It’s worth checking out The New Inquiry‘s interview with Kate Zambreno, author of popular blog Frances Farmer is My Sister and the recently released critical memoir Heroines. She’s got some very precise–and very beautiful–thoughts on “wives and mistresses,” mental illness, fears of female emotional excess, and redeeming the diary.
That emotion in a work of literature cannot be excessive, has to have an appropriate source. I mean these philosopher-writers – they were concerned with the Hamlets. I’m more concerned, I guess, with the Ophelias. I don’t see why Ophelia’s rent and rage is not as serious as Hamlet’s. But her madness, her unraveling, is perceived as comic, strange, a joke. Eliot: “I distrust the Feminine in literature.” … Gilbert and Gubar in Madwomen in the Attic are writing about stereotypes in fairytales and how that infected the 19th century woman writer — Emily D., the Brontes etc. — I do wonder how our myths and demonologies of mad wives and mistresses, all our inheritance from modernism, of the male novelist conceiving and cultivating his court of crazy girls and femme fatales, how does that infect women and girls when they attempt to write, when they attempt to conceive of themselves as writers.