Review of No Man's Land, Volume 3: Letters from the Front

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Author: Ann Ardis
Editor: Jeffrey W. Hunter
Date: 2001
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay; Excerpt
Length: 1,408 words

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[(review date Fall 1995) In the following excerpt, Ardis praises Letters from the Front, but objects to its scanty coverage of the Harlem Renaissance and of black writers in general.]

. ... As Gillian Beer has noted, the third and final volume of Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's No Man's Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth-Century is disappointingly anglocentric.1 Because both [Michael A.] North and [Laura] Doyle argue so convincingly for the historical inseparability of white modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, reading Letters from the Front in tandem with [North's] The Dialect of Modernism and [Doyle's] Bordering on the Body makes Gilbert and Gubar's treatment of the latter seem thin. Unlike North's and Doyle's pairing of black and white texts, the chapter on feminism and the Harlem Renaissance and the briefer discussions of black writers in chapters seven and eight do not adequately counterbalance the remaining chapters' focus on either one or a pair of white writers (Woolf, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Marianne Moore, H. D., Sylvia Plath). Nonetheless, there is much of value in this enormous study. In and of itself, the vastness of this project is exhilarating, a testimony both to what two scholars and a bevy of research assistants can achieve through collaboration, and a bracing alternative to the claustrophobia induced by close reading after close reading of either canonical or noncanonical texts.2 Gilbert and Gubar's broad-brushed thematic approach has its drawbacks, of course. For careful historical contextualization, one must perforce look elsewhere--to The Dialect of Modernism, to Sydney Janet Kaplan's Katherine Mansfield and the Origins of Modernist Fiction (1991), or to Carolyn Steedman's Childhood, Class, and Culture in Britain: Margaret McMillan, 1860-1931 (1990), for example. But, as in the first two volumes of No Man's Land, Gilbert and Gubar's work here continues quite usefully to point up the "act[s] of affiliation" by means of which other scholars have told stories about the making of modernism without acknowledging the gendering of that history.3

My one criticism of Letters from the Front is different from though tangentially related to Beer's. Early on in this study, Gilbert...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100036847