Anxiety of Authorship by Gilbert and Gubar

Gilbert and Gubar collaborately influenced the advancement of both the study of women writers and feminist literary theory. They trace a female literary tradition and thus combat what they term women’s ‘anxiety of authorship’, while seeking for a feminist poetics to rescue many women from the obscurity caused by their exclusion from male dominated anthologies.

Their work The Madwomen in the Attic argues that in the past and up to the present, the women writer’s creativity has been identified virtually and completely with men. So, their aim is to locate a place where women’s writing can be heard.

Anxiety of authorship is a feminist theory developed by Gilbert and Gubar that can be read as a revision of Harold Bloom’s theory of ‘anxiety of influence’. They define it as a radical fear undergone by female writers that they cannot create. They can not be precursors and that the act of writing inevitably isolates her from male forefathers and destroys her. This anxiety is further followed by other anxieties that the literary forefathers will subdue her voice and identity as a writer, escape the dilemma she faces in defining her subjectivity and potentials.Bloom claims that a young poet suffers from the anxiety of belatedness, thereby being unable to successfully rival his literary fathers. But Gilbert and Gubar revised Bloom’s male centered model to make into account the experience of literary daughters. They argue that women writers like Jane Austin, Emile Dickinson do not fit into Bloom’s theory, as there are no material precursors under the male literary tradition. So the literary daughters have the anxiety of authorship imposed by the pervasive view of writings as only male activity- the pen as a metaphorical phallus.

 Unlike to the literary sons who suffer from anxiety of influence, the literary daughters’ anxiety of authorship is positive, and creative, offering them less competition and more grateful connection to their foremothers. However, the literary daughters’ deep sense of insecurity of writing can be found in their infected sentences of uneasiness and repression. But their creativity free from the anxiety of influence helps them to begin new and unique women writing tradition with freshness, novelty, radicality making distinct from male writing. They create their own poetics because of the anxiety of authorship.