Hamlet's Mother and Other Women: With a New Preface by the Author

Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Author
Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Author Columbia University Press $55.5 (266p) ISBN 978-0-231-07176-5
Reviewed on: 03/31/1990
Release date: 04/01/1990
In this collection of essays and speeches advocating the application of feminist criticism to the canon of English literature, Heilbrun ( Writing a Woman's Life ), humanities professor at Columbia University, also offers an acute view of the politics of academia. Leading off with a reprint of her first published article, ``The Character of Hamlet's Mother'' ( Shakespeare Quarterly , 1957), in which she argues ably against the then-prevailing interpretation of Gertrude as frail and passive, Heilbrun organizes pieces written in the '70s and '80s according to such topics as ``Exemplary Women'' and ``Feminism and the Profession of Literature.'' During these years she declared herself more fully a feminist--one who ``questions the gender arrangements in society and culture . . . and works to change them.'' Calling upon such related fields as psychology and semiotics, she focuses on the lives and writings of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, E. M. Forster, Vera Brittain, May Sarton and others. As an academic, she is forthright and courageous; as a feminist, eloquent and persuasive; as critic, erudite, graceful and revolutionary: ``Tender buttons as well as phalluses can organize a vision.' ' (May)
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