Rewriting the Word: American Women Writers and the Bible

By Amy Benson Brown | Go to book overview

"the clay two-foot / rambles in his chest / searching for language" to call Eve, she waits and plans "to whisper into his mouth / our names."62 This subversive revision of the Genesis episode of Adam's naming of earth's creatures reflects Clifton's own appropriation of the Bible, of the "Voice" that Wilner calls "Authority's own."63 That this appropriation is a subversion is evidenced by Clifton's identification throughout "The Tree of Life" (the sequence in which "eve thinking" appears) with Lucifer, the usurper and fallen angel. Clifton's wordplay with her own name, Lucille, underscores her identification with Lucifer, the "light- bringer," even as it slyly highlights her own signature.64

Clifton's cagey pun begs the same question as the title of Graham's "Self-Portrait as the Gesture Between Them [Adam and Eve]": Why are all these women inscribing their signature over, around, and against the Bible? Why in the last century have so many portraits of the artist as a young woman been painted against biblical backdrops? The following chapters examine how various women's signatures emerge through their engagement of the Bible in different historical eras and literary movements: Emily Dickinson's nineteenth-century voice, H. D.'s modernism, Sylvia Plath's and Anne Sexton's confessionalism, and Gloria Naylor's and Toni Morrison's postmodern narratives. By tracing the emergence of these various signatures through history, I hope to reveal not only the development of feminist biblical revision, but also the importance of alternative literary traditions to the constructions of female writing identifies.


Notes
1.
Adrienne Rich, The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems Selected and New ( New York: Norton, 1984), 90. In an endnote on page 330, Rich explains this poem "was adapted from the Yiddish with the aid of transliterated versions and prose translations provided by Eliezer Greenberg and Irving Howe" and was first published in their anthology A Treasury of Yiddish Poetry ( New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1969).

-23-

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