Mother/Muse, Psychic Sister?

The Personal and Intertextual Connections between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield
  • Margaret M. Jensen


In their 1979 text The Madwoman in the Attic, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar describe what they see as the specific difficulty of Harold Bloom’s theory of influence for the woman writer: “[h]er battle, however, is not against her (male) precursor’s reading of the world but against his reading of her,” they claim (49). For these two critics, then, Bloom’s theory accurately “analyses and explains” (49) the patriarchal nature of Western literary history, and in doing so simultaneously offers a reason for women’s exclusion from that tradition: the woman writer is too preoccupied with deciphering misreadings of herself to engage in battle with her precursor(s). In order to remedy this difficulty, they suggest an alternate path for the woman writer, a “swerve” from Bloom’s influence paradigm: “she can begin such a struggle only by actively seeking a female precursor who, far from representing a threatening force to be denied or killed, proves by example that a revolt against patriarchal literary authority is possible” (49). Is this what “successful” women writers have done?


Literary History Diary Entry Artistic Vision Open Book Woman Writer 
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© Margaret M. Jensen 2002

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  • Margaret M. Jensen

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