Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language

“What we call significance is precisely this unlimited and unbounded generating process, this unceasing operation of the drives toward, in, and through language; toward, in, and through the exchange system and its protagonists—the subject and its institutions” (17).

Briefly, Kristeva identifies two modalities of the same signifying process: “the semiotic” and “the symbolic.” These modalities “are inseparable within the signifying process that constitutes language, and the dialectic between them determines the type of discourse (narrative, metalanguage, theory, poetry, etc.) involved; in other words, so-called ‘natural’ language allows for different modes of articulation of the semiotic and the symbolic. On the other hand, there are nonverbal signifying systems that are constructed exclusively on the basis of the semiotic (music, for example” (23-4). Perhaps also breastfeeding or pregnancy?

“Because the subject is always both semiotic and symbolic, no signifying system he produces can be either ‘exclusively’ semiotic or ‘exclusively’ symbolic, and is instead necessarily marked by an indebtedness to both” (24).

Kristeva understands the term “semiotic” in “its Greek sense,” that is, “a distinctive mark, trace, index, precursory sign, proof, engraved or written sign, imprint, trace, figuration” (25).

“…the drives, which are ‘energy’ charges as well as ‘psychical’ marks, articulate what we call a chora: a nonexpressive totality formed by teh drives and their stases in a motility that is as full of movement as it is regulated” (25).

“Our discourse—all discourse—moves with and against the chora in the sense that it simultaneously depends upon and refuses it. Although the chora can be designated and regulated, it can never be definitively posited: as a result, one can situate the chora and, if necessary, lend it a topology, but one can never give it axiomatic form” (26).

Neither model nor copy, the chora precedes and underlies figuration and thus speculariation, and is analogous only to vocal or kinetic rhythm” (26).

The chora is “subject to a regulating process, which is different from that of symbolic law but nevertheless effectuates discontinuities by temporarily articulating them and then starting over, again and again” (26). This regulation is “dictated by natural or socio-historical contraints such as the biological difference between the sexes or family structure” (27). In other words, sociocultural processes, “always already symbolic,” mediate the chora “not according to a law [..] but through an ordering” (27).

The drives of the chora “connect and orient the body to the mother. […] The mother’s body is therefore what mediates the symbolic law organizing social relations and becomes the ordering principle of the semiotic chora, which is on the path of destruction, aggressivity, and death” (27-8).

“…the semiotic chora is no more than the place where the subject is both generated and negated, the place where his unity succumbs before the processes of charges and stases that produce him” (28). The chora is, in other words, both the birth and the impossibility of the subject.

“Signification exists precisely because there is no subject in signification. The gap between the imaged ego and drive motility, between the mother and the demand made on her, is precisely the break that establishes what Lacan calls the place of the Other as the place of the ‘signifier'” (48).

“The regulation of the semiotic in the symbolic through the thetic break, which is inherent in the operation of language, is also found on the various levels of a society’s signifying edifice. In all known archaic societies, this founding break of the symbolic order is represented by murder” (70). (could we see abortion as a kind of “thetic break”?)

“Poetry shows us that language lends itself to the penetration of the socio-symbolic by jouissance, and that the thetic does not necessarily imply theological sacrifice” (80).

“From its roots in ritual, poetry retains the expenditure of the thetic, its opening into semiotic vehemence and its capacity for letting jouissance come through. Faced with language and society, however, poetry no longer encounters a sacrifice that is suggestive of the thetic but rather thesis itself (logic—language—society). It can therefore no longer remain merely ‘poetry’; instead, through the positing of the thetic, poetry becomes an explicit confrontation between jouissance and the thetic, that is, a permanent struggle to show the facilitation of drives within the linguistic order itself” (81).

Genotext: semiotic processes and the advent of the symbolic (“drives, their disposition, and their division of the body, plus the ecological and social system surrounding the body, such as objects and pre-Oedipal relations with parents. The latter encompasses the emergence of object and subject, and the constitution of nuclei of meaning involving categories” (86). Genotext is “language’s underlying foundation” (87).

Phenotext: “language that serves to communicate, which linguistics describes in terms of ‘competence’ and ‘performance.’ The phenotext is constantly split up and divided, and is irreducible to the semiotic process that works through the genotext. The phenotext is a structure… it obeys rules of communication and presupposes a subject of enunciation and an addressee” (87)

The genotext, on the other hand “is a process” rather than a structure: “one might say that the genotext is a matter of topology, whereas the phenotext is one of algebra” (87).






Cixous & Clement, The Newly Born Woman

“…the marvelous monster of universal life was swallowed up inside her; that from now on life, death, everything was held within her entrails, and at the price of such painful labor, she had conceived Nature…” (also, the hysteric) (also, Helen of Troy): “These three figures of women have three men as their authors” (4). The male author writes the hysteric mystic woman; she rarely writes herself.

“The last figure, the hysteric, resumes and assumes the memories of the others…. Both [Freud and Michelet] thought that the repressed past survives in woman; woman, more than anyone else, is dedicated to reminiscence. The sorceress, who in the end is able to dream Nature and therefore conceive it, incarnates the reinscription of the traces of paganism that triumphant Christianity repressed. The hysteric, whose body is transformed into a theater for forgotten scenes, relives the past, bearing witness to a lost childhood that survives in suffering.

The feminine role, the role of sorceress, of hysteric, is ambiguous, antiestablishment, and conservative at the same time ….. The hysteric unties familiar bonds, introduces disorder into the well-regulated unfolding of everyday life, gives rise to magic in ostensible reason. These roles are conservative because every sorceress ends up being destroyed, and nothing is registered of her but mythical traces” (5).

The canon posits that “the critical periods of their (the women’s) life provoke surprises and apprehensions that give them a special position. In fact, it is exactly at puberty, during menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth, and after menopause, that the magical virtues of women reach their greatest intensity” (Marcel Mauss in A General Theory of Magic, qtd here 8). Not only are the critical periods of a woman’s life reproductive, but reproductive periods are magical, and give woman an “intensity” ostensibly absent in men.

The hysteric is the “only one who knew how to escape him [Freud]” (9).

Those who prosecuted witches said that the devil “fornicates” with witches and sorceresses (12).

Clément notes that the carnivalesque often elected a “mad-mother,” or an anti-Mary: “…are thus promoted to function as prophets, all the better prefiguring their group’s future because they are banished from it for being from the past” (25). “Bad mothers” = carnivalesque prophets (Bakhtin)

“We have exchanged so many words that we will end up unable to speak” ‘words have been able to become everybody’s thing.’ The exchange of women, on the other hand, has kept its original value, for women are both sign and value, sign and producer of sign. We know this perfectly well: it happens that women talk, that they step out of their function as sign” (28).


“No longer to exchange, that is, no longer to exchange women, to live without women, is outside history: without history” (29).

“the hysteric keeps her tears for herself and seems to be unfeeling and untouched, closed for use” (36). To refuse to weep/ feel perhaps maternal = to be closed for use

“…the hysteric does not write, does not produce, does nothing—nothing other than make things circulate without inscribing them…. The result: the clandestine sorceress was burned by the thousands; the deceitful and triumphant hysteric disappeared. But the master is there. He is the one who stays on permanently. He publishes writings” (37).

“keeping oneself in a state of permanent guilt is to constitute oneself as a subject. For the time being the guilty one is not the hysteric, but the hysteric is also not entirely a subject” (46).

The woman must circulate, not put into circulation. But the hysteric puts into circulation, as does the sorceress in her own manner; both of them violate exogamous exchange and transgress kinship” (53). (Book circulation, also. The primary reason it’s difficult to be a writer and w wife… to put into circulation is to be “closed for use”

Clément claims that “the sorceress is parthenogenetic” and that this is an important part of her sorcery. In some ways, the parthenogenesis of the sorceress/writer stands as an important counter to her refusal to “circulate” phallic children.

For Clément, the mystic/sorcerer is bisexual. “Of the mythical bisexuality that gets man immortality which is a far cry from being born of woman, let us keep the bird’s wings. Let’s keep—it’s the same thing—the witch’s broom, her taking off, her being swept away, her taking flight” (57).

“Where is she?









Form, convex, step, advance, semen, progress.

Matter, concave, ground—where steps are taken, holding- and dumping-ground.



Always the same metaphor…. If we read or speak, the same thread or double braid is leading us throughout literature, philosophy, criticism, centuries of representation and reflection” (63).

“Organization by hierarchy makes all conceptual organization subject to man. Male privilege, shown in the opposition between activity and passivity, which he uses to sustain himself. Traditionally, the question of sexual difference is treated by coupling it with the opposition: activity/passivity” (64).

“…as soon as the question of ontology raises its head, as soon as one asks oneself ‘what is it?,’ as soon as there is intended meaning. Intention: desire, authority—examine them and you are led right back . . . to the father. It is even possible not to notice that there is no place whatsoever for woman in the calculations. Ultimately the world of ‘being’ can function while precluding the mother. No need for a mother, as long as there is some motherliness…” (64).
“Philosophy is constructed on the premise of woman’s abasement. Subordination of the feminine to the masculine order, which gives the appearance of being the condition for the machinery’s functioning” (65).

“We are living in an age where the conceptual foundation of an ancient culture is in the process of being undermined by millions of a species of mole (Topoi, ground mines) never known before. When they wake up from among the dead, from among words, from among laws” (65). Sounds like Plath’s “Mushrooms”

“Bridebed, childbed, bed of death: thus woman’s trajectory is traced as she inscribes herself from bed to bed in Joyce’s Ulysses” (66). Woman is always lying down.

As she comes to writing, woman must ask herself, as Cixous does, “Who…. Am I…. For you?” (69).

“Everyone knows that a place exists which is not economically or politically indebted to all the vileness and compromise. That is not obliged to reproduce the system. That is writing. If there is a somewhere else that can escape the infernal repetition, it lies in that direction, where it writes itself, where it dreams, where it invents new worlds” (72).

“Every woman is a means. I see that clearly” (76). And the end of the means is not the baby: it is the reflection of the father in the son.

Bisexuality as fantasy: 84

In some way, Cixous argues, “woman is bisexual, man having been trained to aim for glorious phallic monosexuality” (85).

“I will say: today, writing is woman’s. That is not a provocation, it means that woman admits there is an other” (85). Admitting that there is an other leads to writing.

“If there is a self proper to woman, paradoxically it is her capacity to de-propriate herself without self-interest: endless body, without ‘end,’ without principal ‘parts’; if she is whole, it is a whole made up of parts that are wholes…. That doesn’t mean that she is undifferentiated magma; it means that she doesn’t create a monarchy of her body or her desire” (87).

The relation borne to the child must also be rethought. …It will be the task of woman and man to make the old relationship and all its consequences out-of-date; to think the launching of a new subject, into life, with de-familialization. Rather than depriving woman of a fascinating time in the life of her body just to guard against procreation’s being recuperated, let’s de-mater-paternalize. Let’s get out of the dialectic that claims the child is its parents’ death. The child is the other but the other without violence. ….. For if there is a specific thing repressed, that is where it is found: the taboo of the pregnant woman (which says a lot about the power that seems invested in her). It is because they have always suspected that the pregnant woman not only doubles her market value but, especially, valorizes herself as a woman in her own eyes, and undeniably takes on weight and sex. There are a thousand ways of living a pregnancy, of having or not having a relationship of another intensity with this still invisible other” (90).

“Even if phallic mystification has contaminated good relations in general, woman is never far from the ‘mother’ (I do not mean the role but the ‘mother’ as no-name and as source of goods_. There is always at least a little good mother milk left in her. She writes with white ink” (94).

“When I write, all those that we don’t know we can be write themselve from me, without exclusion, without prediction, and everything that we will be calls us to the tireless, intoxicating, tender-costly search for love. We will never lack ourselves” (100).

Joyce on Fatherhood in Ulysses:

“Fatherhood, in teh sense of conscious begetting, is unknown to man. It is a mystical estate, an apostolic succession, from only begetter to only begotten. On that mystery and not on teh madonna which the cunning Italian intellect flung to the mob of Europe the church is founded and refounded irremovably because founded, like the world, macro- and micro-cosm, upon the void. Upon uncertitude, upon unlikelihood. Amor matris, subjective and objective genitive, may be the only true thing in life” (qtd here 101).

“Fatherhood is a legal fiction,’ said Joyce. Paternity, which is a fiction, is fiction passing itself off as truth. Paternity is the lack of being which is called God. Men’s cleverness was in passing themselves off as fathers and ‘repatriating’ women’s fruit as their own. A naming trick. Magic of absence. God is men’s secret” (101). “The father is always dependent on the child, who decides whether to recognize or reject him” (111).







Johnson, Mother Tongues

“The Poet’s Mother”

Johnson argues that while her essay “Apostrophe, Animation, Abortion” may be “valid for the poet, [it] does not take into account the mother’s address to the child” (66).

“A child comes into language through the mother’s address. … Might poetry be an attempt not to address the mother but to hear her voice? Is poetry perhaps a way of being addressed?” (66).

“When floods of violence are unleashed toward the mother, there seems to be no taboo against participating in it. And yet what the critics in both cases hold against the mother is her attempt to live up to an idea of responsible maternal behavior—which those same critics would claim they value” (79).

“What the idea of perfect motherhood excludes for the mother, in any case, is—her life. That is, a mother who adapts too well or too long to a child’s needs and doesn’t agree to ‘fail’ at mothering may not be perceived as a separate person, but as part of the self” (84).

“The mother’s limitations cannot be forgiven” (85).

“The perfect fusion of mother and child never existed even in the womb, but the discovery that the mother has a life is called, by Freud and Lacan, castration. The phallic mother is thus the ideal everyone wants the mother to live up to, the ideal of perfect reciprocity, perfect knowledge, total response. It is not that people know that that is what they want, but that they suddenly notice they have lost something, and that if ‘castration’ is the name for that loss, the phallic mother must have once existed” (87).

“We are holding against them [mothers] the wielding of a power that they do not really possess. In the final analysis, we are just as likely to resemble them as to resemble their genius children. We have met the enemy and, whether we like it or not, she is us” (93).

Morrison, The Movement

“On 1 October 1954, an anonymous leading article entitled ‘In the Movement’ appeared in the London weekly periodical the Spectator. The article drew attention to the emergence of a group of wirters who, it claimed, represented something new in British literature and society. The ‘modern Britain’ of the 1950s was, the article argued, a ‘changed place’ […] Literary ‘Taste’ (and here the article adopted a hectoring tone calculated to alarm those who value keeping up with changes in fashion) had begun to move in new directions” (1).

The movement involves writers like Elizabeth Jennings, Phillip Larkin, Kingsley Amis, D. J. Enright

Elizabeth Jennings argued that “it is the journalists, not the poets themselves, who have created the poetic movements of the 1950s” (qtd 4)

The movement in many ways “succeed[ed] the Georgians,” as Edna Longley put it (here 7)

The movement can be traced to the friendship between Larkin and Amis in the 1940s at Oxford University

Larkin was “beginning to formulate the idea of a self-effacing, unobtrusive, ‘modest’ poetry” (20). v. Imagism and Pound specifically

The Movement posited itself against “effete and upper-middle-class” poets as “tough, heterosexual and beer-drinking” (31).

deplored both “political reportage (1930s poetry) and metaphorical lavishness (1940s poetry)” (35).

Movement poets like Davie were interested in an ‘economy of metaphor’ rather than a lavish metaphorical system, and were interested “not in experimenting with language, but in ‘purifying; it and in revitalizing old usages…retrenchment was more valuable than innovation” (39).

Larkin “characterized the present moment as one of retrenchment: ‘a period of expansion has to be followed by a period of consolidation'” (44).

critics constructed the Movement poets as “the decent man” as opposed to “the gentleman” (55-6). The Movement offered, however, ‘only a token rebellion, and did not attempt to change the social structure which made cultural ‘elitism’ possible” (77).

The Movement “judged that it must counter-act fragmentation by constructing what Wain, in an apologia for the Movement, calls ‘regular and disciplined verse forms'” (89).

The Movement had a preference “for emblem and riddle rather than symbol… the symbol casts a shadow, where the emblem doesn’t; the symbol aims to be suggestive, the emblem to be, even in its guise as riddle, ultimately explicit. Another difference might be that the emblem is made, fabricated, where the symbol is found” (119).

“Larkin’s poetry minimizes the interpretive process by including it within the text: what is inferred by the reader is limited by what has already ben inferred by the speaker, whose own struggle to ‘discover meaning’ is what the poem dramatizes. The reader is ‘helped’ (he cannot be confused as to what the poem means), but he is also restricted (the only meaning he takes away from the poem is the one found for him by the speaker). In its treatment of the reader, Movement poetry offers a sharp contrast with Modernism. […] there is no opportunity to wander off the beaten track” (143).

This is, as Jonathan Raban calls it, “the nicest and kindest form of paternal dictatorship” (144).



Johnson, A World of Difference

“Mallarmé as Mother”

—not as “overcomer of womb envy”

—not as “woman” or effiminate

—not “female social position”/persona

but the mother/ mother function

“I would like to situate what is maternal in Mallarmé as a function or structure, defined not in terms of a female figure but in terms of a specific set of interactions and transactions that structure the relation between the earliest parent and child” (137-8).

“What, in other words, was the question on which Mallarmé-as-mother seemed to shed light? The question might be formulated as follows: what is it about Mallarmé’s writing that is capable of exerting intense fascination in some cases and intense discomfort or rejection in others? What is the nature of the appeal, and of the threat? What sorts of unconscious wishes or fears does Mallarmé’s poetry evoke in the reader?” (138).

These characteristics are:

“1. Obscurity, difficulty;

2. Lack of determinable meaning: undecidability, ambiguity, plays of the signifier;

3. Impersonality, distance, negativity;

4. Inseparability of a poem’s significance from the reading or writing process: poems seem to be about their own production or interpretation” (138).

“The separation-individuation process described by [psychoanalyst Margaret] Mahler moves from mother-child symbiosis toward greater and greater autonomy, through four subphases. The child is followed from the age of four or five months to about three years, from ‘lap-babyhood’ to ‘toddlerhood.’ Since the mother in these structures is defined not in terms of womb or breast but in terms of emotional and physical proximity, it is not structurally necessary that she be a woman, although Mahler never considers this” (138).

“Mallarmé as mother of his poems would be playing out the maternal ambivalence toward separation: on the one hand, he directs his poems toward an idealized image of autonomy; on the other hand, he cannot let them go” (140).

“It is this forever undecipherable yet somehow maternal sibylline whiteness—or indecidability as maternity—that flows and is articulated through the poetry of Mallarmé. Les blancs sketch out presence and absence, pure semantic flux and pure syntactic division, separation and reunion. But the blanks in the text do not simply make the mother present; they recreate the drama of the simultaneity of attachment and detachment that defines the maternal function” (141).

“The desire to merge is satisfied by the poem’s absorption of the reader into its structures of obscurity and undecidability. And the fear of separation is evoked by the abyss of nonreferentiality or impersonality, while the fear of merger is evoked by the loss of the ability to control or master meaning” (141).

“…a man whose work consists of questioning certain assumptions and structures of phallogocentrism—the determinability of meaning, the separability of binary opposites, the search for self-identity—would somehow appear to fill the maternal role better, more effectively, than a woman. […] But the fact that the maternal function is wielded by men—indeed, that literature is one of the ways in which men have elaborated the maternal position—means that the silence of actual women is all the more effectively enforced. With men playing all the parts, the drama appears less incomplete than it really is. Were women to take over the critique of the paternal position, they might not remain content with the maternal role” (141-2).

“For although the mother is seen as powerful, her power, viewed exclusively through the eyes of the child, is a power that must be overcome, outgrown, escaped. Whether that power is nurturing or smothering, it is seen as a threat to autonomy” (142).

“The function of the mother—or of nurturing parent of either sex—should be analyzed otherwise than through the eyes of a child—indeed, implicitly, a male child—a child-theorist whose wishful anticipation of a free, self-identical needlessness has always dreamed human maturity as the completion of a separation that in fact can only be achieved in death. The figure of the mother should be analyzed as the subject of discourse rather than as the source of life or the object of desire and anger” (143).


“Apostrophe, Animation, and Abortion”

“In an essay in The Pursuit of Signs, Jonathan Culler indeed sees apostrophe as an embarrassingly explicit emblem of procedures in The Pursuit of Signs, Jonathan Culler indeed sees apostrophe as an embarrassingly explicit emblem of procedures inherent, but usually better hidden, in lyric poetry as such. Apostrophe in the sense in which I will be using it involves the direct address of an absent, dead, or inanimate being by a first-person speaker: ‘O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being.’ Apostrophe is thus both direct and indirect: based etymologically on the notion of turning aside, of digressing from straight speech, it manipulates the I/thou structure of direct address in an indirect, fictionalized way. The absent, dead, or inanimate entity addressed is thereby made present, animate, and anthropomorphic. Apostrophe is a form of ventriloquism through which the speaker throws voice, life, and human form into the addressee, turning its silence into mute responsiveness” (185). Also think about Freud’s apostrophe as he addresses women as the problem 

In the final section of Shelley’s poem, he commands the wind: “be thou me.” Johnson argues that here Shelley is attempting “to restore metaphorical exchange and equality. If apostrophe is the giving of voice, the throwing of voice, the giving of animation, then a poet using it is always in a sense saying to the addressee, ‘Be thou me.’ But this implies that a poet has animation to give. Ad that is what this poem is saying is not, or no longer, the case. Shelley’s speaker’s own sense of animation is precisely what is in doubt, so that he is in effect saying to the wind, ‘I will animate you so that you will animate, or reanimate me'” (188). Perhaps woman’s apostrophe of mother claims self-animation with the “be thou me” that she addresses to the child; perhaps, indeed, man’s apostrophe of mother; Freud’s apostrophe of woman, commands “be thou me” to both woman and child in order to see his own subjectivity mirrored in his erotic double and its subsequent child.

“In Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem ‘The Mother,’ the structures of address are shifting and complex. In the first line (“Abortions will not let you forget”), there is a ‘you’ but there is no ‘I’. Instead, the subject of the sentence is the word ‘abortions,’ which thus assumes a position of grammatical control over the poem. […] The grammatical I/thou starting point of traditional apostrophe has been replaced by a structure in which the speaker is simultaneously eclipsed, alienated, and confused with the addressee. It is already clear that something has happened to the possibility of establishing a clear-cut distinction in this poem between subject and object, agent and victim” (189).

“Gwendolyn Brooks, in other words, is here rewriting the male lyric tradition, textually placing aborted children in the spot formerly occupied by all the dead, inanimate, or absent entities previously addressed by the lyric. And the question of animation and anthropomorphism is thereby given a new and disturbing twist. For if apostrophe is said to involve language’s capacity to give life and human form to something dead or inanimate, what happens when those questions are literalized? What happens when the lyric speaker assumes responsibility for producing the death in the first place, but without being sure of the precise degree of human animation that existed in the entity killed? What is the debate over abortion about, indeed, if not the question of when, precisely, a being assumes a human form?” (189).

“By not closing the quotation in its final line, the poem, which began by confusing the reader with the aborter, ends by implicitly including the reader among those aborted—and loved. The poem can no more distinguish between ‘I’ and ‘you’ than it can come up with a proper definition of life” (190).

“It is deliberateness, for instance, that underlies that epic of separation and self-reliant autonomy, Thoreau’s Walden. ‘I went to the woods,’ writes Thoreau, ‘because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life.’ Clearly, for Thoreau, pregnancy was not an essential fact of life. Yet for him as well as for every human being that has yet existed, someone else’s pregnancy was the very first fact of life. How might the plot of human subjectivity be reconceived (so to speak) if pregnancy rather than autonomy is what raises the question of deliberateness?” (190).

