Theory into Poetry: New Approaches to the Lyric

By Eva Müller-Zettelmann; Margarete Rubik | Go to book overview

Pilar Abad-Garcia


Generic Description and the Postmodern Lyric Discourse/Mode:
Carol Ann Duffy's "Anne Hathaway"

Introduction

In our "post-theoretical age", rightly defined as "a process of mutual contamination between 'theory' and 'empiria'", and never an "a-theoretical" one (McQuillan & McDonald vii), Genre Theory stands out as a case in point. Genre Theory, and, more specifically, Postmodern Genre Theory, with its seminal emphasis on generic "impurity" (Derrida; Cohen, "Genre Theory" and "Postmodern") and description1 and on the reconceptualisation of the generic universals as modes (of discourse/speech), i.e., as linguistic categories (Todorov; Genette; Bakhtin), has become, in my view, a most suitable scientific foundation for dealing with today's (some of it, no less postmodern) lyric discourse.

The latter shows itself most particularly in the poetic corpora of recent women-poets, who often "work within and rework existing genres" (Pykett 266) and whose production is rarely dealt with seriously or systematically.2 Moreover, this production is also becoming, in my view, an important asset in the process acknowledged as the postmodernist "reconfiguration of the lyric",3 a process which, by means of a close manipulation of the lyric subject, involves polyphonic (and dialogical) overtones; a process earlier identified by Bakhtin as one of "novelisation", and specifically acknowledged in the case of contemporary British poetry (Gregson 7), with decisive consequences for clarification (not to mention typification) of genre.

With these considerations in mind, I shall now proceed to develop the systematisation and further application of two basic parameters of generic description to a text by the star of current mainstream women-poets: Carol Ann Duffy4. My application will also keep an eye on the relevance of genre analysis in the interpretative process.5 Both parameters will look on genre as mode or as discourse representation, as the linguistic-communicative realm where generic evolution and transformation manifest themselves and allow description. The latter will pivot on the two axes which basically constitute the current generic debate: a) genre blurring (or the dynamics of genre); b) speech communication (or genre as discourse)6.

1 ""…" it supposes that traditional kinds may be "mixed" and produce a new kind "…". Modern genre
theories minimize classification and maximize clarification and interpretation" (Cohen, "Postmodern"
295-296).

2 "Currently, within the field of contemporary poetry, women's work tends to be far less prolifically
interpreted, mediated and analysed than that of men" (Mark & Rees-Jones xxii).

3 "The critique of the privileged and entitled I is central to post-modern poetics "…" post-modern poetry
insists on a re-visioning of the authorial voice and its inception" (McCorkle 46).

4 Once acknowledged, together with other New Gen poets, as "true fruits of Post-modernism" (Forbes 5).

5 "We may "…" legitimately regard genre choice as one of the constraining features involved in interpret-
ing a text" (Bex 114-115). See also: Fowler; Belsey; Cohen, "Postmodern".

6 See: Ferreira-Duarte, "Introduction" 3-10.

-265-

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