Books out now from Madelon Sprengnether


Great River Road: Memoir and Memory

Great River Road is a candid, personal story and a far larger one: an inspiring take on the challenge of revisiting our lives, taking pleasure in old joys and overcoming our natural resistance to the painful parts. Madelon Sprengnether’s conclusion that memory is a ‘process rather than a product, a verb rather than a noun’ seems to me a perfect way to open tight-shut doors to the forgiveness of others and of the self.”

– Rosellen Brown

“Madelon Sprengnether writes movingly and insightfully about traumatic memory and the healing power of art and memoir. In Great River Road she gracefully explores how much of remembering is an instinct for self-protection and wha tis a useful reconciliation of who we were, what we are, and what we hope to become.”

– Rafael Yglesias

Great River Road

New Rivers Press, 2015

Crying at the Movies: A Film Memoir

“In these insightful essays, even the writing itself is cinematic, as Sprengnether’s memories and quick film summaries meld into one another, making it seem as if the author hasn’t just seen many movies, but has actually lived one.”

– Publishers Weekly

“What is most interesting is the way the moviegoer, dropping more or less casually into this or that film, finds her emotions surprised, then passionately stirred, by the ‘entertainment’ on offer.”

– Richard Schickel, Los Angeles Times

“An amazing book—bold, brilliant, beautifully written.”

– Carol Gilligan

Crying at the Movies

Graywolf Press, 2002

“The film experiences described by Sprengnether are markers along a frightening, passionate odyssey that takes up the major themes of our lives—death, sexuality, intimacy, jealousy, guilt, religious faith, and creativity….It is the tale of the arduous, never ending effort to be alive in the face of death, to love in the face of loss.”

– Stephen Walrod, American Imago

Rivers, Stories, Houses, Dreams


“Dear Truesdale,

Jesus, who is Madelon Sprengnether, and where did you find her? What extraordinary writing! I haven’t come across that spark of sensuousness, sensuality and beauty in a long time. Why hasn’t she had pieces in all the major journals? When was the last time we read such sheer sensuality as can be found in Kingdoms of Clay”? Lady ChatterlyThis is imagination, genuine craft, heart-rending power. Sappho would have embraced her.  Rivers, Stories, Houses, Dreams shouldn’t be sold—it should be given to all the writers and power brokers you can think of. Need I say how moved I am by the book?”


Al Poulin


New Rivers Press, 1996

The House on Via Gombito: Writing by North American Women Abroad

(Co-edited by Madelon Sprengnether, C.W. Truesdale.)

“The nearly 50 short pieces of travel writing that comprise this volume display such a wealth of perspectives and explore such a variety of locales that the book is a splendid adventure in itself.”

– Publishers Weekly

“One of the most stunning books that deals with faraway places has just hit the stands. Minneapolis’ New Rivers Press has just published The House on Via Gombito, a steal of a book of writing by women on their trips around the world and charmingly dedicated to the likes of Martha Gellhorn, Persephone, Mary McCarthy, and, you guessed it, Frances Trollope, Anthony’s poor mom.”

– Dave Wood, Minneapolis Star Tribune


New Rivers Press, 1991

“A woman traveling alone in this culture is disconcerting because she goes against the grain of Western tradition. Our culture is built on the hero’s journey, on men’s experiences of traveling….But what if someone reinvented that formula? What if  women traveled, following entirely different rules, and then told their stories? Wouldn’t that turn the entire body of Western society on its head?”

– Helen Antrobus, City Pages


Near Solstice: Prose Poems

“If I only knew where we were going. I’d know how to end.’ writes Madelon Sprengnether in her brilliant new book of prose poems, Near Solstice. Perhaps that is true, but it makes us the luckiest of readers that she doesn’t know; that we are allowed to come along for this journey that is at moments harrowing, at moments joyful. A journey that is always approached in the spirit of an imaginative investigation that leaves the reader continually wanting more. What a deep pleasure this book is!”

– Jim Moore, author of Underground: New and Selected Poems

Near Solstice: Prose Poems

Holy Cow! Press, 2015

The Angel of Duluth: Prose Poems

The Angel of Duluth is a fierce book, deeply attentive to nuance and rich with emotionally compelling drama. She uses the breadth of the hybrid form and the cumulative power of each section to go deep into myth, into marriage, art, and the natural world.”

– Rosellen Brown

The Angel of Duluth is a fierce book, deeply attentive to nuance and rich with emotionally compelling drama. Even when Madelon Sprengnether contemplates a lake or a statue—“my angel, her own Vesuvius!”—the intensity of these poems makes them, “unflinching and true.” She uses the breadth of the hybrid form and the cumulative power of each section to go deep into myth, into marriage, art, and the natural world. This is a deeply satisfying book that walks, dances, and finally leaps across the line between genres.”

– Dorianne Laux

White Pine Press, 2006

The Normal Heart

The Normal Heart…is a collection of poems defining women’s ritualistic and mythological responsibilities. The poems move from the arid Oklahoma landscape to the dense forests of the north. They are like visions seen from a wagon train and the persona is a pioneer exploring the spiritual valleys and deserts….This is an important first book.” 