[In In a Different Voice, Carol Gilligan argues that there is a difference between the male and female point of view] “because it is not always possible to make symmetrical oppositions. As long as there is symmetry, one is not dealing with difference but rather with versions of the same. [Carol] Gilligan’s difference arises out of the impossibility of maintaining a rigorously logical binary model for ethical choices. Female logic, as she defines, it is a way of rethinking the logic of choice in a situation in which none of the choices are good. ‘Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate’: believe that the agent is not entirely autonomous, believe that I can be subject and object of violence at the same time, believe that I have not chosen the conditions under which I must choose. […] The choice is not between violence and nonviolence, but between simple violence to a fetus and complex, less determinate violence to an involuntary mother and/or an unwanted child” (191).

This poem “attempts the impossible task of humanizing both the mother and the aborted children while presenting the inadequacy of language to resolve the dilemma without violence” (191).

“If the fact that the speaker addresses the children at all makes them human, then she must pronounce herself guilty of murder—but only if she discontinues her apostrophe. As long as she addresses the children, she can keep them alive, can keep from finishing with the act of killing them. […] The children are a rhetorical extension of the mother, but she, as the poem’s title indicates, has no existence apart from her relation to them” (192).

Discussing Lucille Clifton’s “The Lost Baby Poem”: “By choosing the word ‘dropped’… Clifton renders it unclear whether the child has been lost through abortion or through miscarriage. […] For a black woman, the loss of a baby can always be perceived as a complicity with genocide. The black mother sees her own choice as one of being either a stranger or a rock. The humanization of the lost baby addressed by the poem is thus carried out at the cost of dehumanizing, even rendering inanimate, the calling mother” (195).

“Yet each of these poems exists, finally, because a child does not” (195).

While death in the male tradition of lyric poetry “is as much a source as it is a threat to writing,” is even as Johnson argues, “the mother of poetry,” for female poets, motherhood “is precisely the death of poetry” (196). Johnson notes that “The Western myth of the conjunction of word and flesh implied by the word ‘incarnate’ is undone by images of language floating and vanishing into the bowl of the toilet of real fleshly needs. The word is not made flesh; rather, flesh unmakes the mother-poet’s words” (196). Incarnate–> word (logos) made flesh (in phallic mother and phallic child?)

In each of these poems, “a kind of competition is implicitly instated between the bearing of children and the writing of poems. Something unsettling has happened to the analogy often drawn by male poets between artistic creation and procreation” (196).

Johnson notes that the first stanza in Sir Philip Sidney’s “Astrophil and Stella” describes the poet as “great with child to speak,” but that the “poem is ultimately produced at the expense of no literalized child. Sidney’s labor pains are smoothed away with a midwifely apostrophe (‘Fool,’ said my Muse to me, ‘look in thy heart, and write!’), and by a sort of poetic Caesarian section, out springs the poem we have, in fact, already finished reading” (197). Jonson, in “On my First Son,” “calls his dead child ‘his best piece of poetry'” (197).

“…it is not surprising that the substitution of art for children should not be inherently transgressive for the male poet. Men have in a sense always had no choice but to substitute something for the literal process of birth. […] It is as though male writing were by nature procreative, while female writing is somehow by nature infanticial” (198).

“When a woman speaks out about the death of children in any sense other than that of pure loss, a powerful taboo is being violated. The indistinguishability of miscarriage and abortion in the Clifton poem indeed points to the notion that any death of a child is perceived as a crime committed by the mother, something a mother ought by definition to be able to prevent” (198).

Johnson argues that “lyric poetry itself—summed up in the figure of apostrophe—comes to look like the fantastically intricate history of endless elaborations and displacements of the single cry, ‘Mama!'” (199).

“The difficulty in all three would seem to reside in the attempt to achieve a full elaboration of any discursive position other than that of child” (199). Difficult because we refuse to ask mothers


Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

Opening sentence: “Woman? Very simple, say those who like simple answers: she is a womb, an ovary; she is a female: this word is enough to define her…. the term ‘female’ is pejorative not because it roots woman in nature but because it confines her in sex, and if this sex, even in an innocent animal, seems despicable and an enemy to man, it is obviously because of the disquieting hostility woman triggers in him. Nevertheless, he wants to find a justification in biology for this feeling. The word ‘female’ evokes a saraband of images…” (21). (not even the womb is enough to define her: the WORD womb is enough to define her)

“The question is how, in her, nature has been taken on in the course of history; the question is what humanity has made of the human female” (48). And, as Muriel Rukeyser reminds us, we all know that “humanity” means “men.”

“Like all religions—Christianity or Marxism— it [psychoanalysis] displays an unsettling flexibility against a background of rigid concepts. Sometimes words are taken in their narrowest meanings, the term ‘phallus’ for example, designating very precisely the fleshy growth that is the male sex organ; at other times, infinitely broadened, they take on symbolic value: the phallus would express all of the virile character and situation as a whole” (49).

“the hero has to rise up against the Magna Mater. As a specialist in heroism, he has undertaken the task of dislodging her” (214).

“…it is clear from the explicit criticisms that Motherlant addresses to woman-mother that what he hates in her is his own birth. He thinks he is God; he wants to be God; because he is male, because he is a ‘superior man,’ because he is Montherlant. A god is not engendered; his body, if he has one, is a will molded in hard and disciplined muscles, not in flesh mutely inhabited by life and death; this flesh that he repudiates is perishable, contingent, and vulnerable and is his mother’s fault. The only part of Achilles’ body that was vulnerable was the part his mother had held” (215).

“…the woman lover is just as harmful as the mother; she prevents man from resurrecting the god in himself” (215).

“It is through motherhood that woman fully achieves her physiological destiny; that is her ‘natural’ vocation, since her whole organism is directed toward the perpetuation of the species. But we have already shown that human society is never left to nature. And in particular, for about a century, the reproductive function has no longer been controlled by biological chance alone but by design” (524).

“Men tend to take abortion lightly; they consider it one of those numerous accidents to which the malignity of nature has destined women: they do not grasp the values involved in it. The woman repudiates feminine values, her values, at the moment the male ethic is contested in the most radical way. Her whole moral future is shaken by it. Indeed, from childhood woman is repeatedly told she is made to bear children, and the praises of motherhood are sung; the disadvantages of her condition‚periods, illness, and such—the boredom of household tasks, all this is justified by this marvelous privilege she holds, that of bringing children into the world. And in an instant, the man, to keep his freedom and not to handicap his future, in the interest of his job, asks the woman to renounce her female triumph. The child is no longer a priceless treasure: giving birth is no longer a sacred function: this proliferation becomes contingent and inopportune, and it is again one of femininity’s defects…. Even consenting to and wanting an abortion, woman feels her femininity sacrificed: she will from now on definitively see in her sex a malediction, a kind of infirmity, a danger” (532). De Beauvoir oddly follows this by adding that the trauma abortion sometimes causes “some women [to] become homosexual” (532).

“Men universally forbid abortion; but they accept it individually as a convenient solution; they can contradict themselves with dizzying cynicism; but woman feels the contradictions in her wounded flesh; she is generally too shy to deliberately revolt against masculine bad faith […] it is she who translates these phrases into pain and blood” (532).

“With her first abortion, the woman begins to ‘understand'” (532).

“We have seen that in childhood and adolescence woman goes through several phases in connection with motherhood. When she is a little girl, it is a miracle and a game: she sees in the doll and she feels i the future child an object to possess and dominate. As an adolescent girl, on the contrary, she sees in it a threat to the integrity of her precious person” (533).

De Beauvoir oddly and erroneously claims that sometimes “conception is prevented by a psychic defense mechanism” (534) and later that “almost all spontaneous miscarriages have a psychic origin” (542).

Some women, de Beauvoir claims, are “breeders” rather than “mothers” who “eagerly seek the possibility of alienating their liberty to the benefit of their flesh: their existence appears to them to be tranquility justified by the passive fertility of their body” (539).

Hegel says that “the birth of children is the death of parents” (540).

“Some women say they felt creative power during childbirth; they truly accomplished a voluntary and productive piece of work; many others feel passive, a suffering and tortured instrument” (549). (Rich, Of Woman Born)

Of one birth story, “In her pregnancy reveries he was an image, he was infinite, and the mother mentally played out her future motherhood; now he is a tiny, finite individual, he is really there, contingent, fragile, demanding. The joy that he is finally here, quite real, is mingled with the regret that this is all he is” (550).

“These examples all prove that there is no such thing as maternal ‘instinct’: the word does not in any case apply to the human species. The mother’s attitude is defined by her total situation and by the way she accepts it. It is, as we have seen, extremely variable” (554).

“The great risk our mores present for the infant is that the mother to whom he is tied and bound is almost always an unfulfilled woman: sexually she is frigid or unsatisfied; socially she feels inferior to man; she has no hold on the world or the future; she will try to compensate for her frustrations through the child….. her behavior is symbolic: but these symbols become bitter reality for the child” (556).

“The pleasure man savors in women—feeling absolutely superior—is something a woman experiences only toward her children…” (563).

“….the child is the enemy of waxed floors. Maternal love is often lost in the reprimands and outbursts that underlie the concerns for a well-kept home…. she always loses on some level” (569).

“Precisely because the idea of femininity is artificially defined by customs and fashion, it is imposed on every woman from the outside; it may evolve so that its fashion standards come closer to that of men… That does not change the core of the problem: the individual is not free to shape the idea of femininity at will. […] There is no negative attitude that does not imply a positive counterpart. The adolescent girl often thinks she can simply scorn convention; but by doing so, she is making a statement; she is creating a new situation involving consequences she will have to assume. […] A flamboyantly dressed woman is lying when she ingenuously claims she is simply dressing to suit herself, and that is all: she knows perfectly well that suiting herself is an absurdity” (724).



Gallop, The Daughter’s Seduction

It’s important to remember that “Freud’s contribution to man’s understanding of himself is a description of the human being in culture, not of the natural animal, man” (3).

“Metonymy is a phallic conceit, the part standing for the whole, standing for the hole. The substitution of the phallus (one sexual part) for the whole of sexuality is an example of metonymy, not what it should be (metonymy properly should have a varied definition with many sorts of relations), but what it stubbornly insists upon being (continually misconstrued as the part for the whole” (20). Definition itself is also metonymical; if desire is metonymical, so is the feminine function

“Unlike ‘desire,’ unlike Freudian masculine libido, feminine sexuality is not subject to metonymy, mediation and sublimation. Desire may always be masculine, but not sexuality. IF the sexuality of desire (mediated, sublimated) is phallocratic, if desire is eccentric, feminine sexuality (immediate, olfactory) is, according to Montrelay, concentric” (28).

“le sexe” is a common French euphemism for woman (so Irigaray’s sex that is not one is also a woman that is not one) (31)

Shoshanna Felman notes in her article “La Méprise” that Lacan’s writing is “poetic, allusive, contradictory. The ladies’ man is an expert at flirtation. Unlike the man’s man, philosopher or hunter, who spends his time with serious, frank confrontations, the ladies’ man is always embroiled in coquetry: his words necessarily and erotically ambiguous” (35). (Lacan is a “ladies man” who plays with ecriture feminine in order to mimic women)

“Hysterical speech, formless and useless like the discharges of a womb. Like Lacan who babbles on for years before anyone understands him?” (39)

Gallop notes that Irigaray’s essay “Mécanique” argues that “one must know how to listen otherwise than in good form(s) in order to hear what [woman] says” (40).

For Lacan, “The sexual relation falls short an the human being reproduces itself, produces an object distinguished from the flow. ‘The speaking body only reproduces itself thanks to a miscarriage of what it means to say, since what it means to say… is its actual pleasure” (41). In other words, in Lacan’s formulation, speech is a miscarried pregnancy, and the speaking subject’s failed linguistic generativity is in fact an act of failed reproduction.

“What is this feminist practice of unauthorization? In Encore, Lacan defines an ‘authorized thought’ as a’a thought bequeathed with an author’s name’ (p.51). Bequeathed, legally left: for example, from father to son. The authorized partakes of the legal and the name. The authorized, legitimate thought bears the author’s name; the unauthorized, the illegitimate lacks the Name-of-the-Father” (47).

“Infidelity is a use value, the use of the woman one does not possess, one is not authorized to exchange” (49).

“Lacan in the Saint Teresa quotation classes his own Ecrits with the mystics, that is, on the side of female jouissance, the side of the pas-tout” (52).

Lacan argues that we must “make use, but really use them up, really wear out these old words, wear them threadbare, use them until they’re thoroughly hackneyed’ ….. What a way of ruining exchange value by use!” (55).

“To have a theory of woman is already to reduce the plurality of woman to the coherent and thus phallocentric representations of theory… How can she avoid it without simply giving up speaking, leaving authority to men and phallocentrism?” (63).

(Of Irigaray’s Ce Sexe Qui N’en est pas un)

“To speak ‘the same language’ is to speak the langue maternelle, the mother tongue, taught the daughter by her mother. Irigaray does not want to ‘reproduce the same history,’ and ‘reproduce’ is the mother’s domain. No wonder then that the parenthetical throw-back is addressed to the mother. The obligation to reproduce—the daughter’s obligation to reproduce the mother, the mother’s story—is a more difficult obstacle than even the Father’s Law, an obstacle that necessarily intrudes even into the lovely, liberated space of women among themselves” (113).

“That is the ghost which parenthetically spoils Irigaray’s idyll. To say ‘Mother, I prefer a woman to you’ is naively to believe one could ever totally separate the woman from the mother, could define femininity with no reference to maternity” (116).

“The threat represented by the mother to this feminine idyll might be understood through the notion that Mother, though female, is none the less phallic. So, as an afterthought, not only men, but Mother must be expelled from the innocent, non-phallic paradise. The inability to separate the daughter, the woman, from the mother then becomes the structural impossibility of evading the Phallus” (118).








Lacan, “On Jouissance”

“What is jouissance? Here it amounts to no more than a negative instance. Jouissance is what serves no purpose” (3).

“Don’t talk to me about women’s secondary sexual characteristics because, barring some sort of radical change, it is those of the mother that take precedence in her. Nothing distinguishes woman as a sexed being other than her sexual organ (“sexe”)” (7). There is no women, but there are mothers. The mother is real; women are not.

“The sexed being of these not-whole women does not involve the body but what results from a logical exigency in speech. Indeed, logic, the coherence inscribed in the fact that language exists and that it is outside the bodies that are moved by it—in short, the Other who is incarnated so to speak, as sexed being—requires this one by one” (10).

“From the moment there ar enames, one can make a list of women and count them. If there are mille e tre of them, it’s clear that one can take them one by one—that is what is essential. That is entirely different from the One of universal fusion. If woman were not not-whole—if, in her body, she were not not-whole as a sexed being—none of that would hold true” (10).


Jane Gallop notes that Lacan’s decision that Woman doesn’t exist hits right at the start of the feminist movement (1958)

Cixous, The Day I Wasn’t There

Cixous, Hélène. The Day I Wasn’t There. Northwestern University Press, 2006.

phrases she uses to describe the baby:

“feather-headed fossil of an unfledged child” (6)

“monstrous child” (7)

“my son the dead” (25)

the badly written child—that I wrote badly” (54)

“Surprised, I wept, And I don’t know why. Maternity rendered, maternity lost. It was for lack of thought and the fault of words… My son the one who is dead, my former son my son who is no longer my son. And the one I call my son is my son the living. The other is outside, he was there for so long that I never think of him to his face” (27).

“What a surprise this child, this child which doesn’t seem to be hers, who differs, who doesn’t look like, this fish gasping as if it needed to go back in the water, one expects a surprise but instead of the expected surprise it’s an entirely different one, O mysterious power of the new arrival who upsets the millions of expectations of milleniums of images, O eternally astonishing natural phenomenon forever never seen before. And this one here, he’s the champion. He evades her absolutely, she doesn’t remember him at all. She doesn’t conceive of him” (28-9).

Her own father passes through her in order to become the botched newborn (34)

“The child a duty a copy, a debt. The child for the husband. All these children who are bits of the husband, given back to the husband, these owed children, the chips you counted on to save your skin. Only the little mongolian is free of charge. On one side all those newborns heavily laden, all those offspring who entered into the family calculations, those children made to save their mothers from opprobium, wrinkled trophies the woman counts on to obtain indulgence or her life. On the other the free of charge, the mongolian” (70). (The “botched child” escapes the child function)

“All those women accused of child, of no-child, of child not like this not like that, all those guilty by definition… In the Clinic my son grew heavy with meaning” (75).



Loraux, Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman

Loraux, Nicole. Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman. Harvard University Press, 1997.

“Women in tragedy died violently. More precisely, it was in this violence that woman mastered her death, a death that was not simply the end of an exemplary life as a spouse. It was a death that belonged to her totally…” (4). (Plath, Smith)

“…hanging was associated with marriage—or, rather, with an excessive valuation of the status of bride—while a suicide that shed blood was associated with maternity, through which a wife, in her ‘heroic’ pains of childbirth, found complete fulfillment. I still abide by that reading” (15). (Plath’s suicide then was the opposite of maternity; an anti-maternity)

“…the woman in tragedy is more entitled to play the man in her death than the man is to assume any aspect of woman’s conduct, even in his manner of death. For women there is liberty in tragedy—liberty in death” (17).

“Silence is the adornment of women. Sophocles said so, and Aristotle repeated it… But women in tragedy have become involved in men’s world of action and have suffered for it” (21).

“[Women] are free enough to kill themselves, but they are not free enough to escape from the space to which they belong, and the remote sanctum where they meet their death is equally the symbol of their life—a life that finds its meaning outside the self and is fulfilled only in the institutions of marriage and maternity, which tie women to the world and lives of men. It is by men that women meet their death, and it is for men, usually, that they kill themselves. By a man, for a man… So the death of women confirms or reestablishes their connection with marriage and maternity” (23).

“It is true that ‘good’ wives are not material for tragedy” (28).

Virgins, however, “do not kill themselves: they are killed” (31).

“…there are no words available to denote the glory of a woman that do not belong to the language of male renown. And glory always makes the blood of women flow” (48).

“…the gynecologial thinking of the Greeks, where woman is caught between two mouths, between two necks, where vagaries of the womb suddenly choke the voice in a woman’s throat, and where many a young girl old enough to be a nymphe hangs herself to escape the threat of the terrifying suffocation inside her body” (61).

Woman’s death in suicide gives man a “controlled pleasure afforded by an enjoyment of the deviant when it is acted out, reflected upon, and tamed” (65). I wonder if by turning Plath into a myth we do the same (her death was about a man, etc.)



Loraux, Mothers in Mourning

Loraux, Nicole. Mothers in Mourning. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998.

She begins by discussing the Mother’s role in Shakespeare’s Richard III: “a mother’s sorrow is general in the sense that it is generic, a general sorrow that contains all mourning within itself” (3).

Loraux notes patriarchal political and family systems often breed a “hatred [all] the more fierce in that it feeds on sameness” (4). Lacan’s paternal system of analogy is violent, and results in female mourning, which “leads to cursing” (5).

The mourning of mothers is a “challenge to political life” insofar as the mourning leads to a curse of the patriarchal systems that allowed the son to die (7).

In Plato’s Republic, “we find surrender to grief and lamentation among the feminine forms of behavior that are not to be imitated” (11).

In Plato’s world as in that of the Greeks, “a woman can accomplish her télos (her goal) only in giving birth, and although there is no female citizenship, motherhood nonetheless counts as a civic activity. By giving birth, citizens’ wives assure their husbands perpetuation of their descent and name—without their intervention, there would be no patronymic—and thus they guarantee the continuation of the city” (12).

“Laws exist to delimit the bounds of mourning… By confining private funerals within extremely strict limits, the city regulates morning and the role played by women in the context of mourning. This also suggests that the city regulates mourning, and thus it regulates women” (19). (see Butler’s Antigone’s Claim)

“I would also like to suggest that mourning, perceived as essentially feminine, must be thrust aside by ascribing to women, and especially to mothers, as limited a role as possible, since in these laws—just as, in many respects, in the political thought of Aristotle—the main concern is to watch over the stability of the city without respite” (21).

“Ideally, feminine sorrow should be hermetically sealed inside the house” (25), not exposed like Antigone’s or cult-ified like Plath’s.

It’s important that the state both regulate and incorporate maternal pathos into itself in order to control it (40).

“More cruel yet than the fate of divine mothers in tragedy is that of mortal women: whether triumphant or heartbroken queens, they are always wounded in their motherhood” (49). And, as Loraux reminds us, “mothers kill” (49).

“These mothers are often murderers who, like Medea, kill their own children better to destroy their husbands. But then they always kill sons, hence depriving their spouse of the arrogant tranquility of a father whose sons will perpetuate his name and lineage. It is not that these heartbroken mothers kill the children to whom they gave birth, but because the father annexed them to his own power, they thereby destroy the father in the husband” (51). They destroy, in other words, the father-function. 

“A mother never kills a daughter…but a mother whose husband has killed a daughter will in turn kill the guilty father. […] the daughter could be designated as odis, a word that refers to the act of childbirth, in its length and in its pain, just before the separation between mother and child is accomplished; the son could be said to be the lokheuma, the finished product of childbirth, already separate from the mother, already ready to be ‘civilized’ by paternal recognition” (52). (When Plath killed herself, did she kill herself as a son? As Loraux notes later, “mothers with sons are dangerous not only to their children but also to themselves” (58))

“A murderous mother always kills her son(s), because the important thing is to get at the husband who as a father is guilty of […] having compromised and destroyed the intimate relationship with the child” (52).

“In the Athenian agora, a place both centered in the present and highly symbolic of the political as democracy understands it, was a temple of the Mother, a temple of the Mother of the gods, to be more precise. This mother seems to have been virtually generic…” (67).

Loraux reminds us of Freud’s claims “concerning the ‘stamp of maternal characteristics’ in the life of the psyche, especially as regards love, compared with the skull’s conformation of the newborn—which ‘after a protracted labor always bears the form of a cast of the maternal pelvis'” (72).


Mitchell and Rose, Feminine Sexuality

Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the école freudienneEd. Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose, Trans. Jacqueline Rose. New York: Norton, 1982.

Mitchell, Juliet, “Introduction”

“The dominant ideology of today, as it was of the time and place when psychoanalysis was established, is humanism. Humanism believes that man is at the centre of his own history and of himself; he is a subject more or less in control of his own actions, exercising choice. Humanistic psychoanalytic practice is in danger of seeing the patient as someone who has lost control and a sense of a real or true self (identity) and it aims to help regain those” (4).

“As Freud put it: ‘In conformity with its peculiar nature, psychoanalysis does not try to describe what a woman is—that would be a task it could scarcely perform—but sets about enquiring how she comes into being” (Freud, XXII, qtd in Mitchell, 5).

“Lacan underlines and reformulates Freud’s position. The castration complex is the instance of the humanisation of the child in its sexual difference” (19).

“‘What,’ asks Freud, ‘does the woman [the little girl] want?’ All answers to the question, including ‘the mother’ are false: she simply wants” (24). Lack –> Voracity

In Freud’s work, “to be human is to be subjected to a law which decentres and divides: sexuality is created in a division, the subject is split; but an ideological world conceals this from the conscious subject who is supposed to feel whole and certain of a sexual identity. Psychoanalysis should aim at a destruction of this concealment and at a reconstruction of the subject’s construction in all its splits” (26).

“Introduction” by Jacqueline Rose

“Normal sexuality is […] strictly an ordering, one which the hysteric refuses (falls ill)” (28).

“For Lacan […] the very image which places the child divides its identity into two. Furthermore, that moment only has meaning in relation to the presence and the look of the mother who guarantees its reality for the child” (30). (Mother is, if not IN the mirror frame, looming nearby ostensibly)

“Lacan termed the order of language the symbolic, that of the ego and its identifications the imaginary (the stress, therefore, is quite deliberately on symbol and image, the idea of something which ‘stands in’). The real was then his term for the moment of impossibility onto which both are grafted, the point of that moment’s endless return” (31).

