(edited 9.17.07 - The BronteBlog already has picked us up!)
My undergraduate degree in English was granted in early 1975 by a country-club-like college, whose English professors were all - save one - male and reactionary. Their idea of reading women's literature was to compare the green light in The Great Gatsby to the zipless f**k in Fear of Flying. (I am not making this up.) I never heard of the New Critical theories until I stumbled upon them them on my own, over a decade later. My first reaction, a beak-dropping "huh?" (see below...), holds to this day.
Now that I have read the new introduction to Madwoman, I am again torn between laughter and scorn for the mainstream critical academy. Sandra Gilbert's slightly-bitter overview of the critics who battered the Madwoman from the moment of her birth leaves me wondering why anybody would bother to read at all, if the experience (the personal, subjective experience, that is) had to be purified and filtered through the latest critical net.
The larger question, of course, is whether any of the heroines of this book - the Brontes, say, or Emily Dickinson - would recognize themselves in the postmodern/deconstructed/exquisitely-partisan world of the critics, whose vocabulary has become so fractured and abstruse as to seem ("seem," madame?) deliberately obscure. (Sandra Gilbert's phrase "a jargon... of our own" made me snort with glee.) They would appreciate, I believe, the original work that Gilbert and Gubar undertook, to examine and excavate their art in the context of their times, but I can not imagine any of them being particularly sanguine in the face of their imminent deconstruction.
(Oh, and wouldn't you like to be in the room when Camille Paglia is outed as a non-feminist?)
Have you seen the AFLAC commercial in which the Duck's beak drops when Yogi Berra says that cash is the same as money? That's the quintessential beak-dropping moment, at least from my essentialist, seedcake-loving, personal, authoritorial, and individually-deluded stance.
So far, so good. I'm loving this book!