Sandra Gilbert (1936-) and Susan Gubar (1944-) - Key Figures in Literary Theory

The Blackwell Guide to Literary Theory - Gregory Castle 2007

Sandra Gilbert (1936-) and Susan Gubar (1944-)
Key Figures in Literary Theory

The collaboration of Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar constitutes one of the foundation stones for feminist literary theory in the US. Sandra Gilbert was born in New York City and was educated at Cornell and New York University. She received her doctorate from Columbia University in 1968. After teaching at a number of schools, she took a position in 1975 at the University of California at Davis. After four years in the mid- 1980s teaching at Princeton University, Gilbert returned to Davis where she continues to teach.

Susan Gubar was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was educated at the City University of New York and the University of Michigan. She received her doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1972. Within a year, Gubar joined the faculty of Indiana University. She is presently Distinguished Professor of English and Women's Studies at Indiana.

The two women met at Indiana University, where they designed a course on the feminist literary tradition and began a collaboration that would yield, in 1979, The Madwoman in the Attic. This was a groundbreaking work in literary criticism, but also a compelling revision of literary history. Gilbert and Gubar argued that women's writing in the nineteenth century constituted a feminist tradition of resistance to

PATRIARCHAL culture. This argument is extended in their three-volume study of twentieth-century women writers, No Man’s Land (1988-94). In these volumes, they argue that Modernist and Postmodernist literature are comprehensible historically only if Feminism and writing by women are considered seriously as influences in literary traditions and CANONS. Through the 1980s and '90s, they edited many volumes together, including the Norton Anthology of Literature by Women (1985) and The Female Imagination and the Modernist Aesthetic (1986). They have also written a satire on the profession of teaching and canon formation, Masterpiece Theatre: An Academic Melodrama (1995).

Each of these women has been productive on their own as well. Gubar has published works in Cultural Studies, including Racechanges (1997), an analysis of “cross-racial masquerade.” She has also published a volume on contemporary poetry, Poetry After Auschwitz (2003). Gilbert has written a study on the American poet H.D. and a memoir recounting her husband’s death from cancer. She also published numerous books of poetry, including Ghost Volcano (1995), Belongings (2005), and Kissing the Bread: New & Selected Poems, 1969-1999.


Gilbert, Sandra and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. 2nd ed. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979, 2000.

---- . No Man’s Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century. 3 vols. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988-94.

---- , eds. The Female Imagination and the Modernist Aesthetic. New York: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, 1986.