Figuring woman (out): Feminine subjectivity in the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Marianne Moore, and H.D.
AuthorHogue, Cynthia Anne.
KeywordsFeminism and literature -- United States
Women and literature -- United States
American poetry -- Women authors -- History and criticism
Dickinson, Emily, 1830-1886 -- Criticism and interpretation
Moore, Marianne, 1887-1972 -- Criticism and interpretation
H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), 1886-1961 -- Criticism and interpretation.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractHistorically, women have not been "speaking subjects" but "spoken objects" in Western culture--the ground on which male-dominated constructions have been erected. In literature, women have been conventionally held as the silent and silenced other. Lyric poetry especially has idealized not only the entrenched figures of masculine subject/feminine object, but poetry itself as the site of prophecy, vision, Truth. Most dramatically in lyric poetry then, the issue of women as subjects has been collapsed into Woman as object, that figure who has been the sacrifice necessary for the production of lyric "song" and the consolidation of the unified masculine voice. It has thus been difficult for women poets to take up the position of speaking subject, most particularly because of women's problematic relationship to Woman. Recent feminist theorists have explored female subjectivity, how women put into hegemonic discourse "a possible operation of the feminine." This dissertation analyzes that possibility in poetry as exemplified in the works of Emily Dickinson, Marianne Moore, and H.D. I contend that these paradigmatic American poets constitute speaking subjects in their poetry that both figure Woman conventionally and reconfigure it, i.e. subvert the stability of those representations, thereby disturbing our view. I argue that this double identification produces, in effect, a divided or split subjectivity that is enabling for the female speaker. As an alternative to the traditionally specularized figure of Woman then, such a position opens up distinctly counter-hegemonic spaces in which to constitute the female subject, rendering problematic readerly consumption of the image of Woman as a totality. I explore the attempts to represent women's difference differently--the tenuous accession to, rejection of, or play with the lyric "I" in these poets' works. Dickinson, Moore, and H.D. reconfigure Woman and inscribe female speakers as grammatically and rhetorically, but not necessarily visually, present, thereby frustrating patriarchal economies of mastery and possession.