For Lacan, “desire” is the “remainder of the subject” (32). Could we see the neonate this way?

“For Lacan, the increasing stress on the mother-child relationship in analytic theory, and the rejection of the concept of castration had to be seen as related developments, because the latter only makes sense with reference to the wider symbolic order in which that relationship is played out” (36).

“The duality of the relation between mother and child must be broken, just as the analytic relation must be thrown onto the axis of desire. In Lacan’s account, the phallus stands for that moment of rupture. It refers mother and child to the dimension of the symbolic which is figured by the father’s place… Castration means first of all this—that the child’s desire for the mother does not refer to her but beyond her, to an object, the phallus, whose status is first imaginary…and then symbolic” (39).

“Lacan’s position should be read against two alternative emphases—on the actual behavior of the mother and on a literally present or absent father” (40).

For Lacan, sexuality belongs in the realm of the masquerade. “For Lacan, masquerade is the very definition of ‘femininity’ precisely because it is constructed with reference to a male sign” (43).

“…the phallic function rests on an exception (the ‘not’) which is assigned to her. Woman is excluded by the nature of words, meaning that the definition poses her as an exclusion. Note that this is not the same thing as saying that woman is excluded from the nature of words, a misreading which leads to the recasting of the whole problem in terms of woman’s place outside language, the idea that women might have of themselves an entirely different speech” (49).

For Lacan, “femininity is assigned to a point of origin prior to the mark of symbolic difference and the law. The privileged relationship of women to that origen gives them access to an archaic form of expressivity outside the circuit of linguistic change. This point of origin is the maternal body, an undifferentiated space, and yet one in which the girl child recognises her self” (54).

There is, as both Lacan and Mitchell note, “no feminine outside language” (55). Outside language there are no bodies as such, and there is no femininity as such.


Lacan, Jacques. “The Meaning of the Phallus”

“Only on the basis of the clinical facts can there be any fruitful discussion. These facts go to show that the relation of the subject to the phallus is set up regardless of the anatomical difference between the sexes, which is what makes its interpretation particularly intractable in the case of the woman and in relationship to her” (76). And yet, mothers have no place in the clinic; this is an artificial environment.)

“…the phallus is a signifier, a signifier whose function in the intrasubjective economy of analysis might lift the veil from that which it served in the mysteries. For it is to this signified that it is given to designate as a whole the effect of there being a signified, inasmuch as it conditions any such effect by its presence as signifier” (80).

The phallus is the privileged signifier of that mark where the share of the logos is wedded to the advent of desire. One might say that this signifier is chosen as what stands out as most easily seized upon in the real of sexual copulation, and also as the most symbolic in the literal (typographical) sense of the term, since it is the equivalent in that relation of the (logical) copula. One might also say that by virtue of its turgidity, it is the image of the vital flow as it is transmitted in generation” (82). “Flow” and “turgidity” have a privileged meaning in the Lacanian process of generation.

“…the phallus can only play its role as veiled, that is, as in itself the sign of the latency with which everything signifiable is struck as soon as it is raised to the function of signifier” (82). The signifier, in other words, cannot impregnate; it is latent.

“If the desire of the mother is the phallus, then the child wishes to be the phallus so as to satisfy this desire” (83). Again, this is from the perspective of the Male Psychoanalyst rather than the child.

“The function of the signifier here touches on its most profound relation: by way of which the Ancients embodied in it both the Nous (sense) and the Logos (reason)” (85). The phallus is embodied in Logos.


“Guiding Remarks for a Congress on Feminine Sexuality”

“…the vaginal orgasm has kept the darkness of its nature inviolate” (89). The subject of the sentence is “orgasm”; women couldn’t talk about it if they wanted.


“Feminine Sexuality in Psychoanalytic Discourse”

“…phallicism is an ‘unconscious phenomenon,’ if this somewhat risky expression be permitted, which has nothing natural about it for the boy any more so than for the girl…” (135).


“God and the Jouissance of The (crossed out) Woman”

“…short of castration, that is, short of something which says no to the phallic function, man has no chance of enjoying the body of the woman, in other words, of making love” (143). “Making love” = “enjoying the body of the woman” = someone has to be castrated: Sexton’s “we’ve all eaten the body of sacrificed women,” sometimes, in this case, our own

The woman can only be written with The crossed through. There is no such thing as The woman, where the definite article stands for the universal. There is no such thing as The woman since of her essence—having already risked the term, why think twice about it?—of her essence, she is not all” (144). “Not all” –> “no such thing” there is no feminine essence

“There is a jouissance proper to her, to this ‘her’ which does not exist and which signifies nothing. There is a jouissance proper to her and of which she herself may no nothing, except that she experiences it—that much she does know. She knows it of course when it happens. It does not happen to all of them” (145).

“What gives some likelihood to what I am arguing, that is, that the woman knows nothing of this jouissance, is that ever since we’ve been begging them […] begging them on our knees to try to tel us about it, well, not a word! We have never managed to get anything out of them. So as best we can, we designate this jouissance, vaginal, and talk about the rear pole of the opening of the uterus and other suchlike idiocies. If it was simply that she experiences it and knows nothing of it, then we would be able to cast considerable doubt on this notorious frigidity” (146).

“The mystical is by no means that which is not political. It is something serious, which a few people teach us about, and most often women or highly gifted people […] Despite, I won’t say their phallus, despite what encumbers them on that score, they get the idea, they sense that there must be a jouissance that goes beyond. That is what we call a mystic” (147). A mystic, in other words, is he or she who recognizes and has a desire, a jouissance, that goes beyond.

Many have, according to Lacan, “attempt[ed] to reduce the mystical to questions of fucking. If you look carefully, that is not what it is all about” (147).


“A Love Letter”

“This The cannot be said. Nothing can be said of the woman” (152).

“After that, to help you recover, all that remains is for me to speak to you about love” (152).

“In effect, as long as soul souls for soul, there is no sex in the affair. Sex does not count. The soul is conjured out of what is hommosexual, as is perfectly legible from history” (155).

Mysticism leads those who practice it to “the ultimate point” of “hysteria […] or of acting the name, as I call it, thereby becoming, they too, hommosexual or outsidesex. For it is difficult for them not to sense from then on the impasse of their soully liking themselves in the Other, since after all in being Other there is no need to know what one is” (156).

“A brief aside—when one is made into two, there is no going back on it. It can never revert to making one again, not even a new one” (156).


Havelock Ellis

From The Psychology of Sex


it starts with men: “A special and detailed study of the normal characters of the sexual impulse in men seems unnecessary…. Moreover, since the constitution of society has largely been in the hands of men, the nature of the sexual impulse in men has largely been expressed in the written and unwritten codes of social law. The sexual instinct in women is much more elusive” (189).

Ellis concludes that “since a large body of facts may be brought forward to support either [the view that the sexual impulse is greater in men, or the view that it is greater in women], roughly speaking, the distribution of the sexual impulse between the two sexes is fairly balanced” (256).


“In analyzing the sexual impulse I have so far deliberately kept out of view the maternal instinct. This is necessary, for the maternal instinct is specific and distinct; it is directed to an aim which, however intimately associated it may be with that of the sexual impulse proper, can by no means be confounded with it. Yet the emotion of love, as it has finally developed in the world, is not purely of sexual origin; it is partly sexual, but it is also partly parental.[169]

In so far as it is parental it is certainly mainly maternal”

“One woman stilled a desire for human flesh by biting the nates of children or the arms of men. Metals are also swallowed, such as iron, silver, etc. One pregnant woman wished to throw eggs in her husband’s face, and another to have her husband throw eggs in her face.”

“This fact, otherwise somewhat difficult of explanation, is natural if we look upon the longings of pregnancy as a revival of those of childhood”

“Old English opinion, as reflected, for instance, in Ben Jonson’s plays (as Dr. Harriet C. B. Alexander has pointed out), regards the pregnant woman as not responsible for her longings, ”

“The phenomena of the longings of pregnancy are linked to the much more obscure and dubious phenomena of the influence of maternal impressions on the child within the womb. It is true, indeed, that there is no real connection whatever between these two groups of manifestations, but they have been so widely and for so long closely associated in the popular mind that it is convenient to pass directly from one to the other. The same name is sometimes given to the two manifestations; thus in France a pregnant longing is an envie, while a mother’s mark on the child is also called an envie, because it is supposed to be due to the mother’s unsatisfied longing.”


“Correspondingly, then, and within the consciousness of the mother, there develops a new little minor consciousness which, although but lightly integrated with the mass of her consciousness, nevertheless has its part in her consciousness taken as a whole, much as the psychic correspondents of the action of the nerve which govern the secretions of the glands of the body have their part in her consciousness taken as a whole.”

“On the whole we see that pregnancy induces a psychic state which is at once, in healthy persons, one of full development and vigor, and at the same time one which, especially in individuals who are slightly abnormal, is apt to involve a state of strained or overstrained nervous tension and to evoke various manifestations which are in many respects still imperfectly understood. Even the specifically sexual emotions tend to be heightened, more especially during the earlier period of pregnancy”

“Pregnancy may produce mental depression;[200] but on the other hand it frequently leads to a change of the most favorable character in the mental and general well-being. Some women indeed are only well during pregnancy.”

“Even a woman’s intelligence is sometimes heightened by pregnancy, and Tarnier, as quoted by Vinay, knew many women whose intelligence, habitually somewhat obtuse, has only risen to the normal level during pregnancy.[202] The pregnant woman has reached the climax of womanhood; she has attained to that state toward which the periodically recurring menstrual wave has been drifting her at regular intervals throughout her sexual life[203]; she has achieved that function for which her body has been constructed, and her mental and emotional disposition adapted, through countless ages.”

The early days of human life,” it has been truly said, “are entirely one with the mother. On her manner of life—eating, drinking, sleeping, and thinking—what greatness may not hang?”[207] Schopenhauer observed, with misapplied horror, that there is nothing a woman is less modest about than the state of pregnancy, while Weininger exclaims: “Never yet has a pregnant woman given expression in any form—poem, memoirs, or gynæcological monograph—to her sensations or feelings.”[208] Yet when we contemplate the mystery of pregnancy and all that it involves, how trivial all such considerations become! We are here lifted into a region where our highest intelligence can only lead us to adoration, for we are gazing at a process in which the operations of Nature become one with the divine task of Creation.”


The Objectivist Nexus

Altieri, Charles. “The Objectivist Tradition.” In The Objectivist Nexus, ed. Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Peter Quartermaine. University of Alabama Press. 1999.


Zukofsky’s definition of Objectivism in “Sincerity and Objectification” (1931): “An objective; (Optics)—The lens bringing the rays from an object to a focus. (Military use)—That which is aimed at. (Use extended to poetry)—Desire for what is objectively perfect, inextricably the direction of historic and contemporary particulars” (25).

“On the most general level, there are probably two basic modes of lyric relatedness—symbolist and objectivist styles…the primary relations here are denotative (in an imaginary world) rather than connotative or metaphoric” (26).

Objectivist poetry moves against “the trumpet of a prophetic ego whose metaphors are its only authority” (28).

These poets recognize that “the sublime…is a faith that may have died” (29). Objectivism faces the dead sublime without irony.

in Prepositions, Zukofsky tells us of Pound and Eliot that “because of this quest for transcending specific objective conditions, poets lose any sense of firm ground on which the mind can rest and poetry achieve resolution. There is left only the triumph of will singing its own incoherence the louder for every self-conscious reminder of the fictive status of its half-believed mythic substitutes for religion” (30).


Hatlen, Burton. “A Poetics of Marginality and Resistance: The Objectivist Poets in Context.” In The Objectivist Nexus, ed. Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Peter Quartermaine. University of Alabama Press

The term objectivism “pointed back toward imagism as the wellspring of a new American poetics, while implicitly claiming that this new group of poets had gone beyond the image to re/discover the object itself” (37).

For Zukofsky, “the object offers itself to us as perfect” (39). This reinforces both the agency of the object and the objective reality of the material world.

Zukofsky was influenced by Pound: “A” is in many ways an “updated” Cantos (43)

Zukofsky uses many loose feminine end rhymes (50)


Crozier, Andrew. “Zukofsky’s List.” In The Objectivist Nexus, ed. Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Peter Quartermaine. University of Alabama Press. 1999.

Zukofsky recognizes many Modernist poets who “provide his point of departure,” but “not H..D.,” whose later work he say s”Suffers from an Anglicized dilution of metric and speech value” (281).

Nelson, Woman and the New York School

Nelson, Maggie. Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions. University of Iowa Press: 2007.

“Tales in and Out of School” (xiii-xxvii)

“For while O’Hara’s ‘Personism’ mocks the seriousness of other twentieth-century -isms, as many have noted, it isn’t entirely a spoof. His quip about reaching ‘true abstraction’ via a flood of personal details breezily dismantles the age-old opposition of the concrete and the abstract—another prototypical (if, again, unintentional) feminist gesture…” (xviii).


“Getting Particular: Gender at Play in the Work of John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, and James Schuyler” (49-98)

“Radical as the Beats may have been, Ginsberg’s early rants about men who ‘lost their love-boys to the three old shrews of fate the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb’ also link up with more mainstream and academic counterparts, from Jung’s mythos of the Terrible Mother, to Freud’s anxiety about the ‘universal tendency to debasement in the sphere of love,’ to Robert Lowell’s gothic depiction of heterosexual pathos in suburbia, to Robert Graves’s elaboration of the White Goddess, the psychotic flip side of the ‘one eyed shrew’ who imposes domestication on the male” (53).

In “Gender and Poetry,” Barbara Johnson notes that “the right to play femininity” constitutes the condition of possibility for male privilege itself (127 in The Feminist Difference)

While most male poetry abstracts concrete women into Muses, O’Hara’s poetry “repeatedly returns us to the historical presence and activities [of the Muse]. At the same moment that Robert Graves was busy making Laura Riding into the White Goddess, and Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath were collaborating on her role as such, O’Hara was pinpointing the activities of women he admired in space and time… In fact, O’Hara reconfigures the writer/muse dyad so completely that the word ‘muse’ no longer seems right” (58).

While O’Hara and Ashbery often write about the family scene, “of course neither […] had a traditional scène de famille complete with man, wife, screaming child…when I talk about these poets as embracing the domestic, I don’t necessarily mean the normative conception of such… The embrace I’m taking about has more to do with the ‘urban gay fetish of interiors’ that characterized 1950s gay taste in New York…” (72). (not real babies. )



Ettinger, The Matrixial Borderspace

Ettinger, Bracha. The Matrixial Borderspace. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006.

Forward by Judith Butler: “Bracha’s Eurydice”

“The ‘I’ who would narrate its early childhood has to take account of how that ‘I’ comes into being, and so it must account for the emergence of the ‘I’ who speaks, who tries to tell its story. But the ‘I’ was not always a storyteller” (vii).

Ettinger is “asking us to reformulate the very relation between the subject and its other, and to ask what precedes this encounter in which the phallus seeks to confirm its status, where the feminine acts only as a faulty mirror in the circuitry of that narcissism” (x).

Foreward by Griselda Pollock:

“Ettinger proposes matrixial sexual difference as a thinking apparatus for conductible affectivity, which gives voice to the affected body-psyche co-emerging with the other and the world. Matrixial difference arises from the sexual specificity of the feminine that every subject, irrespective of later sexuality or gender identification, encounters in the process of becoming, and from artworking” (3).

“Matrixial theory does not essentialize pregnancy as the very core of a woman’s femininity. That would in fact render the womb a phallic object: something that can be possessed or lost. It does, however, elevate its retheorized concept of matrixial feminine sexual difference to the level of a general dimension, element, or sphere in human subjectivity. According to the Matrix, the making of human life cannot be grasped without its distinctive severality, its jointness-in-seperateness. It is this structure of transsubjectivizing severality—not any organ or anatomy—that matrixial psychoanalytical theory elaborates” (4).

“Trauma, far from becoming an event, becomes the transcendent condition of creation” (8).

Ettinger and Lévinas had a conversation:

Levinas: “Woman is the category of the future, the ecastasy of the future. It is that human possibility which consists in saying that the life of another human being is more important than my own, that the death of the other is more important than my own death, that the Other comes before me, that the Other counts before I do… In the feminine there is the possibility of conceiving of a world without me, a world which has a meaning without me. But we would not be able to develop this idea in so few words. Many intellectual precautions are needed. There is too great a risk of misunderstanding…” (9-10).

“Ettinger states that ‘the Matrix is a prenatal symbolic space.’ This is blasphemy to both the psychoanalytic traditions for which prebirth speculations are mostly outlawed and to feminist thought, so perpetually self-policing about any claim of meaning for a sexually differentiated body” (12).

“Metramorphosis is a term that stands to the Matrix as a metaphor and metonymy stand to the Phallus in the process of meaning generation. Whereas metaphor and metonymy are figures of substitution, metramorphosis is a figure without center, focus, or division” (19).

“Working counter to Julia Kristeva’s image of pregnancy as an event without a subject, Ettinger refutes this exiling of feminine subjectivity and sexuality fro the site or space of the funamental event of severalizing, humanizing becoming. Our becoming, as men or women subjects-to-be, happens in the intimate framing of that which touches most intensely and exclusively on female sex difference” (27).

Ettinger, Matrixial Borderspace

“…proposing a matrixial subjectivity-as-encounter as a beyond-the-phallus feminine field related (in both men and women) to plural, partial, and shared unconscious, trauma, phantasy, and desire having imaginary and symbolic impact… This different, other passage I have termed metramorphosis. It draws a nonpsychotic yet beyond-the-phallus connection between the feminine and creation” (63). (It’s important to Ettinger that this creation is “nonpsychotic” — this does however reify the term “psychotic”)

Metramorphosis is a “creative principle” of “differentiation in co-emergence” (64). The mother and infant co-create meaning together. This breaks the passive-active binary

“In the matrixial stratum of subjectivization subjectivity is an encounter” (83).

The matrixial objet a is a “poietic” object (87).

The Matrix also challenges the binary Being / Nothingness: either/or is reducible to nothing; severality is not (113)

“The phallic gaze alleges that something was there and is now lost. The matrixial gaze indicates that something happened and the event has passed, and also that someones were there and these someones have already changed” (119). And that we were changed by them.

Woman and the prenatal are “Deportees from the symbolic” (119)

Double Bind: You can’t theorize pregnancy, birth, and child rearing until you’ve done it, but you can’t theorize well afterward because you are burdened with childcare

The phallic gaze “annihilates” while the matrixial gaze “scatters” and “diffracts” (154)

“The Mother is either an attractive object of father-son rivalry or a nursing object: either a copulating animal or a nourishing animal. In either of these roles a woman can also reappear as a Muse, the source of inspiration. But between copulating and nursing it seems that there is a void” (174).



Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence

Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of Influence. New York: Oxford University Press. 1979.

Prologue is entitled It Was A Great Marvel That They Were In The Father Without Knowing Him

“After he knew that he had fallen, outwards and downwards, away from the Fullness, he tried to remember what the Fullness had been.

He did remember, but found he was silent, and could not tell the others.

He wanted to tell them that she leapt farthest forward and fell into a passion apart from his embrace.

She was in great agony, and would have been swallowed up by the sweetness, had she not reached a limit, and stopped.

But the passion went on without her, and passed beyond the limit.

Sometimes he thought he was about to speak, but the silence continued.

He wanted to say: ‘strengthless and female fruit.'” (3).

First sentence of the introduction: “This short book offers a theory of poetry by way of a description of poetic influence, or the story of intra-poetic relationships” (5). Bloom’s theory of poetry formulates a paternalistic vision of “influence” based unsurprisingly in a the Lacanian analogue of Father and Son rather than the maternal diffusion of nutrients.

“…strong poets make that history by misreading one another, so as to clear imaginative space for themselves” (5). This creates “anxieties of indebtedness” (5).

“poetic influence, or, as I shall more frequently term it, poetic misprision, is necessarily the study of the life-cycle of the poet-as-poet” (7).

Six revisionary ratios: (14-15)

  1. Clinamen, or poetic misreading or misprision (a “swerve”)
  2. Tessera, or completion and antithesis (from the ancient mystery cults… a poet completes his precursor, as though the precursor “had failed to go far enough”)
  3. Kenosis is where the poet seems to empty himself in order to in fact empty his precursor, and so the “later poem of deflation is not as absolute as it seems”
  4. Daemonization, or a movement toward a personalized “Counter-Sublime” in reaction to the precursor’s Sublime
  5. Askesis , or self-purgation (especially to attain a state of solitude)
  6. Apophrades, or the return of the dead. The later poet “holds his own poem so open again to the precursor’s work that at first we might believe the wheel has come full circle… [but] the uncanny effect is that the new poem’s achievement makes it seem to us, not as though the precursor were writing it, but as though the later poet himself had written the precursor’s characteristic work.”

Can I view this as a framework for some feminine writing, especially feminine re-writing of myths?

“As first used, to be influenced meant to receive an ethereal fluid flowing in upon one from the stars, a fluid that affected one’s character and destiny, and that altered all sublunary things. A power—divine and moral—later simply a secret power—exercised itself, in defiance of all that had seemed voluntary in one” (27).

“The ancestor of revisionism is heresy, but heresy tended to change received doctrine by an alteration of balances, rather than by what could be called creative correction” (29)…

“…what is the Primal Scene, for a poet as poet? It is his Poetic Father’s coitus with the Muse. There he was begotten? No—there they failed to beget him. He must be self-begotten, he must engender himself upon the Muse his mother. But the Muse is as pernicious as Sphinx or Covering Cherub, and may identify herself with either, though more usually with the Sphinx. The strong poet fails to beget himself—he must wait for his Son, who will define him even as he has defined his own Poetic Father. To beget here means to usurp…” (37).

“Poetic anxiety implores the Muse for aid in divination, which means to foretell and put off as long as possible the poet’s own death, as poet and (perhaps secondarily) as man. The poet of any guilt culture whatsover cannot initiate himself into a fresh chaos; he is compelled to accept a lack of priority in creation, which means he must accept a failure in divination, as the first of many little deaths that prophesy a final and total extinction. His word is not his own word only, and his Muse has whored with many before him” (61). The anxiety of influence is, for Bloom, the anxiety of siring a bastard son at the hands of an unfaithful generating woman. It is also the anxiety that, at heart, it is not he who generates; it is she who has control over life, death, divination, and creation.

“The riddle of the Sphinx, for poets, is not just the riddle of the Primal Scene and the mystery of human origins, but the darker riddle of imaginative priority. It is not enough for the poet to answer the riddle; he must persuade himself (and his idealized reader) that the riddle could not have been formulated without him” (72).

“Intrapoetic relations” are a “family romance,” and “poetry is property,” or the “priority of having named something first” (78).



Anne Sexton

“Her Kind” (15)

“Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward” (24) the girl is unknown but the child lies on her bed. She might be projecting what would happen if she didn’t have an abortion.

“The Truth the Dead Know” (49) (“I am tired of being brave.”)

“The Operation” (56) (a tumor grows like a child; “woman’s dying/ must come in seasons”; “Fact: the body is dumb, the body is meat”)

“The Abortion” (61) Who repeats the phrase “Somebody who should have been born is gone.“? (Not) the speaker? Spring –> abortions. Spring that “humps on endlessly” leads to abortions. She is complicit in the non-survival of the fragile.

“Housewife” (77). (“a woman is her mother./ That’s the main thing.”)

“The Black Art” (88) is writing as well as witchcraft. Women’s writing is like this: “With used furniture he makes a tree.” With the Father’s language she makes a poem.

