and Miss Eyre herself), but the subjects of Austen, Eliot, and Dickinson.  Here, the co-authors look at the "modernists," covering roughly 1885 to 1940, with World War I central in more than one sense.  They examine the works of male as well as female writers, to discuss the ways that changing sex roles were feared and desired, sometimes simultaneously by the same author.  As the subtitle of this volume suggests, sexual orientation, as well as "transvestism" and "transsexuality," are part of this.

While there are some interesting insights-- I was intrigued by the idea that Alice B. Toklas actually wrote or at least cowrote her "autobiography"-- I was generally less interested in both the time period and the novelists and poets that G & G chose to represent it, compared to the subjects of Madwoman.  I'd much rather have seen their take on Sinclair Lewis's conflicted attitude towards women than Ezra Pound's or (yet again) D. H. Lawrence's.  (I got enough of him with Millett's Sexual Politics). 

Oddly enough, as with Fritz's Path, the now most thought-provoking aspect here is actually their references to the 1980s, including the androgyny of Yentl and Boy George.

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