From Library Journal
In their final volume of the three-part No Man's Land (LJ 11/1/87 and LJ 3/1/89, respectively), feminist literary scholars Gilbert and Gubar expand the argument that women writers throughout the 20th century have found themselves within a confusing culture of sexual oppression, liberation, and transformation, full of arbitrariness and contradictions. They explore the impact of the Harlem Renaissance, World War II, and other events on feminism and women's writing. The authors continue to examine the writing and lives of modernist writers (e.g., Virginia Woolf, H.D., Zora Neale Hurston, and Nella Larsen), expanding to post-World War II writers (Carson McCullers, Doris Lessing, and Sylvia Plath). This enlightened and enlightening literary theory and history is an important purchase for women's studies, gender studies, and literary studies collections.Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, N.J.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
The final third of this feminist literary study maintains the quality of volumes I (The War of the Words, 1987) and II (Sexchanges, 1989) as it looks at women writers' exploration of our century's complex and ever-shifting cultural scene, particularly the thorny question of gender. Gilbert and Gubar take a generally chronological approach, beginning with the modernists. In their analysis, Virginia Woolf sketched scenarios challenging traditional sex roles, as well as the historical settings and the social hierarchies in which they functioned. Edna St. Vincent Millay and Marianne Moore were ``female female impersonators'' who exploited femininity's artificiality in an imaginative but uncertainly empowering way. The authors then move on to the Harlem Renaissance, arguing that such writers as Nora Zeale Hurston, Jessie Redmon Faucet, and Nella Larsen worked to reveal the ``authentic (black) feminine'' behind racial stereotypes and criticized (white) feminism. Intertwining the poet and her work, a chapter on HD maintains that she produced her long poems by consciously manipulating images of herself. Moving forward to WW II, Gilbert and Gubar discuss the period's ``blitz on women'': Cheesecake pinups on tanks and VD posters conflated sex and death, while even positive images of the women left behind were tinged with resentment. They contend that metaphors from the war, transformed into images of sexual battle, haunted the poems of Sylvia Plath, who fought toward a way of being a woman beyond the old patriarchal traditions. At once playful and thoughtful, the final chapter considers the multiplicity of women's stories via the authors' several rewrites of Snow White--e.g., the no-longer-evil queen challenges gender roles by advising Snow White to ``marry the Prince but sleep with me too,'' while in another version a critically savvy queen realizes they're all ``merely signifiers, signifying nothing.'' A satisfying conclusion to an ambitious project. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.