“Sylvia’s Death” (126)

“Menstruation at Forty” (137) (“I was thinking of a son./ The womb is not a clock…”)

“Little Girl, My String Bean, My Lovely Woman” (145) The daughter’s sexuality from the mother’s point of view

same for “A Little Uncomplicated Hymn (for Joy)” (148) (“I look for uncomplicated hymns/ but love has none.”)

same for “Pain for a Daughter” (163) “I saw her life stretch out . . . / I saw her torn in childbirth,/ and I saw her, at that moment,/ in her own death and I knew that she/ knew.”

“In Celebration of my Uterus” (181)


For example: “Red Riding Hood” (267)

“Mother and Daughter” (305) “I am motherwarm and used,/ just as your childhood is used”

“Dreaming the Breasts” (314) Daughter writes the mother psychoanalytically

In “Death of the Fathers,” 6. Begat (329) “Father me not/ for you are not my father”

In The Jesus Papers, “Jesus Suckles” (337)

“The Author of the Jesus Papers Speaks” (344) “When the cow gives blood/ and the Christ is born/ we must all eat sacrifices./ We must all eat beautiful women.”

“The Death Baby” (354)

“Hurry Up Please Its Time” (384) is a very un-Eliotan response to “The Waste Land” in which Eliot is the Father



Denise Levertov

Preface by Robert Creeley, originally an address to American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1998 in honor of her life and work: “If one wanted to say what it was seemed most insistent in either her work or her person, it would be—always for me—the fact of body, the immediacy of that presence in all she wrote or was” (xv)

Afterward by Paul Lacey: “Male writers have mentors from whom they learn and with whom they become colleagues; women writers with the same kind of relationship with an older writer are apt to be labeled the ‘disciple of…’ Levertov is frequently glibly pigeonholed as a ‘disciple of Williams’… but they learned from each other” (206).

“The Marriage” (4)

“The Marriage (II)” (5) “I want to speak to you./ To whom else should I speak?/ It is who you make/ a world to speak of”

“The Ache of Marriage” (30)

“Song for Ishtar” (30)

“About Wedlock” (39) “Don’t lock me in wedlock, I want/ marriage, an/ encounter”

“Hypocrite Women” (42) She takes on Williams’s “no ideas but in things,” but here, the idea is capital-W Woman and the thing is a vagina

“Relearning the Alphabet” (67)

“The Woman” (108) She is in homespun and in crazy feathers; “can you endure/ life with two brides, bridegroom?” also Woman and the woman are two but one

“The Dragonfly-Mother” (125) (mothers hover)

“The Métier of Blossoming” (200) “fully occupied with growing”


e. e. cummings

“O sweet spontaneous” (18) (philosophy and religion try to categorize the earth but it answers only with spring) in the next poem Spring is male (19)

“you shall above all things be glad and young” (67) has girlboys and boygirls

Elizabeth Bishop

“Chemin de Fer” (10) (“Love should be put into action!/ Screamed the old hermit./ Across the pond an echo/ Tried and tried to confirm it”)

“Gentleman of Shalott” (11) Rewrites Lady of Shallot

“A Cold Spring” (55) (“The mother stoped lowing/ and took a long time eating the after-birth,/ a wretched flag”)

“Insomnia” (68) (Moon in a mirror inverted world “where the shadows are really the body” related to love)

“Squatter’s Children” (93)

“Sestina” (121) Grandmother and female child: lack of mother structures the poem

“Hymn to the Virgin” (219)

“Exchanging Hats” (230)

“Where Are the Dolls Who Loved Me So” (295)

Stevie Smith

“Papa Love Baby” (5)

“The Songster” (20) (Irigaray’s female utterance so oblique to the language of the father that it approximates a song and is illegible)

“Infant” (25) (“It was a cynical babe”)

“God and the Devil” (26) is a parody Creation tale. Not mom and dad, but God and Devil. God/Mother creates in order to prove a point about something unremembered (mother’s archetypal struggle to prove power by producing a phallic child).

“Numbers” (31) Logocentric focus on numbers obscures much of what is real/beautiful/there; constitutes a limiting frame (as does the poem’s title, which asks us to look for numbers.) Which are the least interesting and beautiful part of the poem.

“The Parklands” (38) rewrites Wordsworth’s “We Are Seven”

“All Things Pass” (53) (“All things pass./ Love and mankind is grass.”)

“This Englishwoman” (70) (“This Englishwoman is so refined/ She has no bosom and no behind.)

Book is full of depressing and misused wives and mothers: Most importantly “Mother, among the Dustbins” (125), also “Major Macroo” (75), Maria Holt of “Bereavement” (78),

“Tender Only to One” (99). Tender only to Death means you’re outside the economy of love

“Darling Daughters” (101) (“Darling daughters, listen to your mother”) Mothers are not innocuous; she’s going to marry them off or leave them be.

“Nourish Me On an Egg” (148): demands of childcare suck

“Bye Baby Bother” (158) is a war hymn about the dead

“I’ll Have Your Heart” (163) Could be romantic, but the picture indicates mother/child. Who is the vampire: the mother or the child?

Sometimes mother-love can keep you alive: “Mother, I love you so./ Said the child, I love you more than I know./ She laid her head on her mother’s arm,/ And the love between them kept them warm.” (“Human Affection,” 181).

“Girls!” (187) (“Girls! Although I am a woman/ I always try to appear human”)

“The Sad Mother” (196). Initiation into the Law of the Father deprives the child of his freedom; the mother senses this loss)

“She Said…” (203). (“She said as she tumbled the baby in:/ There, little baby, go sink or swim,/ I brought you into the world, what more should I do?/ Do you expect me always to be responsible for you?”)

“Mother” (217) (“I have a happy nature,/ But Mother is always sad,/ I enjoy every moment of my life,—/ Mother has been had.” (217). The dash shows relatedness. You enjoy life at her expense.

“A Mother’s Hearse” (268) (“…I say it were better a mother’s hearse”)

“Wretched Woman” (304)

“Lightly Bound” (305) (“You beastly child, I wish you had miscarried”)

“Dido’s Farewell to Aeneas” (379) (Death is the only man who must come to woman when she calls.)

“But Murderous” (388) (“A mother slew her unborn babe/ In a day of recent date/ Because she did not wish him to be born in a world/ Of murder and war and hate”)

“A Dream of Nourishment” (395) Makes fun of psychoanalysis — is this psychoanalysis from the child’s perspective?

“To Carry the Child” (505)

“Marriage I Think” (663) (“Marriage I Think/ For women/ Is the best of opiates”)

” ‘Mother Love’ ” (723) “Mother love is a mighty benefaction/ The prop of the world and its population/ If mother love died the world would rue it/ No money would bring the women to it.”)




Robert Lowell

“Beyond the Alps” (53) (“When the Vatican made Mary’s Assumption dogma,/ The crowds at San Pietro screamed Papa)

“Grandparents” (112) (“Grandmother” appears only tangentially)

“Man and Wife” (131)

“T. S. Eliot” (221) (“Don’t you loathe to be compared with your relatives?”)

“Ezra Pound” (221) (“Eliot dead, you saying/ “Who’s left alive to understand my jokes?””)

“Mermaid Emerging” (261) (“The institutions of society/ seldom look at a particular”) woman is a particular. (“I am a woman or I am a dolphin,/ the only animal man really loves,/ I spout the smarting waters of joy in your face—/ rough-weather fish, who cuts your nets and chains”) Society seldom notices that the only woman man really loves is the absurd myth he has built around woman

“Father,” “Mother and Father I,” “Mother and Father 2,” “Returning,” “Mother, 1972” (281-3)

in “Mother and Father 2”: “few children can love,/ or even bear their bearers, the never-forgotten/ my father, my mother… these names, this function, given/ by them once, given existence now by me”)

Frank O’Hara

“An Image of Leda” (35)

“Women” (47)

“Dido” (74)

“Female Torso” (78)

“An Abortion” (80)

“To My Mother” (160)

“Hermaphrodite” (218)

“Ode on Lust” (282)

“The Day Lady Died” (325)

“Ave Maria” (371)

“Should We Legalize Abortion?” (482)

Edna St. Vincent Millay

“The True Encounter” (354) (“I met the wolf alone / and was devoured in peace”)

From Sonnets: 

“i” (561) (“I drink—and live—what has destroyed some men”)

Fatal Interview (Shakespearean sonnets)

“lxxii” (632) (“Liefer would I you loved me for my worth,/ Though you should love me but a little while,/ Than for a philtre any doll can brew,—/ Though thus I bound you as I long to do”)

“lxxxix” (649) (not that “beauty, since ’tis paid for, can be bought” but that “beauty billed and kissed/ Is not your turtle; tread her like a dove—/ She loves you not; she never heard of love”)

“xxxi” (681) (“…she wanders mad, being all unfit/ For mortal love, that might not die of it”) (She who wont or cant die of love is unfit for love, in the myth of Woman.)

Theodore Roethke

“Prognosis” (5) (Devouring mother)

“To My Sister: (5) (preserve thy hate thy heart)

“The Young Girl” in Love Poems (200)

“Happy Three” (206) (always a third term in love. Child, mother, marianne moore. “Lady Poets” appear here)

Willett, Maternal Ethics and Other Slave Moralities

Willet. Cynthia. Maternal Ethics and Other Slave Moralities. New York: Routledge, 1995.

“Lyotard defines postmodernism as incredulity toward metanarratives. The narrative function, he observes, ‘is losing its functors, its great hero, its great dangers, its great voyages, its great goal” (2).

“…postmodernism proves unable to produce any principle of change other than that of the iteration of the same” (2). In this way, Irigarayan feminine writing is explicitly anti-post-modern inso far as it refuses the repetition of the “same”

Willet points out that Hegel “portrays the slave from the point of view of the master,” and argues that only a “dialectic of spirit” that “Focuses on transforming the psychological and cultural sources of oppression, or what post-Lacanians understand as the images, metaphors, and fantasies that compose the ‘social imaginary,’ can overcome the alienation that tears apart oppressor and oppressed” (4-5).

Mothers must explore a “narrative of freedom,” but should make sure that this narrative of freedom does not attempt to “sever a hardened and controlled body from the vulnerability of the flesh” as Hegel’s does (6). This sort of “freedom” is “complicit,” Willet argues, with the “subordination or exclusion of women […] as well as those ‘sensuous’ men who have not sufficiently distinguished themselves from women” (7). This “narrative of freedom” should also caution against a “dialectic of truth that aims toward an abstract mode of reason, or, more broadly, what Derrida locates as the logocentrism of Western culture,” which “does not transform but participates in the politics of oppression” (7).

“Ethics develops not from the discipline of desire but from cultivating the social eroticism that can find its roots in the relationship between nurturers and child” (8).

“The sensuality of the originary social bond calls for a reinterpretation of what, after Hegel, we understand as the dialectic of recognition, and so too for a new model of ethical subjectivity” (16).

On Kristeva

“According to her hypothesis, the pre-Oedipal experience of the infant takes the pattern of explosive rhythms of libidinal discharge. Eventually, the child emerges from maternal space and only then develops a sense of Self and Other.

It is significant that Kristeva probes the dimensions of maternal space not by way of experiences between mothers and children but through regressive adult fantasies and avant-garde art” (18). Willet argues that this “betray[s] the antisocial politics of her project,” and causes her to reproduce some of psychoanalysis’s most problematic theses.

“Kristeva argues, correctly I believe, that the nondiscursive rhythms of the mother-infant relationship do not resemble anything like the organizing structures (e.g. grammar and syntax) that arise after the development of language and the recognition of the face of the Other” (18).

Kristeva “bases her speculation” on the “clinical infant,” that is, “the infant as it is reconstructed from regressive pathologies in the adult psyche and the antisocial transgressions of avant-garde poetry” (19).

Kristeva’s chora is “neither model nor copy […] the chora precedes and underlies figuration and thus specularization, and is analogous only to vocal or kinetic rhythm” (19).

Kristeva’s pre-Oedipal theory “mandates that the ‘maternal space’ be represented not as a subject, i.e. as the mother, but through the fragments of a partial object, breast, or even phallus” (20).

In Revolution in Poetic Language, Kristeva redescribes the ‘nourishing and maternal’ receptacle that she finds in Plato as a ‘double helix’ of drives simultaneously ‘assimilating and destructive’ and then again as an ‘ordeirng principle’ that ‘is on the path of destruction, aggressivity and death.’ […] the more natural configuration of maternal space as an organic site of nourishment, tactile attachment, and fluid boudnaries gives way to the inorganic discharges that signify death” (23).

If it is the case that the self emerges not much earlier than two months, what kind of language or theory could be adequate to a phenomenology of the lived experience of the infant?” (28).

“The infant…instinctively withdraws from dangerous excesses, including intense light, explosive sound, or any source of overstimulation. As a barely conscious, boundless happening of uncertain desire, the infant gropes for nourishment and attachment, not death and antisocial nihilism. Its rhythm is the rhythm of life” (30). In other words, the ‘infant death drive’ looks ridiculous in the face of real human infants.

But if the dominant theories of desire postulate that the child is a beast to be domesticated by social convention or subdued by reason, I wonder whose perspectives on childcare these theories represent. I wonder if these do not represent the very perspectives of those who in fact have been detached from the childrearing scene” (32).

Willet argues that the “fetal kick” is not, as pychoanalysis posits it, “an act of resistance,” but instead as a “step in a dance between mother and child” in which “mother and infant choreograph the boundaries of the real” (32).

This formulation is, according to Willet, unacceptable to the male psyche because it “exist[s] independently of sexuality and therefore in [its] own right” (36). In other words, asserting that the mother-child bond is a separate phenomenon than the male-female sexual coupling takes man out of the dyad altogether—an insupportable blow to the male ego. He must have his share in defining the boundaries of the real.

Both Nietzche and Heidegger have images of “male pregnancy” in which, “as men, they would give birth to themselves and not to one another. Women, on the other hand, give birth to the Other, and, I am arguing, beyond patriarchal motherhood, in giving birth to the Other they may rejuvenate themselves” (41). Willet notes that while patriarchal representations of male pregnancy have “the imperative that men give birth to themselves,” women “sacrifice themselves in order to give birth to others” (59).

This is a politics of “proximity” rather than “property” (42).

In male accounts “children develop; mothers do not” (43).

“This social interaction with the parent not only transforms the infant; it also transforms the subjectivity of the one who takes care of the child. For men, this transformation can occur only if manhood is redefined to include not only fathering but also parenting the child” (56). In Willet’s view, it’s parenting rather than parturition that “transforms”: v. H.D. who parturition-ed without parenting


“By focusing on the trope of the mirror as a precursor to the face of the Other, Lacan eclipses the very early face-to-face interaction between infants and parents. In effect, Lacan thereby ‘feminizes’ the parent, whose social ego is reduced to a one-way reflection for the ‘masculinized’ infant ego… The mother, like the mythic Echo, passively reflects the pretensions of a narcissistic ego. What this mythic portrayal of childhood misses, of course, is the social force of the mother in the construction of the infant self” (65).

Because Lacan interprets childhood through mythology rather than hands-on experience, he fails to understand how the mother might in fact produce some of the effects of alienation that do often enough haunt the self” (65).

“By reducing the role of the caregiver in the infant’s ego formation to the alienation effect of the mirror, that ever-allusive Lacan recasts the feminized caregiver from mother to whore. That is, Lacan insinuates that behind the sentimental image of the mother who sacrifices in service to her child lies that other side of patriarchal femininity, the man-destroying whore. The more does not mirror the ideal self; she sullies the virile ego that would fashion itself as free, in control, and independent of women” (65). Note: for Lacan, what separates humans from animals is the mirror stage; for Levi-Strauss, it is the incest taboo. Is this where the incest taboo comes from? Mother as mirror is man-destroyer

Willet argues that in reality the mother serves not as a mirror for the child but as a Levinasian ‘face’: “the mother serves not as a mirror but as a face for the child to find itself in” (67). In the philosophy of Levinas, the face, as Willet earlier reminds us, makes a subject, and reminds us that the face-haver is “deserving” (67). If woman has a face, she is deserving and recognizable—she is human.) The metaphor of the mirror “implies that the parent primarily functions to duplicate the expressions of the infant” (68).

“The self begins not as a demand for autonomy but as a request for acknowledgement. From around two months, the infant is no longer satisfied with being fed, held, and otherwise cared for; like many other animals, the human infant begins to make active demands for attention. The full creative powers of expression, beginning with the social smile, are then engaged in order to gain that attention. An essential dimension of the self lives and dies in that response” (71).

While Lacan and Levinas argue that the self is created in autonomous solitude, Willet reminds us that “The infant that is abandoned to the elements does not survive” (78).

“Levinas’s rejection of poetry is intertwined with the mythology of creation ex nihilo. According to myth, men give birth to themselves, they are fully self-responsible, and they certainly are dependent upon nothing that they do not understand (mothers, a feminized language, poetry)” (81).

“If Levinas must understand the concern for the Other as a violation, perhaps it is because he holds on too rigidly to the masculinized ego of patriarchal myth. This ego cannot acknowledge ever having been a little lost in the poetry that revitalizes adult speech, tunes one self to another, and recalls the primal bond to the mother or caregiving father. That poetry, or what Levinas dismisses as mere infant babbling, is also sometimes called mamaese” (86).



John Ashbery

His poetry is open-ended and multi-various because life itself is, he told Bryan Appleyard in the London Times: “I don’t find any direct statements in life. My poetry imitates or reproduces the way knowledge or awareness come to me, which is by fits and starts and by indirection. I don’t think poetry arranged in neat patterns would reflect that situation. My poetry is disjunct, but then so is life.” His poems move, often without continuity, from one image to the next, prompting some critics to praise his expressionist technique and others to accuse him of producing art that is unintelligible, even meaningless.

W.S. Di Piero described the reaction of critics to Ashbery’s style as “amusing. On the one hand are those who berate him for lacking the Audenesque ‘censor’ (that little editing machine in a poet’s head which deletes all superfluous materials) or who accuse him of simply being willfully and unreasonably perverse. On the other hand are those reviewers who, queerly enough, praise the difficulty of Ashbery’s verse as if difficulty were a positive literary value in itself, while ignoring what the poet is saying.”  Helen Vendler offered her summary of the debate in the New Yorker: “It is Ashbery’s style that has obsessed reviewers, as they alternately wrestle with its elusive impermeability and praise its power of linguistic synthesis. There have been able descriptions of its fluid syntax, its insinuating momentum, its generality of reference, its incorporation of vocabulary from all the arts and sciences. But it is popularly believed, with some reason, that the style itself is impenetrable. . . . An alternative view says that every Ashbery poem is about poetry.”

Involving the reader of the poem “on equal terms”


How is this different from “écriture féminine,” which purports to do the same? This is still more structured. At least by institutions if not by specific poetic meters. 


“A Boy” (10)

“The Young Son” (15)

“Thoughts of a Young Girl” (31)


“My Erotic Double” (265) (it’s a man)


Robert Frost

“Home Burial” (51)

“The Road Not Taken” (105)


“A Servant to Servants” (62)

“The Housekeeper” (81)

“The Subverted flower” (339)

“Putting in the Seed” (123)

Swennes, Robert H. “Man and Wife: The Dialogue of Contraries in Robert Frost’s Poetry.” American Literature 43:3. 1970. 363-72.

“Each of Frost’s dialogue poems between men and women studies a different moment in domestic life, yet they all concentrate on a common theme” (364).

The poet’s own voice does not intrude in the scene he has established, lending the plot an air of naturalist objectivity as well as of finality.

The man-woman relationships in Frost’s poems express “fear, bewilderment, loneliness, and anger. Each poem shows a fine knowledge of male-female psychology and of the postures which each sex adopts in order to protect itself” (366). Sex is a battle.

“In a larger sense “West-Running Brook” stands as a testament to the positive elements in Robert Frost’s poetry, those elements which work to give meaningful form and direction to the flow of existence. The husband and wife take care to recognize the mutual boundaries of their relationship and never to overstep them. They keep the common boundary in good order, an idea which Frost best expressed in “Mending Wall.” The woman makes a diplomatic error in suggesting that the brook speaks to her alone. Her husband takes offense at once and accuses her of carrying the brook off “to lady- land” (p. 328). Since she wishes no resentment or barrier to grow between them, she talks him into speaking his mind about the brook. He is over his anger quickly, and he compliments her on what she has said. She does the same to him, and thev conclude in agreeing, “Today will be the day of what we both said” (p. 329). It’s very important that women do not claim anything, not even nature, for their own.

Frost’s happy coupling is one that necessitates that “both husband and wife take pains to express their feelings in terms which the other can understand” (371), and this is based in “the need for human struggle against environment, in order to establish a meaningful role in life” (371). The struggle against nature is, in this formulation, a communicative nexus at which man and woman can meet. This precludes, of course, the possibility of both feminine-specific speech and of a speech that welcomes rather than resists nature’s influence. Mother-speech is, in other words, directly barred; mother-speech is not a speech that leads to happy coupling.

This happy coupling is a “dialogue of contraries” in which “each party teaches the other something about himself” (372). It’s important to note here the finality of positing man and woman as “contraries,” and equally important to realize that, among these contraries, we really have two “himself[s].” Couched in this pronomial fluke hides, I think, something crucial: the teaching scenario in Frost’s poetry is ultimately one-sided (that is, male-sided). Where Frost’s protagonists (and, later, his critics) see productive, didactic “dialogue” between Man and Woman, what really exists is a didactic “dialogue” between Man and the Woman-function—that is, phallic Woman, who is no woman at all. Teaching is necessarily a one-way street that runs from the phallic to the feminine with no return. Within a paradigm that considers women as embodiments of phallic Womanhood, this construction certainly makes sense, for, as She is constructed, the phallic Woman has, by definition, nothing to teach: she absorbs, she desires, she receives, she reproduces. The speech of the phallic woman is in fact his own didacticism reflected: she speaks his words or she does not speak.


D. H. Lawrence Poems



“The Bride”


“Lui et Elle”


“The Mother of Sons”




“War Baby”


“Almond Blossom”



Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1963 Heinemann; 2005 Harper Perennial Classics. 

“That’s one of the reasons I never wanted to get married. The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket” (83).

She watches the Catholic mother-of-six Dodo Conway and notes, “children made me sick” (117).

When she goes “crazy,” she starts seeing words not as they are meant to appear but as they appear in Finnegan’s Wake (123).

Buddy’s baby in a jar haunts her; she sees the baby being born and Buddy explains how they chloroform her so she’ll forget the pain. Esther notes that seems like the kind of drug a man would invent.

She volunteers at a hospital, is put on the maternity ward, and gets it all wrong; the women are cranky and cruel rather than pink and beautiful mothers

In the hospital, as she’s beginning to get better and gaining weight, she notices that “I looked just as if I were going to have a baby” (192). This is for her a source of shame, and she is nervous to see her benefactress Mrs. Guinea because of it.

Giving birth to herself: but we know later she does have a real baby, because at the beginning she would give the Ladies Day plastic starfish “for the baby to play with” (3)

“What I hate is the thought of being under a man’s thumb… A man doesn’t have a worry in the world, while I’ve got a baby hanging over my head like a big stick, to keep me in line” (221). Dr. Nolan then offers her birth control, and that’s a way for her to free herself

“How easy having babies seemed to the women around me! Why was I so unmaternal and apart? Why couldn’t I dream of devoting myself to baby after fat puling baby like Dodo Conway? If I had to wait on a baby all day, I would go mad” (222).

“The baby’s mother smiled and smiled, holding that baby as if it were the first wonder of the world. I watched the mother and the baby for some clue to their mutual satisfaction, but before I had discovered anything, the doctor called me in” (223).

The birth control makes her “my own woman” (223).

Something goes wrong, though: when she has sex for the first time, she hemorrhages terribly and must go to the hospital. The loss of her virginity is less the “tribal rite” she imagines, though it is “part of a great tradition” (230-1), and is instead institutionalized. The doctor says “…it’s one in a million it happens to like this” (233).



