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"We think back through our mothers if we are women," wrote Virginia Woolf. In this groundbreaking series of essays, Sandra M. Gilbert explores how our literary mothers have influenced us in our writing and in life. She considers the effects of these mothers by examining her own history and the work of such luminaries as Charlotte Bronte, Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath. In the course of the book, she charts her own development as a feminist, demonstrates ways of understanding the dynamics of gender and genre, and traces the redefinitions of maternity reflected in texts by authors such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning and George Eliot. Throughout, Gilbert asks questions about feminism in the twentieth century: she looks at why and how its ideas became so necessary to women in the sixties and seventies; what those feminist concepts have come to mean now; and above all, how our intellectual mothers have shaped our thoughts today.