cover image Rooms of Our Own

Rooms of Our Own

Susan Gubar, Author . Univ. of Illinois $40 (241p) ISBN 978-0-

Gubar and Sandra M. Gilbert revolutionized feminist literary criticism with their 1979 Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-century Literary Imagination . This memoir crossed with cultural criticism, written in the style of Virginia Woolf's foundational feminist manifesto, A Room of One's Own , is a valiant attempt to wed the personal and political with playful literary imitation. Using not only Woolf's structure but also her tone and language, Gubar guides the reader through an academic year (she teaches at Indiana University) as she reflects on the state of present-day feminist politics. She covers the expected topics—the place of postmodern theory in the academy, how race is now discussed in feminist literary criticism. But Gubar's slavish imitation of Woolf's style ("Imponderables that profound indubitably require dawdling, I mused, glancing out the window....") simply inhibits clear locution. A deeper problem is that Gubar's often smart insights are buried in the indirect, even rambling, style. For example, in an analysis of the dynamics at a fellowship-granting meeting, Gubar describes all of the participants as barnyard animals, but the whimsy fails, detracting from Gubar's important points. Gubar is a vital voice on academic feminist concerns, but most of this volume fails in both its literary conceit and as a coherent argument. (Nov.)