David Perkins, History of Modern Poetry Vol 2

Perkins, David. A History of Modern Poetry: Modernism and After. 1987: Harvard University Press.

“the future development of poetry did not proceed from eliot, but both from and against him, and in both respects he was central” (3).

“Auden viewed Romanticism as leading to Fascism” (9).

“Eliot’s poetry never represented erotic attraction as happy. It was distasteful, or frustrated, or rejected through some failure of courage, or lost in the past, or was a temptation to be renounced. But when erotic feeling became a transfigured element in a religious experience or symbol, Eliot could rejoice in it without reserve…” (22).

Ezra Pound’s cantos are “concrete presentations” but are “almost always fragmentary” (224). Unlike for Eliot, for Pound, “the world is coherent – this was Pound’s faith – but our data are always incomplete. The event is a complex whole, but only aspects, snatches, bits come to our cognizance… we must intuit the living reality from the snippets we can know of it” (224).

“The units Pound works with may be images, single lines, groups of lines (‘ideograms’), continuous passages, whole Cantos, or clusters of Cantos. Larger ones are built by assembling many smaller. Juxtaposed, they make a system of relations. But each remains a discrete piece.

When two things are given together, the mind naturally strives to connect them. We respond to Pound’s discontinuities with an initial surprise and shock, and this gives way to heightened mental activity as we explore possible interrelationships among the separate units. The process may end in illumination as we discover implications in the juxtaposition” (226).

Pound’s ideogram “is visual and spatial…it is as far as possible from interior monologue. With the convention of interior monologue, we take the fragments as occurring one after the other, enacting the movement of consciousness. With the ideogram we take the component images as interacting simultaneously to present a complex of meaning. The interior monologue reflects or, more exactly, is somebody’s subjectivity. The ideogram is objective in the same sense as is a character in Chinese script” (229).

Pound’s ideograms are meant to avoid, in his own words, “monolinear syllogistic arrangement,” as he explains in Jefferson and/or Mussolini (qtd here 229).

Perkins admits that “in long stretches the Cantos are boring” (243).

“In the Prologue (1918) to Kora [William Carlos] Williams began his lifelong quarrel with Eliot and Pound. He objected to their preoccupation, as he saw it, with the literature of the past and of Europe” (249).

Williams and the “variable foot”

Heather Clark, The Grief of Influence

Clark, Heather. The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Oxford University Press: 2011.

In a BBC interview, Hughes claims that he and Plath have “a single, shared mind,” a “Telepathic union” that constitutes a “source of a great deal” in his poetry, “but then emphasizes that when they happen to write about the same subject, they always approach it differently” (1).

In Hughes letters, he admits that “Sylvia & I plundered each other merrily,” and claims to have “designed prototypes, which she put into full Germanic production” (qtd here 3).

Plath and Hughes fall right into Bloom’s anxiety of influence. “Plath’s ‘Black Rook in Rainy Weather,’ for instance, might be termed an ‘inspired misreading’ of Hughes’s ‘The Hawk in the Rain,’ while ‘Lady Lazarus’ is a more willful, parodic revision of several Hughes poems. Hughes’s ‘View of a Pig’ is, by his own admission, a gentle critique of Plath’s ‘Sow,’ but his latter poems in Birthday  Letters challenge Plath’s inheritance” (10).

Critics have taken for granted that Hughes is in the “strong” poet in the Plath-Hughes dialectic

Hughes believed in Plath’s poetry, but feared becoming her: the domestic and its stifling confines terrified him (48)

The White Goddess became “talismanic” for Hughes, and he wrote in his letters that it was “the chief holy book of my poetic conscience… in particular, I suppose, what really interested me were those supernatural women. Especially the underworld women” (qtd here 59).

“Plath was destined to become, for Hughes, the human embodiment of the White Goddess – a role she was happy to play for some time, but which she eventually saw as both reductive and repressive” (61).

“Hughes’s nature poems are really war poems in disguise; we might also think of his war poems as marriage poems in disguise” (65).

His Letters show that he was aware of Graves’s warning “that one cannot serve Goddess and wife at the same time” (qtd here 65)

Clark argues that Ariel constitutes “a caricature of Hughes’s poetic femme fatales,” which is, necessarily, a caricature of the Goddess. “She looked to his poems now to mock, to impersonate, to emasculate, to argue, and to flaunt a parodic version of her obedient self” (131).

We should be careful reading this as a liberatory move, however; “her dangerous, predatory women are not voices of self-assertion, but self-annihilation” (134).

Hughes’s Crow “is often engaged in a battle to break free from the great mother, or what D.H. Lawrence termed the ‘Mater Magna’ in Women in  Love” (193).



Mary Daly, Pure Lust

Daly, Mary. Pure Lust. Beacon Press: 1984.

“Phallic lust is seen as a fusion of obsession and aggression. As obsession it specializes in genital fixation and fetishism, causing broken consciousness, broken heartedness, broken connections among women and between women and the elements. As aggression it rapes, dismembers, and kills women and all living things within its reach. Phallic lust begets phallocratic society, that is sadosociety, which is, in fact, pseudosociety” (1).

Daly associates the word “lust” with its ancient root in the words “vigor, fertlity,” “craving,” “eagerness, enthusiasm,” and from the Latin lascivus, “meaning wanton, playful, double-edged” (2-3).

“Elemental female lust” is, for Daly, “intense longing/craving for the cosmic concrescence that is creation… This Lusting is divining: foreseeing, foretelling, forecasting” (3).

This elemental potency is, for Daly, “Asleep in our ancestral memory,” and requires a reconfiguration of language in order to be used (7). It is a return to beginnings, but it is the opposite of Biblical “Transcendence” (8). This language is a “metaphoric language,” which “conjures memories of Archaic integrity that have been broken by phallic religion and philosophy” (11).

Feminine lust is related to myths: “we are,” Daly writes, “augurs, brewsters, dikes, dragons, dryads, fates, phoenixes, gorgons, maenads, muses…. […..]” (12).

Sarah Kofman, The Enigma of Woman

Kofman, Sarah. The Enigma of Woman. Éditions Galilée, 1980; Cornell University Press, 1985. 

“Freud gives several disparate reasons for the fact that psychoanalysis has been slow to penetrate women. Not only is female sexuality more complex than that of the male (it has to solve two supplementary problems, changing both the woman’s erogenous zone and her object cathexis), it also offers greater ‘resistance’ to violation by science. It is less accessible to research…” (39). This is in part because “society makes modesty or ‘shame’ woman’s fundamental virtue” (39).

Freud compare’s woman’s speech to “an unnavigable river whose stream is at one moment choked by masses of rock and at another divided and lost among shallows and sandbanks” (Freud, “Fragments,” here qtd 43).

Woman can only, for Freud, “love someone other than herself on condition that that being represent a part of her own ego or what she herself has formerly been… a part of [her] own body” (57-8).

Freud’s “Femininity” is framed “by a double appeal to poetry that warrants examination” (101). Freud first cites the poet Heinrich Heine as a witness, and at the end of the text “the reader is referred back to poetry as if to a potential complement intended to make up for the deficiencies of the psychoanalytic investigation” (101). Kofman, however, is suspicious of any admission of deficiency on Freud’s part. This appeal is, she argues, part of a “strategy: Freud is openly declaring the limits of psychoanalysis so as to gain the upper hand over the agencies that until then have claimed to hold the solution to the feminine enigma…. what the text does show, on the contrary, the insufficiencies of personal experience, of poetry, and of biology.The text reveals that poetry is basically a decoy force that ‘operates for knowledge’ as long as it is reappropriated by psychoanalysis and subordinated to its truth” (103).

“Bisexuality is the norm, and it is also the condition of women’s predisposition to neuroses. Men for their part are less exposed to hysteria, for their bisexuality is less pronounced than that of women, precisely because from childhood on they keep the same erogenous zone and thus do not have to solve the difficult problem of the transfer from one zone to another” (126).

It is important to Freud “to show not that woman’s intellectual inferiority is indelible because it is natural and original, as the philosophers claim, but that it is a consequence of the girl’s sexual development” (132).

Freud claims that a girl’s love for her mother “was directed to her phallic mother; with the discovery that her mother is castrated it becomes possible to drop her as an object” (Freud, “Femininity,” qtd here 184). Her love was directd to the power component of the mother function, not the mother)


Judith Butler, Antigone’s Claim

Butler, Judith. Antigone’s Claim. Columbia University Press, 2000.

“It seemed to me that Antigone might work as a counterfigure to the trend championed by recent feminists to seek the backing and authority of the state to implement feminist policy aims” (1).

Hegel makes Antigone “stand for the transition from matriarchal to patriarchal rule, but also for the principle of kinship” (1). Antigone signifies for Irigaray the transition from maternity-oriented law to law oriented around paternity and the name of the Father; not kinship blood but the shedding of blood

“…as a figure for politics, she points somewhere else, not to politics as a question of representation but to that political possibility that emerges when the limits to representation and representability are exposed” (2).

She represents a “prepolitical opposition to politics, representing kinship as the sphere that conditions the possibility of politics without ever entering into it” (2).

Antigone must save her brother because he, unlike husbands she could take or children she could have, is “not reproducible” (10).

Kinship and citizenship are in tension, and yet citizenship relies on kinship to produce citizens (12)

“Antigone is one for whom symbolic positions have become incoherent, confounding as she does brother and father, emerging as she does not as a mother but… in the place of the mother. Her name is also construed as ‘anti-generation.'” (22).

We rarely note when we discuss the Oedipus complex what happens to him and his descendants: violent death and anti-statism…….

“At the close of The Elementary Structures of Kinship, the exchange of women is considered as the trafficking of a sign, the linguistic currency that facilitates a symbolic and communicative bond among men. The exchange of women is likened to the exchange of words, and this particular linguistic circuitry becomes the basis for rethinking kinship on the basis of linguistic structures, the totality of which is called the symbolic” (41).


Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering

Chodorow, Nancy. The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender. University of California Press: 1978.

This book “analyzes the reproduction of mothering as a central and constituting element in the social organization and reproduction of gender” (7).

“Women, as mothers, produce daughters with mothering capacities and the desire to mother. These capacities and needs are built into and grow out of the mother-daughter relationship itself. By contrast, women as mothers (and men as non-mothers) produce sons whose nurturant capacities and needs have been systematically curtailed and repressed” (7).

“All sex-gender systems organize sex, gender, and babies. A sexual division of labor in which women mother organizes babies and separates domestic and public spheres. Heterosexual marriage, which usually gives men rights in women’s sexual and reproductive capacities and formal rights in children, organizes sex. Both together organize and reproduce gender as an unequal social relation” (10).

We can ask why women mother, but more interesting is the question, “why are mothers women?” (11). Most social critics do not take the equation of mothering and womanhood as something “in need of explanation” (13).

Young girls “identify” with their own mother, and “this identification produces the girl as a mother” (31). Margaret Polatnick brutely reminds us that “Men don’t rear children because they dont want to rear children. (This implies, of course, that they’re in a position to enforce their preferences.)” (31). People in our society who have power choose not to parent. 

The infant’s goal is to “be loved and satisfied without being under any obligation to give anything in return” (65). This is indeed a desirable state.

“There does not seem to be evidence to demonstrate that exclusive mothering is necessarily better for infants. However, such mothering is ‘good for society'” (75).

“A mother identifies with her own mother (or with the mother she wishes she had) and tries to provide nurturant care for the child. At the same time, she reexperiences herself as a cared-for child, thus sharing with her child the possession of a good mother” (90).

“Freud’s assumption that women’s function is to have babies becomes subsumed under his view that femininity has to do only with sexual orientation and mode and the wish to be masculine. He seems to fear that in spite of his endeavors it might be possible to think of women independently from men if one focused on childbearing and motherhood too much” (147).

“Masculine identification […] os predominantly a gender role identification. By contrast, feminine identification is primarily parental” (176). In other words, while male children tend to identify with an archetypal masculine role, female children tend to identify more with the concrete reality of their mothers. Fem = particular ; masc = universal . Boy becomes a Man, girl becomes a Mother

“Women mother daughters who, when they become women, mother” (209). Final prognosis

Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born

Rich, Adrienne. Of Woman Born. New York: Norton, 1975, 1995.

“There is much to suggest that the male mind has always been haunted by the force of the idea of dependence on a woman for life itself, the son’s constant effort to assimilate, compensate for, or deny the fact that he is ‘of woman born'” (11).

“To ‘father’ a child suggests above all to beget, to provide the sperm which fertilizes the ovum. To ‘mother’ a child implies a continuing presence, lasting at least nine months, more often for years. Motherhood is earned…” (12). In some ways, female writers desire to father rather than mother a child. It’s easier, and less painstaking.

Rich wants to distinguish between “two meanings of motherhood, one superimposed on the other: the potential relationship of any woman to her powers of reproduction and to children; and the institution, which aims at ensuring that that potential – and all women – shall remain under male control” (13). Within the “maternal function,” in other words, Rich differentiates two subcategories.

Rich disagrees with CPG about universal childcare, arguing that the only reasons mass childcare would be instated are to introduce large numbers of women into a capitalist labor force and to indoctrinate future citizens. State- rather than woman-oriented, in other words (14)

The maternal function is “to love the other person at every moment,” but real women, obviously, do not work that way (23).

“I felt I was bending to some ancient form, too ancient to question. This is what women have always done” (24). Doing that makes her feel for the first time “not guilty” (25).

“I had been trying to give birth to myself; and in some grim, dim way I was determined to use even pregnancy and parturition in that process” (29). We should question the metaphor.

“There has always been, and there remains, intense fear of the suggestion that women shall have the final say as to how our bodies are to be used. It is as if the suffering of the mother, the primary identification of woman as the mother – were so necessary to the emotional grounding of human society that the mitigation, or removal, of that suffering, that identification, must be fought at every level, including the level of refusing to question it at all” (30). The maternal function = suffering

“For me, poetry was where I lived as no-one’s mother, where I existed as myself” (30).

“For generations of women have asserted their courage on behalf of their own children and men, then on behalf of strangers, and finally for themselves” (42).

Patriarchy could not survive without institutional motherhood (43)

“Mother-love is supposed to be continuous, unconditional. Love and anger cannot coexist. Female anger threatens the institution of motherhood” (40).

Pregnancy problematizes the simple primal Freudian in/out. The child is in one’s body but also a foreign body

Jane Harrison in Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion ” The attitude of man to woman, and, though perhaps in a lesser degree, of woman to man, is still today essentially magical” (84).

“I think that for women a critical exploration backward in time can be profoundly radicalizing. But we need to be critically aware of the limitations of our sources” (86).

birth as magic power 114

There are two modes in which man has related to woman-as-mother: the practical and the magical” (125). As myth function and as reality

“Metaphors of midwifery and childbirth recur in the literature of the contemporary women’s movement…. But for most women actual childbirth has involved no choice whatever, and very little consciousness” (156).

“The majority of women, literate or illiterate, come to childbirth as a charged, discrete happening: mysterious, sometimes polluted, often magical, as torture rack or as ‘peak experience.’ Rarely has it been viewed as one way of knowing and co ming to terms with our bodies, of discovering our physical and psychic resources” (157).

for a long time men denied women anesthesia in childbirth because it’s how they compensated for Eve’s sin (168)

Rich read’s Freud’s invocation of the poets at the end of “On Femininity” as “an edgy yet candid acknowledgement of his own limitations” v  Kofman’s suspicion (204)

Margaret Fuller wrote in an undated fragment: “I have no child and the woman in me has so craved this experience, that it seems the want of it must paralyze me. But now as I look on these lovely children of a human birth, what slow and neutralizing cares they bring with time to the mother! The children of the muse come quicker, with less pain and disgust, rest more lightly on the bosom” (250).

George Orwell, 1984

Orwell, George. 1984. Harcourt Brace 1949; Penguin 2003.

We start on “a bright cold day in April” – what is it about April being the cruellest month? (Eliot: flowers, fertility)

The Party works by harnessing the “primal rage” of its constituents. This primal rage is related to women, and is the state opposite sex: “Winston succeeded in transferring his hatred from the face on the screen to the dark-haired girl behind him… He would flog her to death with a rubber truncheon. He would tie her naked to a stake and shoot her full of arrows like Saint Sebastien. He would ravish her and cut her throat at the moment of climax. Better than before, moreover, he realized why it was that he hated her. He hated her because she was young and pretty and sexless, because he wanted to go to bed with her and would never do so, because round her sweep supple waist, which seemed to ask you to encircle it with your arm, there was only the odious scarlet sash, aggressive symbol of chastity” (15). … “The Hate rose to its climax” (16). Hate is a substitute for sex, but it draws its power from it.

Children are dangerous because they participate the most valiantly in the hate: “It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children” (25).

Winston dreams of his mother, and he knows that “in some way the lives of his mother and his sister had been sacrificed to his own… His mother’s memory tore at his heart because she had died loving him, when he was too young and selfish to love her in return, and because somehow, he did not remember how, she had sacrificed herself to a conception of loyalty that was private and unalterable” (30-1). The maternal function is to sacrifice herself to her son.

From his mother, in the same paragraph, he begins to think about Julia sexually (32)

The Party has the power to do the opposite of birth: to make someone an “unperson” (47) “It struck him as curious that you could create dead men but not living ones” (49)

“The aim of the Party was not merely to prevent men and women from forming loyalties which it might not be able to control. Its real, undeclared purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act. Not love so much as eroticism was the enemy… The only recognized purpose of marriage was to beget children for the service of the Party” (67).

“There was a direct, intimate connection between chastity and political orthodoxy” (136).

Winston asks if Julia would like or keep a child they had, and she responds: “I’m not interested in the next generation, dear. I’m interested in us” (159). This is maternal heresy; she entirely rejects the maternal function

The Party’s final control of Winston, what awaits him in Room 101, is a harnessing of the child’s primal selfish sacrifice of the woman’s body. This is all the more horrifying to Winston as he knows he has done this before, to his mother instead of Julia, but in the face of physical pain, he does it. “For an instant he was insane, a screaming animal…. There was one and only one way to save himself. He must interpose another human being, the body of another human being, between himself and the rats” (296).

Kristeva, Tales of Love

Kristeva, Julia. Tales of Love. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987.

“The language of love is impossible, inadequate, immediately allusive when one would like it to be most straightforward; it is a flight of metaphors…. I accept it only in the first person” (2).

“The ordeal of love puts the univocity of language and its referential and communicative power to the test” (2).

“We have lost the relative strength and security that the old moral codes guaranteed our loves either by forbidding them or determining their limits” (5). (??????????)

“I am, in love, at the zenith of subjectivity” (5). (Even in “old moral codes”? Is this parody?)

“The experience of love indissolubly ties together the symbolic (that which is forbidden, distinguishable, thinkable), the imaginary (what the Self imagines in order to sustain and expand itself), and the real (that impossible domain where affects aspire to everything and where there is no one to take into account the fact that am only a part)” (7).

“Neither denying the ideal, nor forgetting its cost” (17).

Freud treats the symptom as a metaphor

Metaphor should be understood as a movement toward the discernible, a journey toward the visible. Anaphora, gesture, indication, would probably be more adequate terms for this sundered unity, in the process of being set up… The object of love is a metaphor for the subject–its constitutive metaphor, its ‘unary feature,’ which, by having it choose an adored part of the loved one, already locates it within the symbolic code of which this feature is a part” (30).

“Metonymic object of desire. Metaphorical object of love. The former controls the phantasmatic narrative. The latter outlines the crystallization of fantasy and rules the poeticalness of the discourse of love…” (30). Not that love is “poetic” generically but that it is subject to poetic laws

“The loving mother, different from the caring and clinging mother, is someone who has an object of desire; beyond that, she has an Other with relation to whom the child will serve as a go-between. She will love her child with respect to that Other…” (34).

“That Ideal is nevertheless a blinding, nonrepresentable power–sun or ghost. Romeo says, ‘Juliet is the sun,’ and that loving metaphor transfers onto Juliet the glare Romeo experiences in the state of love, dedicating his body to death in order to become immortal within the symbolic community of others restored by his love…” (36). (Even if the Ideal is silly, it’s real (Real?).)

“Here the term metaphor should not bring to mind the classic rhetorical trope (figurative vs. plain) but, instead, on the one hand, the modern theories of metaphor that decipher within it an indefinite jamming of semantic features one into the other, a meaning being acted out…” (37).

“Freud’s famous ‘What does a woman want?’ is perhaps only an echo of the more fundamental ‘What does a mother want?’ It runs up against the same impossibility, bordered on the one side by the imaginary father, on the other by a ‘not I’…” (41).

Freud says there is one libido, the male. “If, on the other hand, there were a female libido, could one imagine an erotics of the purely feminine? To the extent that she has a loving soul, a woman is drawn into the same dialectic involving confrontation with the Phallus, with the whole accompaniment of ideal images and domination-submission tests that it implies” (81).

Kristeva notes that Biblical “love” is most often signified by the Hebrew root ‘ahav, “to accept, to adopt, to recognize” (83). (Lacan’s analogue is love.)

“…love assimilates, tames, shelters, thus including a maternal or even a uterine connotation; but it also allies itself with, recognizes, legalizes – with a paternal connotation

There is also, though, a “nonrepresentable love” that, although “attributable as it might be to a legislating god, is nonetheless accessible to someone who, like David, utters a loving discourse that is only gesture and voice – sound, cry, mysic, afloat on primal repression, incantation of primary narcissism,” and is related to Plato’s “chora” (84). This seems related to Irigaray’s mystic-hysteric who utters a sound so vague it is only sort of a song

[in the Ideal couple, e.g. Song of songs] The lover states the metaphor // The beloved is the metaphor

“Let us call metaphor, in the general sense of a conveyance of meaning, the economy that modifies language when subject and object of the utterance act muddle their borders” (268).

Aristotle and analogy (170)

“We are all subjects of the metaphor” (279). (not objects? who is we – men and women or just women?)

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea. Copyright 1966, Norton, 1982. 

When asked by her future husband why she didn’t wish to marry him, Antoinette responded, ‘I’m afraid of what may happen'” (78). Marriage and family life is what makes the women in her family go crazy; she knows it already

The craziness is passed matrilineally

His infidelity is the thing that sparks off the crazy (146)

He doesn’t like being a pawn on the marriage market: he is enraged that “They bought me, me with your paltry money” (170) and punishes Antoinette for that

She burns the house because it’s what was done to her family (remnant of Gothic; repetition compulsion trauma returns in a dream)

Angela Davis, Women, Race & Class

Davis, Angela. Women, Race & Class. New York: Random House, 1981; Vintage Books, 1983. Print.

“The slave system defined Black people as chattel. Since women, no less than men, were viewed as profitable labor-units, they might as well have been genderless as far as the slaveholders were concerned. in the words of one scholar, ‘the slave woman was first a full-time worker for her owner, and only incidentally a wife, mother, and homemaker.’ … Black women were practically anomalies” (5).

“Expediency governed the slave-holders’ posture toward female slaves: when it was profitable to exploit them as if they were men, they were regarded, in effect, as genderless, but when they could be exploited, punished, and repressed in ways suited only for women, they were locked into their exclusively female roles” (6).

They became animalesque “breeders” (7).

partus sequitur ventrem – the child follows the condition of the mother” (12).

Davis argues that the ideology of femininity is a byproduct of industrialization (12).

Davis argus that “domestic labor,” or feminine labor, “was the only meaningful labor for the slave community as a whole… Precisely through performing the drudgery which has long been a central expression of the socially conditioned inferiority of women, the Black woman in chains could help to lay the foundation for some degree of autonomy, both for herself and her men” (17).

