Mothersongs by Sandra M. Gilbert
Poems For, By, and About Mothers

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Synopsis

A unique collection of verse about maternity and the celebration of motherhood, MotherSongs brings together for the first time a range of classic and contemporary poems from the United States, Great Britain, and Canada.

The editors have included traditional ballads about maternity and courtly elegies for or by mothers as well as landmark nineteenth-century tributes to mothers and early twentieth-century meditations on motherhood.

MotherSongs opens with poems about pregnancy, labor, delivery, and nursing and moves to poems about women raising children, delighting in their growth, or mourning their loss. The volume then turns to poems by sons and daughters who "remember mama."

Mythic mothers and mother goddesses, moral or political reflections on maternity, and philosophical analyses of the meaning of motherhood are also represented. Taken together, the works collected here bear witness to the powerful ways in which motherhood has been transformed into art and artistry has been shaped by maternity.
 

About Sandra M. Gilbert

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A poet, feminist critic, and professor of English at the University of California at Davis, Gilbert received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1968. Her early work addressed canonical male figures, but in the 1970s she began to focus on women writers from a feminist perspective, teaming up with Susan Gubar in what has proven to be a very influential collaboration. In 1979 they published their first joint efforts, a collection of feminist essays on women poets, Shakespeare's Sisters, and The Madwoman in the Attic, an exploration of major nineteenth-century women writers, which has had a major role in defining feminist scholarship. This massive volume takes its title from Jane Eyre's "mad" and monstrous double, Bertha, hidden away in the attic by Jane's would-be lover, Rochester; Gilbert and Gubar see figures like Bertha as resisting patriarchy, subversive surrogates for the docile heroines who populate nineteenth-century fiction by women. Although Gilbert and Gubar's ideas have been very influential, many critics, particularly poststructuralists, have taken issue with them. For Gilbert and Gubar, a woman writer is by definition angry, and her text will express that anger, albeit in disguised or distorted form. Reading hinges on knowing the sex of the author, rather than on a careful analysis of the text itself and the multivalency of its language. Gilbert and Gubar's work is part of a debate about essentialist and antiessentialist feminist theories, which has addressed issues like "the signature" (the significance of knowledge about the author and authorial intentions) and gendered expression in general. Susan Gubar is the coauthor of The Madwoman in the Attic , a foundational work of feminist criticism, and the coeditor of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women . She lives in Bloomington, Indiana. Diana O'Hehir lives in Northern California with her husband. She is the Pulitzer Prize-nominated author of six books of poetry and two novels, and taught at Mills College, where she founded the Creative Writing Program. She has received several awards and an NEA grant.
 
Published May 17, 1995 by W. W. Norton & Company. 384 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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The final section, ``Conceiving the Mother: Meanings of Maternity,'' begins with Walt Whitman's ``Unfolded Out of the Folds'' and ends breathtakingly with Sharon Olds's ``The Language of the Brag,'' where the speaker claims, ``I have done what you wanted to do, Walt Whitman/ ...with the exception...

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