Gender and the Poetics of Excess: Moments of Brocade

Gender and the Poetics of Excess: Moments of Brocade

Gender and the Poetics of Excess: Moments of Brocade

Gender and the Poetics of Excess: Moments of Brocade

Synopsis

A study of how excess has proved to be the intended norm in the work of major women poets.

Excerpt


Fantastic Flourishes of Gold Thread

T he mythic weaver Philomela has long fascinated feminist literary critics, who recognize in her predicament the situation of many women writers in a masculinist culture traditionally suspicious of women's words and desirous of their silence. Philomela, the innocent sister of Procne, raped and mutilated by Procne's husband Tereus, communicates with her sister, even though Tereus has cut out her tongue and locked her away, by weaving her story in cloth and sending it to Procne. Procne frees Philomela, and the two take revenge on Tereus by killing his son, Itys, and serving him to his father. When Tereus learns that he has eaten the flesh of his flesh, he attempts to kill his wife and sister-in-law, but the women flee and in their "flight" are transformed into birds, a swallow and a nightingale. Cheryl Walker's important 1982 study of American women poets, The Nightingale's Burden, emphasizes Philomela's need to communicate her oppression: "Both as a defiled woman and as an artist urgently desiring to communicate through symbolic forms, Philomela is the type of American women poets in the nineteenth century" (21). Playing on . . .

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