The Language of Power: Women and Literature, 1945 to the Present

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The Language of Power: Women and Literature, 1945 to the Present. Roberta Rosenberg. New York: Peter Lang, 1996. 273 pp. With a preface by Catherine Stimpson.

Roberta Rosenberg's contribution to the Writing about Women: Feminist Literary Studies series attempts a valuable and increasingly rare integration of activist and academic perspectives. This alone makes the book an interesting read. Anyone who has lived through the second wave of feminism and felt the need to revisit it as a whole in the face of an emerging third wave will find here familiar events and perhaps forgotten but once favorite poems, stories, and novels. I do not mean to suggest by this that the work is limited in its advance. I can see teachers using Rosenberg in a lower-division undergraduate course on American women writers, especially the introductory chapter, where she offers a kind of "History of Women Writers 101," and her concluding chapter with its brief survey of second wave Anglo and French feminist criticism and theory.

Rosenberg's relatively slim volume sets a substantial goal-a thematic description of literature by women since 1945 in the context of the popular feminism that emerged during the same period and as critiqued by academic and feminist theory. One result of this dispersed conception, however, is a necessary distortion brought on by broad generalization and, too often, brief illustration. The author, for example, does not limit herself to claims about American authors, though the majority of examples are American. …