The Madwoman in the Attic. The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar. With an Introduction by Lisa Appignanesi. London: Yale University Press, 2020
I know you: you’ve been living in my attic since I can remember. You tiny little mad lady have been living there forever. You think you know me but you don’t.
Dear tiny little crazy lady: be quiet, please.
If I’ve chosen this book is because it’s a classic, actually: it’s the classic among the classics on feminist literary theory. The Madwoman in the Attic grabs the tradition in nineteenth English literature and operates its magic while analysing terrible truths on it: how women are depicted, why and by whom; it also entails the role of women writers in those years. The Brontës, Jane Austen, George Eliot, George Gissing, Emily Dickinson, Charlotte Perkins Gilman… they’re all there and each one carries its own tiny little lady inside.
Well, some of them carried a huge one; that’s the case of Emily Dickinson.
Emily starved on purpose: she wanted to disappear completely, to stop being noticed; her «monstruous woman» inside forced her to eat:
«hardly at all, confining herself to a single room, engaging in fewer and fewer relations. I’m nobody! she writes in 1861″[Introduction by Lisa Appignanesi, page XV]
The book is divided into 16 chapters and I’m finishing the fourth. Up to now I’ve met the real plot on Little Snow White:
«which Walt Disney entitled Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, should be called Snow White and her Wicked Stepmother, for the central action on the tale ⏤indeed, its only real action⏤ arises from the relatuonship between these two women»[page 36]
also considered the difference between these days in literary history and the period in which the book was written, for it indicates that:
«the female poet does not experience the anxiety of influence in the same way that her male couterpart would, for the simple reason that she must confront precursors who are almost exclusively male, and therefore significantly different from her»[page 48]
Needless to say that I write and I work on a bookshop. Chances are: my «anxiety of influence» keeps on growing day after day. It feeds you, my tiny little lady. It makes you bigger and powerful. For I try to focus on the text but you keep on talking, criticising, scrutinizing my thoughts «these are right but these are wrong», «compare yourself with them all, the good and the bad, overthink, fail, suffer» you say, and there is no way to keep you away.
Just don’t be mad, woman: come down from the attic and leave me alone so I can finish my book, would you?.
Thank you so much.