In these essays, Rose delves into the questions that keep us awake at night, into issues of privacy and publishing, exposure and shame. Do some women writers - Christina Rossetti, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath - have a special talent for self-revelation or are they simply more vulnerable to the invasions of biography? What are the ethical questions raised by Ted Hughes's part in Plath's posthumous writing life? What do writers such as Adrienne Rich, one of the founding members of modern feminism, and Natalie Angier, with her plea for a new geography of the female body, reveal of the history and destiny of feminism? Turning to psychoanalysis, Rose explores its affinity with modernist writing through studies of Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen and Mary Butts, and asks what it can tell us about the limits of knowledge, both about the most intimate and baffling components of experience, such as motherhood, and about the farthest, hallucinatory reaches of the mind. How far have modern psychoanalytic writers and the institutional establishment remained faithful to the most potent, disturbing aspects of Freud's vision?
In the final essays, Rose addresses two dramatic public performances of modern times. The first is the cult of celebrity with its contrasting obsessions with Princess Diana and the child murderer Mary Bell; the second is South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, through which she explores the responsibilities of thinking, speaking and writing in our divided and difficult times. Offering new links between feminism, psychoanalysis, literature and politics, Rose provides a resonant and thought-provoking collection for the present day.
Jacqueline Rose is Professor of English at Queen Mary, University of London. Her books include the highly influential study The Haunting of Sylvia Plath.