Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore: The Psychodynamics of Creativity

Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore: The Psychodynamics of Creativity

Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore: The Psychodynamics of Creativity

Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore: The Psychodynamics of Creativity

Synopsis

This highly innovative work on poetic influence among women writers focuses on the relationship between modernist poet Elizabeth Bishop and her mentor Marianne Moore. Departing from Freudian models of influence theory that ignore the question of maternal presence, Joanne Diehl applies the psychoanalytic insights of object relations theorists Melanie Klein and Christopher Bollas to woman-to- woman literary transactions. She lays the groundwork for a far-reaching critical approach as she shows that Bishop, mourning her separation from her natural mother, strives to balance gratitude toward Moore, her literary mother, with a potentially disabling envy. Diehl begins by exploring Bishop's memoir of Moore, Efforts of Affection, as an attempt by Bishop to verify Moore's uniqueness in order to defend herself against her predecessor's almost overwhelming originality. She then offers an intertextual reading of the two writers' works that inquires into Bishop's ambivalence toward Moore. In an analysis of Crusoe in England and In the Village, Diehl exposes the restorative impulses that fuel aesthetic creation and investigates how Bishop thematizes an understanding of literary production as a process of psychic compensation.

Excerpt

In the midst of this desolation, give me at least one intelligence to converse with. Ezra Pound

We need not be told that life is never going to be free from trouble and that there are no substitutes for the dead; but it is a fact as well as a mystery that weakness is power, that handicap is proficiency, that the scar is a credential, that indignation is no adversary for gratitude, or heroism for joy. There are medicines. Marianne Moore, “Predilections,” 132–33

IF, IN “EFFORTS OF AFFECTION,” Bishop covertly delineates the conflictual relationship between herself and Moore, Bishop' poems articulate the significance of that conflict. The psychological ramifications of the anxious ambivalence that shadows Bishop' relation to Moore have a determinative corollary in the realm of trope and the rhetoric of style. The analysis that follows, therefore, attempts to show how the Moore-Bishop relationship was worked out in rhetorical terms so as to establish a transposition from psychoanalytic inquiry to aesthetics. Object-relations theory here becomes supplanted by the principles of intertextual reading; my hope is that this substitution is suggestive of the ways that psychodynamics inform style. Primarily, issues associated with gift-giving, what can be taken and what must be spurned, are translated into allusive echoes, variations, and telling re-formations that point towards the individuating differences that mark Bishop' poetry. I have selected works for comparison that deal with conflict, whether between the epistemological dangers of the world and the possibility of safety or the efficacy of silence in relation to the power of speech. Bishop may take from Moore the descriptive terms or . . .

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