When Black women resisted, the sexual assault of their masters would “remind the women of their essential and inalterable femaleness” (24)

Davis reminds us that “the mythical rapist implies the mythical whore” (191).

“Black women have been aborting themselves since the earliest days of slavery. Many slave women refused to bring children into a world of interminable forced labor, where chains and floggings and sexual abuse for women were the everyday conditions of life. A doctor practicing in Georgia around the middle of the last century noticed that abortions and miscarriages were far more common among his slave patients than among the white women he treated” (204).

Later, it became “Assumed within birth control circles that poor women, Black and immigrant alike, had a ‘moral obligation to restrict the size of their families.’ What was demanded as a ‘right’ for the privileged came to be interpreted as a ‘duty’ for the poor” (210).

“The domestic population policy of the U.S. government has an undeniably racist edge. Native American, Chicana, Pureto Rican and Black women continue to be sterilized in disproportionate numbers” (219).


Emily Dickinson, Letters

Dickinson, Emily. Selected Letters. Knopf, 2011.

1848, to Austin Dickinson 

My Dear Austin,

I suppose you have written a few and received a quantity of valentines this week. Every night have I looked, and yet in vain, for one of Cupid’s messengers. Many of the girls have received very beautiful ones; and I have not quite done hoping for one… (31).

1854, to Austin

“There is to be a party at Professor Haven’s tomorrow night, for married people merely. Celibacy excludes me. Father and more are invited. Mother will go…” (43).

1855, to Mrs. Holland

“They say that ‘home is where the heart is.’ I think it is where the house is, and the adjacent buildings.” (45).

1863, to Louise and Frances Norcross

“I got down before father this morning, and spent a few moments profitably with the South Sea rose. Father detecting me, advised wiser employment, and read at devotions the chapter of the gentleman with one talent. I think he thought my conscience would adjust the gender” (52).

1865? to Mrs. J. G. Holland

“It is also November. The noons are more laconic and the sundowns sterner, and Gibraltar lights make the village foreign. November always seemed to me the Norway of the year” (53). (AD: note that last sentence is iambic)

1854, to Austin

“…Father was very severe to me; he thought I’d been trifling with you, so he gave me quite a trimming about ‘Uncle Tom’ and ‘Charles Dickens’ and ‘these modern literati’ who, he says, are nothing, compared to past generations who flourished when he was a boy” (72).

1975, to Louise and Frances Norcross

“The birds that father rescued are trifling in his trees. How flippant are the saved! They were even frolicking at his grave, when Vinnie went there yesterday. Nature must be too young to feel, or many years too old” (75).

1881, to the Norcross sisters

“When we think of the lone effort to live, and its bleak reward, the mind turns to the myth ‘for His mercy endureth forever,’ with confiding revulsion” (78).

1882, to Norcross sisters, after her mother’s death

“We don’t know where she is, though so many tell us.

I believe we shall in some manner be cherished by our Maker–that the one who gave us this remarkable earth has the power still farther to surprise that which He has caused. Beyond that all is silence…

Mother was very beautiful when she had died. Seraphs are solemn artists. The illumination that comes but once paused upon her features, and it seemed like hiding a picture to lay her in the grave; but the grass that received my father will suffice his guest, the one he asked at the altar to visit him all his life.

I cannot tell how Eternity seems. It sweeps around me like a sea… Thank you for remembering me. Remembrance – mighty word” (80).

1882, to James D. Clark

“Her dying feels to me like many kinds of cold – at times electric, at times benumbing, –then a trackless waste love has never trod…” (83).


“To have had a mother – how mighty!” (86).

“God was penurious with me, which makes me shrewd with him” (87).

1851, to Austin

“If I hadn’t been afraid that you would poke fun at my feelings, I had written a sincere letter, but since ‘the world is hollow, and dollie’s stuffed with sawdust,’ I really do not think we had better expose our feelings…” (90)

1860, to the Norcross sisters when their mother died

“Blessed Aunt L–now; all the world goes out, and I see nothing but her room, and angels bearing her into those great countries in the blue sky of which we don’t know anything…

How she loved the summer! The birds keep singing just the same. Oh! The thoughtless birds!” (101).

1874, to the Norcross sisters

“What do I think of Middlemarch? What do I think of glory–except that in a few instances this ‘mortal has already put on immortality.’

George Eliot is one. The mysteries of human nature surpass the ‘mysteries of redemption,’ for the infinite we only suppose, while we see the finite… I launch Vinnie on Wednesday; it will require the combined efforts of Maggie, Providence, and myself…” (104).


“Footlights cannot improve the grave, only immortality” (106).

1853, to Abiah Root

“You asked me to come and see you…but I don’t go from home, unless emergency leads me by the hand, and then I do it obstinately, and draw back if I can. Should I ever leave home, which is improbable, I will, with much delight, accept your invitation” (116).

1854, to Susie Gilbert Dickinson

“Sermons on unbelief ever did attract me” (122).

1857 to Mrs. J. G. Holland

“Friday I tasted life. It was a vast morsel. A circus passed the house – still I feel the red in my mind though the drums are out” (126).



Shoshana Felman, Writing and Madness

Felman, Shoshana. Writing and Madness. 1985: Cornell University Press.

“Madness usually occupies a position of exclusion; it is outside of a culture. But madness that is common place occupies a position of inclusion and becomes the inside of a culture” (13).

A madness that is commonplace can “no longer be thought of as a simple topos inside our era; it is rather our entire era that has become subsumed within the space of madness. No discourse about madness can now know whether it is inside or outside of the madness it discusses” (14).

This text is not meant to function as a “new meaning to confer upon the text, but as a new way of being affected by the text” (22).

“Reason and madness are thereby inextricably linked; madness is essentially a phenomenon of thought, of thought which claims to denounce, in another’s thought, the Other of thought: that which thought is not. Madness can only occur within a world in conflict, within a conflict of thoughts…that turns the essence of thought, precisely, into a question” (36).

In literature, at least, “the role of madness is eminently philosophical” (37).

“Is such a discourse possible? Precisely how can one formulate a ‘language which sticks in the throat, collapsing before having attained any formulation’? How can one utter a ‘language that speaks by itself, uttered by no one and answered by no one’? How can madness as such break through the universe of discourse?” (42, quoting Foucault)

In contrast with Foucault, Derrida positions the status of language as that of a break with madness, ” a protective strategy, of a difference by which means madness is deferred, put off” (44).

“It is somewhere between their affirmation and their denial of madness that these texts about madness act, and that they act themselves out as madness, i.e., as unrepresentable“(252).

A mad text is defined by how it “resists interpretation” (254)

Steinbeck, To a God Unknown

Steinbeck, John. To a God Unknown. 1935, Penguin. New York.

The title page cites a Veda that begins “He is the giver of breath, and strength is his gift…” The god is masculine here.

“There was a curious femaleness about the interlacing boughs and twigs, about the long green cavern cut by the river through the trees and the brilliant underbrush” (4).

Joseph sees a boar murdering a pig, the mother of his piglets, and refuses to stop the event: “Why he’s the father of fifty pigs and he may be the source of fifty more” (6). Fatherhood is enough to exculpate the boar of his crimes; motherhood was not enough to save the pig from death by the father.

“As he looked into the valley, Joseph felt his body flushing with a hot fluid of love. ‘This is mine,’ he said simply…” (8). He feels a weird sexual need for the land and then determines “I need a wife” (8).

“Joseph’s passion for fertility grew strong” (22).

Elizabeth is terrified to go through “the valley”on the way to their home because she knows that the vaginal canyon will change her entirely (51)

Joseph says explicitly: “This is our marriage – through the pass – entering the passage like sperm and egg that have become a single unit of pregnancy. This is a symbol of the undistorted real” (52).

Rama is the Mrs. Dalloway mother figure – Rama / Marah (bitter)

“...the child is precious, but not so precious as the bearing of it. That is as real as a mountain. That is a tie to the earth” (92).

Elizabeth fears that the subversiveness in her blood will transfer through her pregnancy into the child (100)

Joseph says that pregnant women “must know things no one else knows. And they must feel a joy beyond any other joy. In some way they take up the nerve-ends of the earth in their hands” (102).

we have a wildly inaccurate representation of labor

Joseph sacrifices the child to the land by deciding to stay and give the child to Rama (155)

Joseph realizes “I am the rain” (179) and sacrifices himself for the land (male Jesus sacrificing himself for female land/Church.)

Primal fear that giving sperm exhausts the man’s vitality


Kofman, Rue Ordener, Rue Labat

Kofman, Sarah. Rue Ordener, Rue Labat. Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1994. Lincoln: Univeristy of Nebraska Press., 1994.

She begins with her father: his pen “failed me before I could give myself to give it up” (3).

When they come to take her father, her mother says, “You can’t, I have a babe in arms who isn’t two yet!…I’m expecting another baby!” (6). The narrative function of the child here is to save the family unit from destruction. Invoking pity to save the father. Child saves the father; child replaces father.

“Right under my mother’s nose, she’d managed to detach me from her. And also from Judaism” (47).

“My mother hit me and shouted at me in Yiddish, ‘I am your mother! I am your mother! I don’t care what the court decided, you belong to me!'” (61).

The narrative ends with Mémé’s grave: “I was unable to attend her funeral. But I know that at her grave the priest recalled how she had saved a little Jewish girl during the war” (85).


Sylvia Plath, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams

Plath, Sylvia. Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams.


Esther is eight months pregnant, and she joins a ladies luncheon. She feels entirely out of place, and meets another “out of place” mother with whom she can both smoke and create an alternative maternal universe. She feels uncomfortable with the fact of her pregnancy itself, as evidenced by the narrator’s note that she “adjusted the folds of her cashmere coat loosely so that she might, to the casual eye, seem simply tall, stately and fat, rather than eight months pregnant” (10).

Motherhood means belonging to something “primeval,” like the chants and the cold church floor (15).

“Day of Success”

Charts a wife’s worry as her husband finds success in a novel. She is a maternal bumpkin with a baby, and worries over the husband meeting with a “career woman” who is chic and fashionable. It turns out the husband much prefers his homely maternal wife, and wants to continue living in the country, catering to her dream of being a “country wife.” This seems painfully optimistic, considering Ted & Assia.


Weigle, Creation & Procreation

Marta Weigle, Creation and Procreation. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989.

“Cosmogonies, especially those resembling Judeo-Christian creation myths, are accorded elevated status in mythology. Often considered the measure of a culture’s theological and philosophical speculation,…” (3).

“…’female’ procreation has been given far less consideration than Gaia’s coming into being out of the nothingness of the male Chaos” (5).

Weigle marks four different kinds of creation:

  1. ex nihilo
  2. “earth diver”
  3. dividing a primordial unity in two
  4. dismemberment of a primordial being (6)


“These predominantly masculine examples cannot be matched with an equivalent set using words like project, penetrate, erect, and ejaculate to form a predominantly feminine, ‘general metaphor’ CREATION IS PROJECTION. Women, it would seem, do not have ‘projects’ in the way men have ‘babies,’ unless, perhaps, they cannot or do not have children” (8).

Discussion of Roland Barthes 1957 Mythologies:

Says Barthes: “The woman of letters… a remarkable zoological species: she brings forth, pell-mell, novels and children” (Barthes 1972 qtd here 42).

Also: “Women, be therefore courageous, free; play at being men, write like them; but never get far from them; live under their gaze, compensate for your books by your children; enjoy a free rein for a while, but quickly come back to your condition. One novel, one child, a little feminism, a little connubiality. Let us tie the adventure of art to the strong pillars of the home: both will profit a great deal from this combination: where myths are concerned, mutual help is always fruitful” (Barthes 1972, qtd here 43).

Jung notes that “the former image of matter” was “the Great mother” (qtd here 53).

Weigle notes that in Platonic philosophy “logoi” are “generating gods,” which are coded male (77). v. Logos

in Aristotle, the male literally planted the baby inside the woman. Woman serves as an “incubator” for the male. By herself she cannot beget.

When William Harvey discovered the ovum in 1628, there was a general professional outcry among physicians, and he was in fact professionally shamed. General masculine revulsion against recognizing female creative force and potential in reproduction

Woman carries the man’s “fruit.” Fruithood is the child-function. Fruit is not a person.

“In most mythology, the world is valued primarily as the product, expression, or epiphany of a creator, not as the midwifery of gossips and procreation… As a rule, creation, not procreation, provides the valued mythological paradigm” (175). Perhaps the focus on pregnancy emphasizes the process (female) rather than the product (traditionally male, through fatherhood) of procreation



F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Beautiful and Damned. 1946, Princeton University Press; 2002, Random House. Print.

“…irony, the Holy Ghost of this later day, had, theoretically at least, descended on him” (3).

Irony is defined as “a man who was aware that there could be no honor and yet had honor, who knew the sophistry of courage and yet was brave” (4).

He is motherless young, at five years old (5).

“one of those men devoid of the symmetry of feature essential to the Aryan ideal, he was yet, here and there, considered handsome–moreover, he was very clean, in appearance and in reality, with that especial cleanness borrowed from beauty” (8).

In a David and Bathsheba scene, he sees a girl in a red negligé “drying her hair by the still hot sun of late afternoon” (16). “He felt persistently that the girl was beautiful, then, of a sudden, he understood: it was her distance… The woman was standing up now; she had tossed her hair back and he had a full view of her. She was fat, full thirty-five, utterly undistinguished” (16). She is beautiful because of her distance, the presence of children, and the potential for order that she represents.

DICK: Going to the theatre?

MAURY: We intend to spend the evening doing some deep thinking over of life’s problems. The thing is tersely called ‘The Woman.’ I presume that she will ‘pay.” (19). Woman = problem (Irigaray’s invocation of Freud)

In the middle of Anthony Patch’s chapter is “A Flash Back in Paradise” section – by whom? for whom?

“beauty, who was born anew every hundred years, sat in a sort of outdoor waiting room through which blew gusts of white wind and occasionally a breathless hurried star…. It became known to her, at length, that she was to be born again” (23). One of the characteristics of the terrible world into which beauty comes is that “ugly women control strong men” (23). Beauty is aghast.

“You will be disguised during your fifteen years as what is called a ‘susciety gurl'” (24). Beauty only lasts 15 years. (Diderot in Rich: you should all die at 15…)

Beauty will be “paid” in “love” (24).

He feels “empty as an old bottle,” and Gloria arrives to fill him up (47).

Beauty’s job is to “render thoughtless” – both men and the women it inhabits (49).

Gloria knows that “the biography of every woman begins with the first kiss that counts, and ends when her last child is laid in her arms” (53). She determines that she “[doesn’t] want to have responsibility and a lot of children to take care of” (53).

gloria knows she has in her a “streak of what you’d call cheapness” that relates her to the “giggling, over-gestured, pathetically pretentious women, who grow fat […] bear too many babies, and float helpless and uncontent in a colorless sea of drudgery and broken hopes” (58-9). Beauty’s lifework is to combat this.

“What grubworms women are to crawl on their bellies through colorless marriages! Marriage was created not to be a background but to need one. Mine is going to be outstanding…I refuse to dedicate my life to posterity. Surely one owes as much to the current generation as to one’s unwanted children. What a fate – to grow rotund and unseemly, to lose my self-love, to think in terms of milk, oatmeal, nurse, diapers… Dear dream children, howe much more beautiful you are, dazzling little creatures who flutter (all dream children flutter) on golden, golden wings – Such children, however, poor dear babies, have little in common with the wedded state” (125). She rejects real children. Part of the maternal function is to leave the feathered babies to the father’s idealization.

She writes FINIS in her journal the night before her marriage. It’s the end for her. 125.

Anthony is horrified by the animality of sex, and neither of them really want to be tied to the “business of life” (127).

Gloria realizes that her body is her only extra-marital currency, and fears that giving birth will take that away from her. It violates her rule to “never give a damn” (171). Motherhood is the necessity of giving a damn. Motherhood would be an “indignity” (171).

lots of cats in here

While Anthony is at war having his affair with Dot, Gloria “bought a doll and dressed it…” (312). What would a child have done to her and them? That absence haunts the novel. The novel is in some ways structured around Gloria’s resistance to fertility and the narrative absence of a marriage-codifying child

“She knew that in her breast she had never wanted children. The realty, the earthiness, the intolerable sentiment of child-bearing, the menace to her beauty – had appalled her. She wanted to exist only as a conscious flower, prolonging and preserving itself. Her sentimentality could cling fiercely to her own illusions, but her ironic soul whispered that motherhood was also the privilege of the female baboon. So her dreams were of ghostly children only – the early, the perfect symbols of her early and perfect love for Anthony” (330).  She recognizes that children are symbols and rejects the job of tending the symbolic flame. She knows that motherhood comes at the expense of self-preservation and refuses it

This book has a disappointing moral ending, vs. its equivalent Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth. We are happy for Gloria, kind of, but she (and especially Anthony) should have been punished ($ will feed alcoholism and buy fur rather than charity.) Inertia wins in the end: sometimes inertia goes in your favor. We have to recognize our own moralism, despite our own ironic temperament. The ending is brilliant.

Hélène Cixous, Gare d’Osnabrück à Jerusalem

Cixous, Hélène. Gare d’Osnabrück à Jerusalem. Paris: Éditions Galilée, 2016.

“À Osnabrück prend sa source Éve ma mère, cette Homère qui ne faisait pas exprès d’oser” (14). Even linguistically, you can’t have Homere without “mere,” you can’t have the epic poet without a mother, perhaps offering her umbilical memory

Sometimes the journey is “moi en moi” and sometimes “maman en moi” (18)

“Je me rappelle ces incidents par la mémoire de ma mère, comme si c’était hier” (19).

“Explique-toi, dit mon fils” (21). Between mere and fille there is umbilical memory processing – not between mere and fils; she must explain herself

Ulysse, Freud and Eve equivalized (21)

“je riais de la manie de ma mère, la femme la plus généreuse du monde…” (22). Mania, generosity generativity maternity

Her own children enter and exit the narrative at random, usually to interrupt or contradict her

“…en vérité il y avait des moments délixieux où je devenais Ève” (29). Amniotic desire to morph back into mother (memory is the agent)

The visionary memory umbilical cord still in tact between her and her mother but not between her and her children (desire to have but not to be a mother)

“Alors nous finirons par y aller,


Rime avec irons, dit ma mère

En francais” (33). Ève loves to invoke metaphorical congruence or association by rhyme – tangential logogriph-ish approach to meaning vs Lacanian analogue

“Tu as toujours eu de l’imagination, dit ma mère. Tu m’as inventée. Tu écris et tu prends tes inventions pour la réalité…. je ne suis pas une fiction” (42). Real mother eclipsed by daughter’s projected or imagined mother. How accurate is umbilical memory? Mothers are always a fiction when re-told (perhaps as long as they are maternal function they are always a fiction. Umbilical memory in fact fails the mother’s reality. Umbilical memory a function of the mother function not the mother)

“Ce n’est pas que Cordelia est devenue Regan, a pensé Onkel André, c’est qu’elle l’a toujours été” (63). Cordelia was always Regan: the “good daughter” was always already a traitor to the parent. This is an uncle (male) thinking through Cixous: perhaps Cixous thinking this herself really”

“Tout le monde l’enterrerait sous les décombres de la mémoire” (68). Ruined site reminiscent of female abject womb/tomb. Womb is décombré after a birth

“Ève Klein, qui bientôt sera ma mère” (71).

In some ways Cixous’s narrative framed around the narrative of Job. She explains to her daughter: “Tu te rappelles qu’on lui a arraché toutes les prunelles de ses yeux d’un coup, tous ses enfants, tous ses enfants, on ne lui a pas laissé le plus petit bébé, on lui a seulement laissé le mot enfant comme un pieu enflammé dans son oeil, dis-je à ma fille” (78). All that was left to him was the paternal function rather than the fruit. Job is a bad parent… hey kid, I could do the same. The “word child” means there is a child function as well. This is in part what the child owes the parent, the taking on of the burden of memory

Job is, as the narrator notes, “content de ses nouveux enfants” (79). Function = symbol = myth; reality = flesh; memory lies somewhere in between

There are some things about which she finds she cannot speak, including the decision of some wealthier family members to refuse financial assistance to her grandmother. “Et j’ajoute mon silence à celui de ma mère et de ma grand-mère… le silence dit la vérité faite par Ève et Omi” (109).

“Ma mère m’empêche de tout dire, il y a pire, il y a pire. Elle ne veut pas que l’on sache le pire, et pourtant c’est elle qui m’a ranconté le pire, elle n’a pas réussi à ne pas le ranconter, elle” (126).

“Et en tant que poète j’ai lu dans les rues et sur les trottoirs ce que ma mère et Omi ne pouvaient pas me dire avec leurs propres bouches, car elles sont assermentées à la famille et au peuple et elles n’osent pas rompre le serment” (147).

“Ne touchons pas au Silence” (160).

Kristeva, “Women’s Time”

Kristeva, Julia. “Women’s Time,” Signs 7.1, 1981.

“…this memory or symbolic common denominator concerns the response that human groupings, united in space and time, have given not to the problems of the production of material goods (i.e. the domain of the economy and of the human relationships it implies, politics, etc.) but, rather, to those of reproduction, survival of the species, life and death, the body, sex, and symbol” (14).

” ‘Father’s time, mother’s species,’ as Joyce put it; and, indeed, when evoking the name and destiny of women, one thinks more of the space generating and forming the human species than of time, becoming, or history…. Freud, listening to the dreams and fantasies of his patients, thought that ‘hysteria was linked to place'” (15).

“…the problematic of space, which innumerable religions of matriarchal (re)appearance attribute to ‘woman,’ and which Plato, recapitulating in his own system the atomists of antiquity, designated by the aporia of the chora, matrix space, nourishing, unnameable, anterior to the One, to God and, consequently, defying metaphysics. As for time, female subjectivity would seem to provide a specific measure that essentially retains repetition and eternity from among the multiple modalities of time known through the history of civilizations” (16).

“…the various myths of resurrection which, in all religious beliefs, perpetuate the vestige of an anterior or concomitant maternal cult, right up to its most recent elaboration, Christianity, in which the body of the Virgin Mother does not die but moves from one spatiality to another within the same time via dormition…or via assumption” (17).

“A psychoanalyst would call this ‘obsessional time,’ recognizing in the mastery of time the true structure of the slave. The hysteric (either male or female) who suffers from reminiscences would, rather, recognize his or her self in the anterior temporal modalities: cyclical or monumental” (17).

“…by demanding recognition of an irreducible identity, without equal in the opposite sex and, as such, exploded, plural, fluid, in a certain way nonidentical, [recent] feminism situates itself outside the linear time of identities which communicate through projection and revindication. Such a feminism rejoins, on the one hand, the archaic (mythical) memory, and, on the other, the cyclical or monumental temporality of marginal movements” (20).

The “logical operation of seperation” from a presumed “state of nature” and of “pleasure fused with nature,” is “the common destiny of the two sexes, men and women. That certain biofamilial conditions and relationships cause women (and notably hysterics) to deny this separation and the language which ensues from it, whereas men (notably obsessionals) magnify both and, terrified, attempt to master them–this is what Freud’s discovery has to tell us on this issue” (23).

“Lacan’s scandalous sentence ‘There is no such thing as Woman’ [in “Dieu et la jouissance de la femme,” 1975, Encore]. Indeed, she does not exist with a capital ‘W,’ possessor of some mythical unity – a supreme power, on which is based the terror of power and terrorism as the desire for power. But what an unbelievable force for subversion in the modern world! And, at the same time, what playing with fire!” (30).

If not to the desire for the phallus, “what does th[e] desire for motherhood correspond to” in modern women? (31).

