Toni’s Response to Zimmerman

“Finally, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic does not even index lesbianism; the lone reference made in the text is to the possibility that “Goblin Market” describes “a covertly (if ambiguously) lesbian world.” The authors’ tendency to interpret all pairs of female characters as aspects of the self sometimes serves to mask a relationship that a lesbian reader might interpret as bonding or love between women.” (2334)

This passage seems to carry some weight because Barry mentions it in Chapter 7 of his text as well.  While I understand the point that Zimmerman is making (lesbianism should have been a consideration of Gilbert and Gubar, according to lesbian critics), she seems to be doing the very thing that she is railing against.  The elevation of one conversation may silence another.  What might have been eliminated from the book in order to discuss the lesbian relationships in the novels?  It is possible to look at literature written by women authors with other goals in mind – not that the lesbian lens is not an important one as well.  A text cannot be all things to all readers, so maybe a more convincing argument here might have been to examine Gilbert and Gubar’s text as silencing the lesbian voice; this passage feels more like a consideration of authorial intent.

Zimmerman is discussing the history of the oppression of the lesbian segment of society which I agree has historically been oppressed, and I know that she is advocating for the consideration of the value of lesbian literature, but I still think that to include one type of literature is to exclude another type.  Maybe what I am really struggling with is the idea that the canon is the very power structure that the feminists and/or lesbians are fighting against (the valuation of one text over another or the valuation of one segment of society over another). The notion that lesbian works be considered worthy of study by critics, academia, etc., seems to be the very thing that the lesbianists are fighting for, and I agree that these works are as valuable as those written by, for, and about other races, classes, genders, etc., but at whose expense?

3 thoughts on “Toni’s Response to Zimmerman”

  1. Toni, I agree that Zimmerman’s suggestion seems to be an attempt to universalize texts as essentially lesbian texts.It is true that a text should be criticized and analyzed with the consideration of race, class, and gender. But, I also think Zimmerman is suggesting that lesbian criticism be deemed just as important as other schools of criticism.

  2. Ashley, I do agree that Zimmerman wants to raise the consciousness/validity/importance of lesbian texts, especially since we are situated in the 1980s in the piece. I think I tend to read this piece with a 21st century eye and want to find the flaws in her logic which leads to the flaw in my logic sometimes when I fail to consider context as carefully as I should. Toni

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