CHAPTER 4
Embodied Language

Apersistent question for readers of women's poetry has been the relationship between cultural production and biological experience (or, perhaps more importantly, interpretations of that experience). To what extent, if at all, does women's biological existence inform the production, and indeed the reception, of their work? How do we account for themes of dislocation, dismemberment and physical abjection in women's writing? To talk about women, poetry and the body is to raise a number of apparently discrete (although perhaps inevitably connected) concerns. In addressing these vexed issues, I will be examining three key areas: first, the effect of a shift from women's bodies being perceived as the objects of the male poetic gaze to women being either the subjects of their own vision or the same-sex objects of the visions of others. Second, theories of a distinct female writing, tied in with biological experience or the rhythms of the body – from Woolf's 'feminine sentence' to the 'écriture féminine' of French feminist thought. Third, the link between physical and literal creativity, or the production of children and the creation of poetry: how have women read this apparent relationship? In relation to all of these concerns, it is important, as has already been argued with respect to concepts of privacy and of the private 'self, to note that the significations of the female body change in different historical and cultural contexts. An English Renaissance viewpoint, for example, schooled in classical, mythological and biblical traditions, would be quite different from a Victorian angle

-111-

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Women's Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Chronology x
  • Prologue 1
  • Introduction 6
  • Chapter 1 - Self-Reflexivity 23
  • Chapter 2 - Performance 55
  • Chapter 3 - Private Voices 79
  • Chapter 4 - Embodied Language 111
  • Chapter 5 - Public Speech 138
  • Chapter 6 - Poetry and Place 166
  • Chapter 7 - Experimentation and Form 187
  • Conclusion 205
  • Student Resources 209
  • Index 224
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