“If Freud’s affirmation – that the desire for a child is the desire for a penis and, in this sense, a substitute for phallic and symbolic dominion – can only be partially accepted, what modern women have to say about this experience should nonetheless be listened to attentively. Pregnancy seems to be experienced as the radical ordeal of the splitting of the subject: redoubling up of the body, separation and coexistence of the self and of an other, of nature and consciousness, of physiology and speech. This fundamental challenge to identity is then accompanied by a fantasy of totality–narcissistic completeness–a sort of instituted, socialized, natural psychosis. The arrival of the child, on the other hand, leads the mother into the labyrinths of an experience that, without the child, she would only rarely encounter: love for an other” (31).

“The ability to succeed in this path without masochism and without annihilating one’s affective, intellectual, and professional personality – such would seem to be the stakes to be won through guiltless maternity. It them becomes a creation in the strong sense of the term. For this moment, utopian? On the other hand, it is in the aspiration toward artistic and, in particular, literary creation that woman’s desire for affirmation now manifests itself” (31).

Kristeva is suspicious of the “pens” of the “female writers” who write “in the name of a semi-aphonic corporality whose truth can only be found in that which is ‘gestural’ or ‘tonal'” (32).

The role of “aesthetic practices” such as literature must “demystify the identity of the symbolic bond itself, to demystify, therefore, the community of language as a universal and unifying tool, one which totalizes and equalizes. In order to bring out – along with the singularity of each person and, even more, along with the multiplicity of every person’s possible identifications (with atoms, e.g., stretching from the family to the stars)–the relativity of his/her symbolic as well as biological existence, according to the variation in his/her specific symbolic capacities” (35).

spinoza’s question: are women subject to ethics? “The answer to Spinoza’s question can be affirmative only at the cost of considering feminism as but a moment in the thought of that anthropomorphic identity which currently blocks the horizon of the discursive and scientific adventure of our species” (35). In other words, women are only subject to male ethics if we have established that male ethics are indeed worth being subject to.

Andre Green, “The Dead Mother”

Green, Andre. “The Dead Mother,” in On Private Madness. Trans Katherine Aubertin. 1980.

“I wish to make it clear that I shall not be discussing here the psychical consequences of the real death of the mother, but rather that of an imago which has been constituted in the child’s mind, following maternal depression, brutally transforming a living object, which was a source of vitality for the child, into a distant figure, toneless, practically inanimate…” (142). In other words, exploring the absence of the maternal function rather than the mother herself.

“Thus, the dead mother, contrary to what one might think, is a mother who remains alive but who is, so to speak, psychically dead in the eyes of the young child in her care” (142).

Central question: “What is the relation that one can establish between object-loss and the depressive position” (143)

Psychoanalytic philosophy allows “a major role to the concept of a dead father,” (144) see Oedipus complex

“…on the other hand, we never hear of the dead mother from a structural point of view” (144).

“Matricide does not involve the dead mother as a concept” (144).

In Freudian psychoanalysis, the structural function of the father as both object of the patient’s erotic wishes and castrator “implies a constitutive conception of the psychical order – that constitutes a symbolical organization – which is programmed by the primal fantasies” (145).

In some ways, the Freudian tradition’s fixation on “castration as a model” has obliged later psychoanalysts to “castrasize…all other forms of anxiety… one speaks of anal or narcissistic castration, for example” (145).


“Castration anxiety can be legitimately described as subsuming the group of anxieties linked by the ‘little one’ detachable part of the body, whether it be penis, faeces, or baby” (145). The “class unity” is here maintained by “the context of a bodily wound associated with this bloody act.” On the contrary, while “to be sure, all forms of anxiety are accompanied by destructiveness,” loss seems to “have nothing to do with a bloody mutilation” (146).

“I defend the hypothesis that the sinister black of depression, which we can legitimately relate to the hatred we observe in the psychoanalysis of depressed subjects, is only a secondary product, a consequence rather than a cause, of a ‘blank’ anxiety which expresses a loss that has been experienced on a narcissistic level” (146).

“On the side of the child, everything which introduces the anticipation of a third person, each time that the mother is not wholly present and her devotion to the child is neither total nor absolute… will be, retrospectively, attributable to the father” (147). This is why the “metaphoric loss of the breast” is related to the prohibition of incest – the primal scene “takes place outside the subject,” and the subject necessarily “excludes himself and constitutes himself” despite his absence from this scene, “which gives birth to fantasy, which is a production of the subject’s ‘madness'” (147).

“The recourse to metaphor, which holds good for every essential element of psychoanalytic theory, is particularly necessary here” (147).

“One must retain the metaphor of the breast, for the breast, like the penis, can only be symbolic. However intense the pleasure of sucking linked to the nipple, or the teat, might be, erogenous pleasure has the power to concentrate within itself everything of the mother that is not the breast: her smell, her skin, her look and the thousand other components that ‘make up’ the mother. The metonymical object has become metaphor to the object” (148)

“…by going more deeply into the problems relating to the dead mother, I refer to them as to a metaphor, independent of the bereavement of a real object” (148). Therefore, metaphor is a way to distance theory from real objects

The “dead mother complex” does not concern “the loss of a real object” (149).Instead, it is the transformation in the infant’s psyche when the mother for some reason, through some bereavement, stops loving him in the way to which he was accustomed.

“…as one says, ‘her heart is not in it'” (151). The mother doesn’t have to be dead in order for the child to experience the dead mother complex. But her function is dead, insofar as her function is giving and loving with her whole heart

“He thinks the primary object no longer counts for him. In truth, he will encounter the inability to love, not only because of ambivalence, but because his love is still mortgaged to the dead mother” (156). “Arrested in their capacity to love, subjects who are under the empire of the dead mother can only aspire to autonomy” (156).

“The dead mother refuses to die a second death…. It is because she is a thousand-headed hydra whom one believes one has beheaded with each blow; whereas in fact only one of its heads has been struck off” (157).

“The relation to the breast is the object of a radical reinterpretation… it is less a question of a bad breast, which is ungiving, than a breast which, even when it does give, is an absent breast (and not lost), absorbed with nostalgia for a relation that is grieved for; a breast which can neither be full nor filling” (160).

“‘I have never been loved’ becomes a new outcry which the subject will cling to and which he strives to confirm in his subsequent love-life” (160-1).

“The subject’s entire structure aims at a fundamental fantasy: to nourish the dead mother, to maintain her perpetually embalmed. This is what the analysand does to the analyst… For the subject wants to be the mother’s polar star, the ideal child, who takes the place of an ideal dead object, who is necessarily invincible, because not living, which is to be imperfect, limited, finite” (161).

“Behind the manifest situation there is an inverted vampiric fantasy. The patient spends his life nourishing his dead, as thought he alone has charge of it. Keeper of the tomb, sole possessor of the key of the vault, he fulfils his function of foster-parent in secret. He keeps the dead mother prisoner, and she remains his personal property. The mother has become the infant of the child. It is for him to repair her narcissistic wound” (164). A paradox arises here, however: if he succeeds in arousing or awakening her, he will lose her again, for she will go about her own affairs without him as polar star. “Hence the extreme ambivalence concerning the desire to bring the dead mother back to life” (164).


End of the essay:

“…it is a question of ‘meaning,’ otherwise it would not have been able to be recorded in the psyche. But this meaning-in-waiting is only truly significant when it is reawakened by a recathexis which takes place in an absolutely different context. What meaning is this? A lost meaning, refound?… Potential meaning which only lacks the analytic – or poetic? – experience to become a veridical experience” (172-3).



E. M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread

Forster, E. M. Where Angels Fear to Tread. Knopf: 1920, 1943. 

As Lilia is leaving for Europe she after-thought “caught sight of her little daughter Irma, and felt that a touch of maternal solemnity was required. ‘Goodbye, darling. Mind you’re always good, and do what Granny tells you'” (8).

“Romance only dies with life. No pair of pincers will ever pull it out of us. But there is a spurious sentiment which cannot resist the unexpected and the incongruous and the grotesque. A touch will loosen it, and the sooner it goes from us the better” (42). (Philip’s Romance disappears when he learns that his sister has married the son of a dentist… “A Dentist in fairyland!” It ruins Italy for him.)

“Italy is such a delightful place to live in if you happen to be a man. There one may enjoy that exquisite luxury of Socialism – that true Socialism which is based not on equality of income or character, but on the equality of manners. In the democracy of the caffe or the street the great question of our live has been solved, and the brotherhood of man is a reality. But it is accomplished at the expense of the sisterhood of women” (73).

Gino’s friends determine that it is impossible that Lilia is “simpatico.” “There are such men, I know…and I have heard it said of children. But where will you find such a woman?… Sono poco simpatiche le donne. And the time we waste over them is much” (80). He does admit, however, that Miss Abbott was more simpatico than most. (note the masculine word ending.)

Lilia dies giving birth. This is in many ways exactly what her husband wanted; it is convenient; her death serves an important function. No one really cares about her, not her husband nor her family-in-law. But they all care about the function of the baby the way they only cared about the function of her.

Mrs. Herriton argues that It is important that Irma not know about her mother’s disgrace because “All a child’s life depends on the ideal it has of its parents. Destroy that and everything goes… Absolute trust in some one else is the essence of education” (109-110).

Philip hates the “petty selfishness” of Swansea, but Miss Abbott hates the “petty unselfishness”: “I had got an idea that every one here spent their lives in making little sacrifices for objects they didn’t care for, to please people they didn’t love; that they never learnt to be sincere – and, what’s as bad, never learnt how to enjoy themselves” (118). This is what drives her to encourage Lilia’s marriage with Gino.

When Miss Abbott meets the baby: “She had thought so much about this baby, of its welfare, its soul, its morals, its probably defects. But, like most unmarried people, she had only thought of it as a word – just as the healthy man only thinks of the word death, not of death itself. The real thing, lying asleep on a dirty rug, disconcerted her. It did not stand for a principle any longer… now that she saw this baby, lying asleep on a dirty rug, she had a great disposition not to dictate one of them, and to exert no more influence than there may be in a kiss or in the vaguest of the heartfelt prayers” (201).

“It is the strongest desire that can come to a man – if it comes to him at all – stronger even than love or the desire for personal immortality. All men vaunt it, and declare that it is theirs; but the hearts of most are set elsewhere. It is the exception who comprehends that physical and spiritual life may stream out of him for ever… when Gino pointed first to himself and then to his baby and said ‘father – son,’ she still took it as a piece of nursery prattle” (212).

“Do you want the child to stop with his father, who loves him and will bring him up badly, or do you want him to come to Sawston, where no one loves him, but where he will be brought up well? There is the question put dispassionately enough even for you Settle it” (231).

Harriet kidnaps the baby, ignores its silent cries (his father knows that a loud cry is not serious but silent cries are very serious), and the baby is killed when the carriage topples and they are all thrown. Harriet is upset or “ill” for a while, but then she gets over it and considers the matter settled. The function of the child has been settled. The real child doesn’t matter.


Ted Hughes

The Hawk in the Rain (1957)

“The Thought-Fox”

“A Modest Proposal”


Crow (from 1970)

“King of Carrion”

“Crow’s First Lesson”


“Crow and Mama”

“Crow’s Theology”

“Oedipus Crow”

“Crow’s Undersong”

“Crow Blacker than Ever”

“Song for a Phallus”

“Apple Tragedy”


The Birthday Letters (1998)

“The Shot”

“The Owl” (v. Hawk, Fox)


“The Earthenware Head”


“Child’s Park” (re-write of Child’s Park Stones)


“Epiphany” (re-write of Thought Fox)

“The Minotaur”


“The Rag Rug” (– oddly a re-write of the scene in The Bell Jar with Buddy’s Mom)

“The Rabbit Catcher” (rewrite of The Rabbit Catcher)

“The Bee God” (rewrite of the Bee poems)

“Night Ride on Ariel” (rewrite of Ariel)

“The Dogs are Eating Your Mother”

Gwendolyn Brooks, Selected Poems

“A Street in Bronzeville” (esp. kitchenette building, the mother, a song in the front yard)

“The Womanhood” (the children of the poor)

“Old Mary”

“A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi”

“Jessie Mitchell’s Mother”

“The Crazy Woman”

“The Empty Woman”

Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider

Lorde, Audre. Sister, Outsider. Berkeley: Crossing Press, 1984, 2007.

“Poetry is Not a Luxury”

“The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives… This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are – until the poem – nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt. That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding”  (36). This reminds me of H.D.’s discussion of vision as a pregnant experience: poetry is an experience of birth, which means an experience grounded in the feminine, if not female, experience.

“I speak here of poetry as a revelatory distillation of experience, not the sterile word play that, too often, the white fathers distorted the word poetry to mean – in order to cover a desperate wish for imagination without insight” (37). Without those births she mentioned earlier, in other words.

For Lorde, poetry is “the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought” (37). Vs. La Mystérique, for whom there is a nameless but no name that can be given to it.

“Sometimes we drug ourselves with dreams of new ideas. the head will save us. The brain alone will set us free. But there are no new ideas still waiting in the wings to save us as women, as human. There are only old and forgotten ones… And there are no new pains” (38-9).

“There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt – of examining what those ideas feel like being lived on Sunday morning at 7 a.m., after brunch, during wild love, making war, giving birth, mourning our dead – while we suffer the old longings, battle the old warnings and fears of being silent and impotent and alone, while we taste new possibilities and strengths” (39). Those are all very primal scenes, that need new expression by women in a new way: perhaps through feminine language.

“Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power”

“The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling” (53).

“We have been taught to suspect this resource…we have come to distrust that power which rises from our deepest and nonrational knowledge. We have been warned against it all our lives by the male world…” (53).

“the aim of each thing which we do is to make our lives and the lives of our children richer and more possible” (55). Our lives –> the lives of our children. Traditional justification, but the juxtaposition of sexuality and children is startling)

“…satisfaction is possible, and does not have to be called marriage, nor god, nor an afterlife” (57).

Audre Lorde writes an open letter to Mary Daly after reading GynEcology (67)

“The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”

“They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support” (112).


Gertrude Stein, Three Lives

Stein, Gertrude. Three Lives. Vintage Books: Random House, 1909. 

Begins with quote from Jules Laforgue: “Donc je suis un malheureux et ce n’est ni ma faute ni celle de la vie.”

In his Gertrude Stein: A Biography of her work, Donald Sutherland situates Stein in the “naturalist” tradition, using common words to express complicated things.

In some ways, this strategy dislocates the naturalist tradition’s ease of viewpoint: not only do these naturalist stories view women, they view women’s particular troubles in ways sympathetic to these women. They also treat concerns like childbirth, while ignoring or skirting things like sex: naturalism has a viewpoint and is not as objective as it purports to be.

Also, beginning with Laforgue situates her in some ways in the symbolist tradition which seems at odds with the naturalist positioning

“The Good Anna”

Anna’s dogs stand in for any children she might have: her dog is even named “Baby.” She really wants to skip the child-bearing stage and move straight to the state of controlling mother-in-law.

Despite her own lack of husband and children, she is very strict in the propriety of others. She breaks with the midwife and widow Mrs. Lehman, for example, because Mrs. Lehman adopted the foundling boy-child of one of the girls she helped.


By far the longest section of the book – as if Anna sets up Melanctha, and Lena follows her up.

The section begins with a discussion of Rose Johnson’s difficult birth: “Rose Johnson made it very hard to bring her baby to birth…. the sullen, childish, cowardly, black Rosie grumbled and fussed and howled and made herself to be an abomination and like a simple beast.

The child thought it was healthy after it was born, did not live long. Rose Johnson was careless and negligent and selfish, and when Melanctha had to leave for a few days, the baby died…. these things came so often in the negro world in Bridgepoint, that they neither of them thought about it very long” (85).

Melanctha is never quite sure what she wants, but it is related to the power she is able to hold over men as a woman.

Dr. Campbell: “No Miss Melanctha I certainly do only know just two kinds of ways of loving. One kind of loving seems to me, is like one has a good quiet feeling in a family when one does his work, and is always living good and being regular, and then the other way of loving is just like having it like any animal that’s low in the streets together, and that don’t seem to me very good Miss Melanctha” (124).

“Melanctha was too many for him” (175).

After breaking with Dr. Campbell, and after being abandoned by her gambling fiance Jem, Melanctha clings to Rose Johnson, whose “simple, selfish” nature she sees as a kind of salvation: “The baby though it was healthy after it was born did not live long. Rose Johnson was careless and negligent and selfish and when Melanctha had to leave for a few days the baby died. Rose Johnson had liked her baby well enough and perhaps she just forgot it for a while, anyway the child was dead and Rose and Sam were very sorry, but then these things came so often in the negro world in Bridgepoint that they neither of them thought about it very long…” (225). “Rose guessed perhaps Melanctha better go home now, Rose don’t need nobody to help her now, she is feeling real strong, not like just after she had all that trouble with the baby, and then Sam, when he comes home for his dinner he likes it when Rose is all alone there just to give him his dinner” (230).

“Melanctha needed Rose always to let her cling to her, Melanctha wanted badly to have somebody who could make her always feel a little safe inside her, and now Rose had sent her from her” (232). Melanctha wants to be a fetus; to be inside Rose and be safe; Rose is a bad mother.

“The Gentle Lena”

Lena is pressured into a marriage with Herman Kreder, a solid respectable German tailor who lives with his parents, by the aunt who brought her to America from Germany. Lena has always seemed “lifeless” and “far-away” and a little “dull,” but marriage makes her life hell.

“These were really bad days for poor Lena. Herman always was real good to her and now he even sometimes tried to stop his mother from scolding Lena. ‘she ain’t well now mama, you let her be now you hear me. You tell me what it is you want she should be doing, I tell her. I see she does it right just the way you want it mama… Herman was getting really strong to struggle, for he could see that Lena with that baby working hard inside her, really could not stand it any longer with his mother and the awful ways she always scolded” (275).

“It was new for Herman Kreder really to be wanting something, but Herman wanted strongly now to be a father, and he wanted badly that his baby should be a boy and healthy” (275). He is willing to even struggle against his mother for the baby’s sake.

“Poor Lena was not feeling any joy to have a baby. She was scared… Before very long, Lena had her baby. He as a good, healthy little boy, the baby. Herman cared very much to have the baby. When Lena was a little stronger he took a house next door to the old couple, so he and his own family could eat and sleep and do the way they wanted. This did not seem to make much change now for Lena” (276).

“By and by LEna had two more little babies. Lena was not so much scared now when she had the babies. She did not seem to notice much when they hurt her, and she never seemed to feel very much now about anything that happened to her.

They were very nice babies, all these three that Lena had, and Herman took good care of them always. Herman never really cared much about his wife, Lena. The only things Herman ever really cared for were his babies” (278).

“Then there was to come to them, a fourth baby… When the baby was come out at last, it was like its mother lifeless. While it was coming, Lena had grown very pale and sicker. when it was all over Lena had died, too, and nobody knew just how it had happened to her” (279).

“Herman Kreder now always lived very happy, very gentle, very quiet, very well content alone with his three children. He never had a woman any more to be all the time around him” (279). Just want he wanted: a wife as pure vessel for children, who then dies and is no longer a bother to him.

Helen Vendler, Part of Nature, Part of Us: Modern American Poets

Vendler, Helen. Part of Nature, Part of Us: Modern American Poets. Harvard University Press: 1980.

Wallace Stevens

“The preeminent question life asked of Stevens was whether the sublime was livable” (1).

“To propose an American sublime, for Stevens, was to liberate an old notion: the sublime had so long evoked vastness and grandeur of conception, nobility of diction and a vehemence of passion, a sizable awe and a posture of ecstatic reverence, that a brief remark defining it as ‘the empty spirit in vacant space’ was the boldest of manifestos. Stevens’ proposal of a denuded sublime frightened even himself, and instead of pursuing it, he ended ‘The American Sublime’ with a hopeless set of questions…” (2).

“The sexual body cannot, for Stevens, be the source of value, however much he wishes it were. Later, when he has given up on the sexual body, he tries (prompted by the Second World War) to find a source of the sublime in the larger-than-life heroic body” (5).

For Stevens, the sublime is “necessarily contingent upon suffering” (8). His “lady of fictive music had never suffered, and even his woman in ‘Sunday Morning’ seems untouched by any ‘moods’ she has experienced or any ‘grievings’ she has undergone, so reflective and ripe is her tone” (8-9).

While Perkins’ History of Modern Poetry chastises Mrs. Stevens for not reading Wallace’s later work, Vendler kindly informs us that this is because “Mrs. Stevens was angry that Stevens published poems originally addressed to her” (19).

“The impotence he characteristically evokes in misery is ‘cured’ in [“The Men That Are Falling’] by the dangerous example of the hero, always a seductive icon for Stevens…. the discrepancy between the irresitible yearnings of desire and irreversible misery at its failure” (51).

“It is one of Stevens’ claims to greatness tha the went on to invent a new style – the style of parts as parts. of words refusing to form a single word, of the many truths not part of ‘a’ truth… For Stevens, one theoretical problem in inventing such a style lay in calling what we call metaphor into question. Metaphor implies analogy and resemblence, neither of which can be stable in a world of nonce effects” (52).


Marianne Moore

In his 1923 review of her Poems, Eliot praised her rhythm without being able to define it (65)

“her distrust of emotions made her increasingly submissive to fact…and the war caused her flexible ethical meditations to rigidify into moral outcries. Animals became an end in themselves, as human beings became more remote or more repellent: (70).

Elizabeth Bishop

Her work “vibrates” between two “frequencies”: the “domestic and the strange” (97).


Paul de Man, “Lyric and Modernity”

De Man, Paul. “Lyric and Modernity.” In Blindness and Insight, 166-186.University of Minnesota Press, 1983.

“The term ‘modernity’ is not used in a simple chronological sense as an approximate synonym for ‘recent’ or ‘contemporary’ with a positive or negative value-emphasis added. It designates more generally the problematical possibility of all literature;s existing in the present, of being considered, or read, from a point of view that claims to share with it its own sense of a temporal present. In theory, the question of modernity could therefore be asked of any literature at any time…” (166).

“…the definition of poetry as the first language gives it an archaic, ancient quality that is the opposite of modern, whereas the deliberate, cold, and rational character of discursive prose, which can only imitate or represent the original impulse if it does not ignore it altogether, would be the true language of modernity” (168).

“Within this perspective, it would be an absurdity to speak of the modernity of lyric poetry, since the lyric is precisely the antithesis of modernity. Yet, in our twentieth century, the social projection of modernity known as the avant-garde consisted predominately of poets rather than of prose writers” (168-9).

“…truly modern poetry is a poetry that has become aware of the incessant conflict that opposes a self, still engaged in the daylight world of reality, of representation, and of life, to what Yeats calls the soul… modern poetry uses an imagery that is both symbol and allegory, that represents objects in nature but is actually taken from purely literary sources… Modern poetry is described by Yeats as the conscious expression of a conflict within the function of language as representation and within the conception of language as the act of an autonomous self” (171). Self v. soul; representation v. soul. Conflict when self tries to use language or representation to describe soul (Yeats)

For Yeats, “a loss of the representational function of poetry that goes parallel with the loss of a sense of selfhood” (172).

To claim that modernity “is a form of obscurity is to call the oldest, most ingrained characteristics of poetry modern. To claim that the loss of representation is modern is to make us again aware of an allegorical element in the lyric that had never ceased to be present, but that itself is necessarily dependent on the existence of an earlier allegory and so is the negation of modernity. The worst mystification is to believe that one can move from representation to allegory, or vice versa, as one moves from the old to the new, from father to son, from history to modernity” (186).

“The less we understand a poet, the more he is compulsively misinterpreted and oversimplified and and made to say the opposite of what he actually said, the better the chances are that he is truly modern; that is, different from what we–mistakenly–think we are ourselves” (186).


Alette Olin Hill, Mother Tongue, Father Time

Hill, Alette Olin. Mother Tongue, Father Time. Indiana University Press: 1986.