– Cary Waterman, Great River Review

“In her first collection of poems, Madelon Sprengnether Gohlke has made a rather bold entry….[Her] poems are vivid, highly descriptive in an anatomical sense; she also plumbs facets of contemporary culture, such as reading prose by Lacan or Freud, or seeing films such as those of Herzog and documentaries about the German-Russian front during World War II….Within this poetic realm, the poet dares to explore dislocation, to put it mildly, what more often than not is too disturbing for any sense of optimism to survive. In spite of this, one can also sense warmth and even humor in this book.”

– James Naiden, Minneapolis Tribune

New Rivers Press, 1981


Mourning Freud

“Mourning Freud is an important intervention in discussions of psychoanalysis, literature and feminism. The product of a quarter-century of careful and deep thought by a prominent literary and academic figure, it delivers a set of beautifully written analyses of the relationship between psychoanalysis and social issues, mediated through the motif of mourning. In this book, Madelon Sprengnether offers a delicate and immersive experience of rethinking Freudian and post-Freudian theories of intimacy and loss.”

– Stephen Frosh, Professor of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London, UK

Mourning Freud Cover

Bloomsbury Press, 2018

The Spectral Mother: Freud, Feminism and Psychoanalysis

“In her impressive book, which deserves wide recognition, Sprengnether…links Freud’s attitudes [toward the mother] to his own ambivalent relationship with his cold and strong-willed mother….His denial of the mother’s crucial importance in early development, Sprengnether argues, is reflected in his case studies, in which mothers become simply supernumeraries in the psychodramas he describes….Sprengnether’s cool and detached case has power because it is based on a very close study of Freud’s texts, and shrewd insight into his actual behavior.”

– Phyllis Grosskurth, New York Review of Books


Cornell University Press, 1990

“This splendid book is essential reading for any woman or man who needs to understand the way in which the mother becomes peripheral in the writings of Freud, displaced in favor of the Oedipus complex.”

– Carolyn Kizer

“The most important feminist interpretation of the role of the feminine in Freud’s writings since Sarah Kofman’s The Enigma of Woman….The readings are precise, clear, and strong, as is the prose. Sprengnether manages both to subvert Freud’s own interpretation of his insights and to extend his insights toward a more radical theory of child development.”

– Virginia Quarterly Review

Shakespearean Tragedy and Gender

(Co-edited by Shirley Nelson Garner and Madelon Sprengnether.)

“Shirley Nelson Garner and Madelon Sprengnether have long been prominent in the generation of feminist Shakespeareans who challenged their New Critical teachers, and the introduction of their anthology offers an explicit critique of A.C. Bradley and Maynard Mack, whose apparently ‘universal’ liberal humanist readings are said to rest on unrecognized masculinist assumptions.”

– Sara van den Berg, Signs

“Highly recommended.”

– Choice


Indiana University Press, 1996

“This anthology uses the readings and perspectives of its various authors to question the universality and centrality of the tragic hero. In her introduction, Madelon Sprengnether explains that the essays in the anthology ‘demonstrate how siginificantly gender figures in the construction and devolution of tragic subjectivity and action’ and questions ‘the price of sustaining the humanist evaluation of tragedy’ if it means ‘the displacement or denigration of one’s own experience, intelligence and most fully informed understanding.”

– Wendy S. Roth, Theater Journal

Revising the Word and the World: Essays in Feminist Literary Criticism

(Co-edited by Vèvè A. Clark and Ruth-Ellen Boetcher Joeres, Madelon Sprengnether.)

“Three powerful interviews with writers of different nationalities, Audre Lorde, Simone de Beauoir, and Carmen Naranjo, introduce topics echoed in the essays that follow: the interplay between women’s writing and feminist theory, the politics of witing, and the roles of race, class, and sexual orientation in artistic production. The theoretical perspectives advanced in this anthology provide models for reading the expressions of women worldwide including oratory and performance as well as literature in the more conventional sense. For scholars, critics, and students, tis volume examines some of today’s most prominent areas of concern for feminist literary criticism.”

– Back cover 


Chicago University Press, 1993

The (M)other Tongue: Essays in Feminist Psychoanalytic Interpretation

(Co-edited by Claire Kahane, Shirley Nelson and Madelon Sprengnether.)

“Feminists have good reasons for being offended by Freud. This Victorian enmeshed both in a patriarchal culture and in his own oedipal conflicts, is the arbiter of theories of the unconscious that are fundamental to psychoanalytic theory today. Stressing gender differences, rendering women as lesser men, dismissing matriarchal influence for the power of the father, Freud reinforces androcentric culture.

It is, however, in Freud’s basic conception of gender development and what he was unable to see about feminine sexuality and identity that makes him important to feminists. Using his own theories of the unconscious and what he denies for female development in the oedipal orientation, feminists can redirect analysis from ‘father-based’ to ‘mother-based’ gender development in terms of the importance of the role of the mother, focusing on the conflicts in identity with and separation from her for the male and female. Redirecting the focus becomes a valid basis for refuting the phallic structure of society that Freud’s theories go so far to reinforce.”

– Laurie E. Buchanan, Literature and Psychology


Cornell University Press, 1985