The Home Plot: Women, Writing & Domestic Ritual

The Home Plot: Women, Writing & Domestic Ritual

The Home Plot: Women, Writing & Domestic Ritual

The Home Plot: Women, Writing & Domestic Ritual

Synopsis

A finely crafted study built on 20 years of feminist scholarship to show how domestic ritual has helped to shape substance and tone of some of the best fiction by American women.

Excerpt

"CIRCE" is Eudora Welty's luminous retelling of Odysseus' encounter with the island witch. In this 1955 version, she is the center of attention. This Circe is both charmed and repelled by the mortal men, "beautiful strangers" with grimy fingernails, who flock to the promises of her well-run household and eagerly drink the savory, swine-making broth.

Odysseus, himself protected with his own magic, will not be transformed by domestic sorcery. To learn his secret and gain his love, Circe must undo her magic and retransform his men (improving them, while she is about it). But, although the men enjoy her housekeeping and love for a year, hostess and guests never really understand each other. For Circe cannot live by the time of mortal men. She thinks, "There exists a mortal mystery that, if I knew where it was, I could crush like an island grape. Only frailty, it seems, can divine it -- and I was not endowed with that property. They live by frailty! By the moment" (CS 533). When the men seize the moment and leave Circe, they bear her gifts, "all unappreciated, unappraised" (536). She is pregnant with a son, who will not stay with her, and can speak her mind only to her fixed, female companions in the sky: Cassiopeia and the rising moon. Circe longs for grief, like that the men expressed and expelled for a dead companion. But grief must be a stranger to her imperishable, perfectly ordered life. "Grief," says Circe, "couldn't hear me -- grief that cannot be round or plain or solid-bright or running on its track. . . . I cannot find the dusty mouth of grief" (537). And there Eudora Welty leaves her Circe, weighted with feelings she can never put behind her: a goddess who is defined, exalted, and imprisoned by her powers of housekeeping.

"Circe" is like nothing else Eudora Welty has written. And yet, with its palpable tension between the wanderer and the housebound witch, it is also . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.