Rewriting the Word: American Women Writers and the Bible

By Amy Benson Brown | Go to book overview

not characterized by the same sense of cultural mission that marks Trilogy.

It is the personal and profoundly ambivalent battle with the Word of the Father that Plath and Sexton inherit from Dickinson, as the next chapter will demonstrate. For the confessionalists, the paternal authority of the text remained strong. Coupled with the individual agon in confessional poetry, however, are strategies also reminiscent of H. D.'s biblical revision. Two cornerstones of H. D.'s biblical revision resurface in Plath's work in particular: the strategic collage of mythologies and the focus on the Virgin. Although Plath was profoundly influenced by the masculine literary canon, the biblical revision of both of these feminine precursors provides a crucial interpretive framework for a reading of the search for a Word of the Mother in Plath's and Sexton's poetry.


Notes
1.
All parenthetical references to Dickinson's poems in the text correspond to the number of the poem in Thomas H. Johnson The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ( Boston: Little, Brown, 1960).
2.
H. D., Trilogy ( New York: New Directions Books, 1973), 6. Hereafter, all poetry quotations from Trilogy are cited parenthetically by stanza number in the text and refer to page numbers.
3.
Joanne Feit Diehl, Women Poets and the American Sublime ( Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990).
4.
See Larry Ceplair, ed., The Public Years of Sarah and Angelina Grimke: Selected Writings ( 1835- 1839) ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1989); Karen Sanchez-Eppler, Touching Liberty: Abolition, Feminism, and the Politics of the Body ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); and my article "'A System of Complicated Crimes': The (Con)Fusion of Subjects in Angelina Grimke's Public Speeches," Women's Studies 27 ( 1997): 31-52.
5.
G. C. Baldwin, Representative Women: From Eve, the Wife of the First, to Mary, the Mother of the Second Adam ( New York: Shelson, Blakeman, and Co., 1856), vii.

-61-

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