The Madwoman Can't Speak: Or Why Insanity is Not Subversive
In this work, the subversive madwoman first appropriated by feminist theorists and critics is re-evaluated. How, the author asks, can such a figure be subversive if she's effectively imprisoned, silent and unseen? Taking issue with a prominent strand of current feminist literary criticism, Caminero-Santangelo identifies a counternarrative in writing by women in the last half of the 20th century, one which rejects madness, even as a symbolic resolution. Caminero-Santangelo considers such writers as Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty, Sylvia Plath, Cristina Garcia, Kate Millett, Helena Maria Viramontes and Shirley Jackson, locating their narratives of female madness within the context of popularized Freudism, sociology of the African-American family, images in the mass media, and other elements of culture to which their writings respond. Their works, she maintains, appropriate images linking madness to feminine aberrance, but do so to expose the regulatory functions that such images serve. These writings reveal how the silent protest emblematized by the madwoman, and celebrated in feminist critical practice, simply serves to lock women into stereotypes long used to oppress them. The text offers an alternative explanation for the compelling nature of the figure of the madwoman, allowing a critical move away from the disempowering notions of the subersive potential of madness.
by : Marta Caminero-Santangelo