Dedicated “For Boyd, Buck, and Michael, without whose relentless chauvinism this book might not have been written


“Why is our native language called ‘Mother’ whereas Time is called ‘Father’? One easy answer to the first is that most infants learn to speak from their mother…Father Time, on the other hand, has a more mysterious and perhaps sinister history” (xi).

New Year: “Father Time gives birth? Well, not exactly. This is but one instance of the unaccountable absence of the female at the scene of the action” (xi).

“It is noteworthy that Mother Tongue, meaning native language, belongs to human anatomy, whereas Father Time cannot be pinned down to a part of the body” (xi).

“I define ‘women’s language’ as the language spoken by women and ‘sexist language’ as the language spoken to and about women (the speaker’s sex is irrelevant) if that language degrades, disparages, or otherwise criticizes women” (xiv).

Woman’s approach to speech is, through linguistic as well as philosophical criticism, “wrong by definition” (4).

the right to vote was predicated on pronouns (61)

“The imperative mood governs the language of myth….myth is substituted for rational discourse whenever conservatives wish to keep women in their ‘place'” (112). (citing Phyllis Schafly)

Women are often warned in the “mythic imperative mood” to “follow nature, or else” (114).

women are often presented with a false choice between “courtesy and citizenship” (128).

linguistic “hedges” vs. la mysterique’s refusal to say anything definitely



W. B. Yeats, Essays and Introductions

Yeats, W. B. Essays and Introductions. Macmillan: 1961.

“Magic” (28)

“I beleive in the practice and philosophy of what we have agreed to call magic, in what I must call the evocation of spirits, though I do not know what they are, in the power of creating magical illusions, in the visions of truth in the depths of the mind when the eyes are closed” (28).

His three doctrines:

“1) That the borders of our mind are ever shifting, and that many minds can flow into one another, as it were, and create or reveal a single mind, a single energy.

2) That the borders of our memories are as shifting, and that our memories are a part of one great memory, the memory of Nature herself.

3) That this great mind and great memory can be evoked by symbols” (28).

“There is a memory of Nature that reveals events and symbols of distant centuries. Mystics of many countries and many centuries have spoken of this memory; and the honest men and charlatans, who keep the magical traditions which will some day be studied as a part of folk-lore, base most that is of importance in their claims upon this memory” (46).

“I cannot now think symbols less than the greatest of all powers whether they are used consciously by the masters of magic, or half unconsciously by their successors, the poet, the musician and the artist. At first I tried to distinguish between symbols and symbols, between what I called inherent symbols and arbitrary symbols, but the distinction has come to mean little or nothing. Whether their power has arisen out of themselves or whether it has an arbitrary origin, matters little, for they act, as I believe, because the Great Memory associates them with certain events and moods and persons” (50).

“The Symbolism of Poetry” (153)

“We may call this metaphorical writing, but it is better to call it symbolical writing, because metaphors are not profound enough to be moving, when they are not symbols, and when they are symbols they are the most perfect of all, because the most subtle, outside of pure sound, and through them one can best found out what symbols are” (156).

“Because an emotion does not exist, or does not become perceptible and active among us, till it has found its expression, in colour or in sound or in form, or in all of these, and because no two modulations or arrangements of these evoke the same emotion, poets and painters and musicians… are continually making and remaking mankind. It is indeed only those things which seem useless or very feeble that have any power, and all those things that seem useful or strong, armies, moving wheels, modes of architecture, modes of government, speculations of the reason, would have been a little different if some mind long ago had not given itself to some emotion, as a woman gives herself to her lover...” (157).

“The purpose of rhythm, it has always seemed to me, is to prolong the moment of contemplation, the moment we are both asleep and awake, which is the one moment of creation… to keep us in that state of perhaps real trance…” (159).

emotional symbols “evoke emotion alone,” but intellectual symbols “evoke ideas alone”

“if one is moved by Dante, or by the myth of Demeter, one is mixed into the shadow of God or goddess… So, too, one is furthest from symbols when one is busy doing this or that” (162).

“We should come to understand that the beryl stone was enchanted by our fathers so that it might unfold the pictures in its heart, and not to mirror our own excited faces, or the boughs waving outside the window” (163).

When your words are not well chosen, you cannot give a body to something that moves beyond the senses, unless your words are as subtle, as complex, as full of mysterious life, as the body of a flower or of a woman.” (164).

“The Celtic Element in Literature” (173)

“The Celtic passion for Nature comes almost more from a sense of her ‘mystery’ than of her ‘beauty,’ and it adds ‘charm and magic’ to Nature…” (173).

“Certainly a thirst for unbounded emotion and a wild melancholy are troublesome things in the world, and do not make its life more easy or orderly, but it may be the arts are founded on the life beyond the world, and that they must cry in the ears of our penury until the world has been consumed and become a vision” (184).


Poetry and Tradition” (246)

“All movements are held together more by what they hate than what they love, for love separates and individualises and quiets, but the nobler movements, the only movements on which literature can found itself, hate great and lasting things” (250).

“The Holy Mountain” (448)

“Modern Poetry” (491)

“My generation, because it disliked Victorian rhetorical moral fervour, came to dislike all rhetoric” (497).

“We older writers disliked this new poetry, but were forced to admit its satiric intensity. It was in Eliot that certain revolutionary War poets, young men who felt they had been dragged away from their studies, from their pleasant life, by the blundering frenzy of old men, found the greater part of their style” (500).

“A General Introduction for My Work” (509)

A Vision, its harsh geometry an incomplete interpretation” (518).


W. B. Yeats, A Vision

Yeats, W.V. A Vision. Macmillan, 1978.

Yeats describes his Vision as “a system of thought that would leave my imagination free to create as it chose and yet make all that it created, or could create, part of the one history, and that the soul’s” (xi).

Conversation between Aherne and Robartes:

Robartes: All thought becomes an image and the soul

Becomes a body: that body and that soul

Too perfect at the full to lie in a cradle,

Too lonely for the traffic of the world :

Body and soul cast out and cast away

Beyond the visible world.


Aherne: All dreams of the soul

End in a beautiful man or woman’s body. (5).

“Incarnate man has four faculties… the Will, the Creative Mind, the body of fate, and the Mask. The will and mask are predominately Lunar or antithetical, the Creative Mind and the Body of Fate predominately Solar or Primary” (14).

Mask = “the image of what we wish to become, or of that to which we give our reverence” (15)

Body of fate = “the physical and mental environment, the changing human body, the stream of phenomena as this affects a particular individual, all that is forced upon us from without…” (15)

will = “looks into a painted picture”

creative mind “looks into a photograph, but both look into something which is the opposite of themselves” (15).

Makes sense that the first two are lunar/feminine and the last masculine/solar.

Emotional opposition between Will and Mask; intellection opposition between Creative Mind and Body of Fate

Discord between Will and Creative Mind; Creative mind and mask; mask and body of fate; body of fate and will

“Discord is always the enforced understanding of the unlikeness of will and mask or or creative mind and bod of fate. There is an enforced attraction between opposites…” (24)

“Man’s daimon therefore has her energy and bias, in man’s Mask, and her constructive power in man’s fate, and man and Daimon face each other in a perpetual conflict or embrace. This relation (the Daimon being the oposite sex to that of man) may create a passion like that of sexual love. The relation of man and woman, in so far as it is passionate, reproduces the relation of man and Daimon, and becomes an element where man and daimon sport, pursue one another, and do one another good and evil…. every man is, in the right of his sex, a wheel, or a group of Four Faculties, and everyone is, in the right of her sex, a wheel which reverses the masculine wheel” (27).

Daimon is a “dark mind,” and the “object of the Daimon” is to “create a very personal form of heroism or of poetry.” The Daimon “herself” is “passionless and has a form of thought, which has no need of premise and deduction, nor of any language, for it apprehends the truth by a faculty which is analogos to sight, and hearing, and taste, and touch, and smell, though without organs” (28).

Phase of beauty: p 48, phase 15

Phases 1 and 15 mirror each other: “the more perfect be the soul, the more indifferent the mind, the more dough-like the body” (116).

“Finished… in a time of Civil War” (117) (i.e., this is meant to impose some sort of order)

in What the Caliph Refused to Learn 

“Was it she that spoke or some great Djinn?

I say that a djinn spoke. A live-long hour

she seemed the learned man and I the child;

Truths without father came…” (125)

(and later)

“All, all those gyres and cubes and midnight things

Are but a new expression of her body

Drunk with the bitter-sweetness of her youth.

And now my utmost mystery is out:

A woman’s beauty is a storm-tossed banner;

Under it all wisdom stands, and I alone –” (127).

Discussing the gyres in the context of Blake’s gyres: “The woman and the man are two competing gyres growing at one another’s expense… the existence of the one depends on the existence of the other” (134).

“The system constantly compels us to consider beauty an accompaniment of war, and wisdom of decay” (139).

“The cycles of human rebirth, unlike those of the Eternal Man, are measured upon the Lunar cone” (169). Eternal birth = masculine; human = feminine

Invocation of “Leda” poem on 179, at the beginning of the discussion of the historical cones: she will happen over and over and over again.

“Each age unwinds the thread another age had wound, and it amuses one to remember that before Phidias, and his westward moving art, Persia fell…. all things dying each other’s life, living each other’s death” (183).

XV : The Herring Fishers

“Much of this book is abstract, because it has not yet been lived, for no man can dip into life more than a moiety of any system. When a child, I went out with herring fishers one dark night, and the dropping of their nets into the luminous sea and the drawing of them up has remained with me as a dominant image. Have I found a good net for a herring fisher?” (251).

“That we may believe that all men possess the super-natural faculties I would restore to the philosopher his mythology” (252).


Yeats, Mythologies

Yeats, W.B. Mythologies. Macmillan: 1959, 1977.

Of the faeries: “He saw them for about half an hour, and then the old man he and those about him were working for took up a whip and said, ‘Get on, get on, or we will have no work done!’ I asked if he saw the faeries too. ‘O yes, but he did not want work he was paying wages for to be neglected.’ He made everybody work so hard that nobody saw what happened to the faeries” (10). Capitalism thwarts the mystic economy; perhaps mysticism is a way to try to weasel out of capitalism.

In “Dust Hath Closed Helen’s Eye,” a girl’s beauty causes her to be taken by the faeries (29).

Rosa Alchemica:

Mystical doctrines “swept the commands on the Father away…and displaced the commandments of the Son by the commandments of the Holy Spirit” (298). Displacement of Father/Son analogue for Holy Spirit. Defined against it but co-existent with it.

the Holy Spirit is still a “father” to those who have visions (300).

Anima Hominis

“We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.” (331).

“Sexual love” is “founded upon spiritual hate,” and this is “an image of the warfare of man and Daimon” (336).

“I am persuaded that a logical process, or a series of related images, has body and period, and I think of anima mundi as a great pool or garden where it moves through its allotted growth like a great water-plant or fragrantly branches in the air” (352).

(re: HD’s jellyfish)


Yeats, The Autobiography of W.B. Yeats

Yeats, William Butler. The Biography of W. B. Yeats. Macmillan: 1916, 1993. 

Reveries over childhood and youth 

“I think I confused my grandfather with God, for I remember in one of my attacks of melancholy praying that he might punish me for my sins” (3).

As a child, the voice of his conscious was mixed with his aunt’s voice and faery voices (6).

“My father’s unbelief had set me thinking about the evidences of religion and I weighed the matter perpetually with great anxiety, for I did not think I could live without religion… One day I got a decisive argument for belief. A cow was about to calve, and I went to the field where the cow was with some farm-hands who carried a lantern, and next day I heard the cow had calved in the early morning. I asked everybody how calves were born, and because nobody would tell me, made up my mind that nobody knew. They were the gift of God, that much was certain, but it was plain that nobody had ever dared to see them come, and children must come in the same way. I made up my mind that when I was a man, I would wait up till calf or child had come. I was certain there would be a cloud and a burst of light and God would bring the calf in the cloud out of the light” (16). When another boy explains the “mechanism of sex” to Yeats, “his description, give as I can see now, as if he were telling of any other fact of physical life, made me miserable for weeks” (16).

Mysticism shrouds not only what we don’t know but also what we refuse to discuss: that which we do not understand and do not want to understand we shroud in magic. Yeats is disappointed and disturbed at the unmystical unmasking of birth as something banal, as a physical process.

“The only lessons I had ever learned were those my father taught me, for he terrified me by descriptions of my moral degradation and he humiliated me by my likeness to disagreeable people” (19). God the father is a bad teacher

“I was vexed and bewildered, and am still bewildered and still vexed, finding it a poor and crazy thing that we who have imagined so many noble persons cannot bring our flesh to heel” (25).

The Lay of the Last Minstrel gave me a wish to turn magician that competed for years with the dream of being killed upon the seashore” (30). magic, death

“I fished for pike…and shot at birds with a muzzle-loading pistol until somebody shot a rabbit and I heard it squeal. From that on I would kill nothing but the dumb fish” (35). (like Aldington… but it gets beaten out of him. Generational difference bc of the war.)

“The great event of a boy’s life is the awakening of sex” (40).

:Somnambulistic country girls, when it is upon them, throw plates about or pull them with long hairs in simulation of the polter-geist, or become mediums for some genuine spirit-mischief, surrendering to their desire for the marvelous…. My interest in science began to fade, and presently I said to myself, ‘It has all been a misunderstanding'” (40-1). Sex and the marvelous are intimately related: sexual passion drives us to the marvelous and away from science. (The passion of sex overwhelms the science of sex, as above with the calf)

“When I thought of women they were modelled on those in my favourite poets and loved in brief tragedy, or like the girl in The Revolt of Islam, accompanied their lovers through all manner of wild places, lawless women without homes and without children” (42).

His uncle had a female servant. “She could neither read nor write and her mind, which answered his gloom with its merriment, was rammed with every sort of old history and strange belief. Much of my Celtic Twilight is but her daily speech” (46).

“I did not care for mere reality and believed that creation should be deliberate, and yet I could only imitate my father” (55). Analogue v. “deliberate” creation.

Yeat’s declaration that he was “in all things pre-Raphaelite” expresses the desire to escape the present moment for another. Youth’s quarrel is not, Yeats argues, with the past, “but with the present, where its elders are so obviously powerful and no cause seems lost if it seem to threaten that power” (77).

“I wished for a world” (77).

“I wanted the strongest passions, passions that had nothing to do with observation” (83).

“I was full of thought, often very abstract thought, longing all the while to be full of images” (112).

In Yeats’s first seance, “Sight came slowly….as if the darkness had been cut with a knife, for that miracle is mostly a woman’s privilege…” (125).

“Have not all races had their first unity from a mythology, that marries them to rock and hill?” (131).

The “chief temptation of the artist” is “creation without toil” (135).

“When we loathe ourselves or our world, if that loathing but turn to intellect, we see self or world and its anti-self as in one vision; when loathing remains but loathing, world or self consumes itself away, and we turn to its mechanical opposite” (157).

“The fascination of what’s difficult

Has dried the sap out of my veins, and rent

Spontaneous joy and natural content

Out of my heart” (236).

One striking instance of his visionary encounter with myth: a “naked woman of incredible beauty, standing upon a pedestal and shooting an arrow at a star. I still remember the tint of that marvellous flesh which makes all human flesh seem unhealthy” (248).

“Logic is a machine, one can leave it to itself…” (311).


Elaine Showalter, A Literature of Their Own

Showalter notes that even in “fantasies of autonomous female communities” such as that of John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor Mill, “there is no theory of female art” (4).

Rather than positing a “female imagination,” Showalter imagines a female literary tradition that “comes from the still-evolving relationships between women writers and their society” (12).

All “literary subcultures” go through three major phases: imitation and internalization; then protest and advocacy; then self-discovery. In the context of women’s writing, Showalter identifies these stages as “Feminine, Feminist, and Female” (13). For the purposes of this book, she identifies the “Feminine” phase “as the period from the appearance of the male pseudonym in the 1840s to the death of George Eliot in 1880; the Feminist phase as 1880 to 1920, or the winning of the vote; and the Female phase as 1920 to the present, but entering a new stage of self-awareness about 1960” (13).

“Women novelists were overwhelmingly the daughters of the upper middle class, the aristocracy, and the professions” (37).

Lewes: maternity is highest function (68)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning referred to her heroine, George Sand, as “thou large-brained woman and large-hearted man” (77).

“Women educated to perceive themselves, in the popular horticultural imagery of the period, as lilies-of-the-valley or violets seeking the shade were understandingly ambivalent about the self-revelation necessary in fiction” (81).

In “The Lady Novelists,” Lewes argues that, in Showalter’s words, “For the philosophical modes he valued most highly, he thought, women substituted documentation, a copious circumstantial descriptiveness” (88), also defining Dickens as a “feminine writer” (88).

“…it was with the sense that future generations were endangered that women took up the righteous battle to change and elevate the sexual morality of men. They were going to administer maternal love unto the world, and the maternal instinct…became for them a mighty fortress” (188).

The feminists, according to Showalter, “knew very clearly what they were against, but only vaguely what they were for. The feminist writers were engaged in the kind of quarrel that, according to yeats, leads to rhetoric but not poetry” (193).

Schreiner’s novels present a sort of “femaleness grown monstrous in confinement” (197) – and Sheila Rowbothan describes Schreiner’s feminism as “a mystical connection to other women with whom she cold communicate only through the common experience of pain” qtd here 195). Rowbotham, Women, Resistance and Revolution, 1973

“Schreiner made an important contribution to the female tradition. Her use of female symbolism, her commitment to feminist theory, and her harshly physical allegories, which the suffragettes read to each other in Holloway Prison, were part of her effort to articulate the tense, indirect perceptions of a new womanhood. Even her insistent and sometimes nagging narrative voice takes us to the reality of female experience. That voice, soft, heavy, continuous, is a genuine accent of womanhood, one of the chorus of secret voices speaking out of our bones, dreadful and irritating but instantly recognizable. Other women whom she influenced–Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Richardson, and Doris LEssing–were to make much better use of it, but Schreiner hits upon it first. It is the fitful, fretful rhythm of women’s daily lives, a Beckett monologue without a beginning or an end” (198).

“Both Woolf and Mansfield see women as artists whose creative energy has gone chiefly into the maintenance of myths about themselves and about those they love. To become aware of the creation of a myth is to lose faith in it” (247).

Woolf herself is the “Angel” of 20th century writers (265)

“Refined to its essences, abstracted from its physicality and anger, denied any action, Woolf’s vision of womanhood is as deadly as it is disembodied. The ultimate room of one’s own is the grave” (297).



Ernest Hemingway, The Garden of Eden

Hemingway, Ernest. The Garden of Eden. Charles Scribner’s Sons: New York, 1986. (Published Posthumously.)

The first word of the first chapter is “they,” referring to David and Catherine. Only several pages into the novel do we hear David’s name, and then, later, Catherine’s. In some ways it doesn’t matter what their names are – they are archetypal man and woman, the first. Their situation in the Garden of Eden appears to situate them as Adam and Eve, but it eventually becomes evident that this is not Christianity’s canonical origin story at all – it’s a retelling of a heretical variant, that of Adam and Lilith.

Discussing their daily plans – lunching and napping on the Riviera – David declares, “I have these flashes of intuition… I’m the inventive type” (5). Catherine replies, “OI’m the destructive type…And I’m going to destroy you” (5).

Much like Faulkner’s novel, the story begins with the celebration of the murder of a beautiful fish so big that no one is quite sure what to do with him. David catches the fish in the water, and Catherine responds, “He was so beautiful in the water… I couldn’t believe it” (10). Out of water, however, he is dead, and will be, as Addie was by her husband and as Catherine will be by hers, “cooked and et.”

“Now when they had made love they would eat and drink and make love again. It was a very simple world and he had never been truly happy in any other” (14).

Catherine almost immediately begins alarming her husband with a series of “surprises” that distance her farther and farther from the feminine archetype that David married. In the first, she chops her hair startlingly short, “as short as a boy’s” (14).

“That’s the surprise. I’m a girl. But now I’m a boy too and I can do anything and anything and anything.”

“Sit here by me,” he said. “What do you want, brother.”

[…] “I’ll take what you’re having. You see why it’s dangerous, don’t you?” (15). She becomes androgynous, and this is dangerous. Original sin is that woman loses her femininity in an attempt to take on the man’s power.

This desire for androgyny is based in pride: “Stupid people will think it is strange. But we must be proud. I love to be proud,” (16) Catherine declares. This somehow seems more sinful than David’s “So do I” (16).

She quickly decides that she wants to usurp David’s sexual power as the active sexual partner, asking, “will you change and be my girl and let me take you?” (16). This is our first clue that she’s Lilith and much more dangerous than she appears.

He worries at first, but consoles himself: “You’re lucky to have a wife like her and a sin is what you feel bad after and you don’t feel bad. Not with the wine you don’t feel bad…” (20).

“You don’t really mind being brothers do you?” “No.” (21). Men like brothers. But they will later choose the woman.

They fight over alcohol – the real snake / culprit here is booze as well as powerhunger

Bad things happen when woman is alone and unsupervised – she dresses as a boy, tans too dark, shortens and dyes her hair.

The real subject of the story, though, is the writer writing.

She doesn’t like him to touch her breasts (47)

She likes her new hair because “it feels like an animal” (47).

“I’m a god damned woman. I thought if I’d be a girl and stay a girl I’d have a baby at least. Not even that.” (71). 

Maternity is the only perceived salvation in girlhood (woman shall be saved through childbearing). Children are always a question of salvation, and therefore of epistemology.

He begins to call her “Devil” as a cute nickname – We wonder now if she’s the snake and he’s Eve. She’s tempting him. (77).

“So that’s how it is… You’ve done that to your hair and had it cut the same as you’re girl’s and how do you feel?… How do you feel? Say it. You like it, he said…. All right. You like it… Now go through with the rest of it whatever it is and don’t ever say anyone tempted you or that anyone bitched you” (84). He knows that gender is bullshit but he wants someone feminine anyway.

“She was a bitch,” Catherine said. “But then I think almost everyone is a bitch” (96). Almost everyone is a bitch. Predicated by “she” so this makes me think “almost all women,” but the later pronoun is “one,” which could include men (including David, who reminds himself that “[no]one ever bitched” him. Almost everyone could let herself through exculpated: it’s possible that David is a bitch and she isn’t here.

What is a bitch? A breeder, mostly sub-human, and knows it.

“The hell with her, David thought. Fuck her.” (97. hell=fucking=hell

She makes him a present of Marita, the “Eve” figure, who will take her place (103)

“I wish I could remember what it was we lost. But it doesn’t matter does it? You said it doesn’t matter” (118). What they lost was “we” – it doesn’t matter very much to Adam because he gets an Eve. Lilith gets…..? –> “It was what I wanted to do all my life and now I’ve done it and I loved it” (120). That’s what she gets.

“I’m trying to study his needs” (122). (Marita = Eve is built to care for Adam.)

Equilibrium in the novel, for a while at least, seems to be a male and female pair with a jealous female onlooker. Later, the onlooker replaces the female of the pair. This is very Animal.

“You knew it too. You just wouldn’t look. And we’re damned now. I as and now you are. Look at me and see how much you like it.

David looked at her eyes that he loved…and at how happy she looked and he began to realize what a completely stupid thing he had permitted” (178). Things that cased the Fall: foremost, woman. Also: gender dysphoria, woman taking male sex position, lesbian / bisexuality / excess female sexual energy, polygamy, and, oddly, hair coloring, specifically that which makes male and female the same

“I don’t run around with women. You know that.”

“They are new all the time,” Marita said. “There are new ones every day. No one can ever be sufficiently warned. You most of all” (245). What comes after Eve?



Q. D. Leavis, Fiction and the Reading Public

Leavis believes that the reading public is in a state of disintegration due to the influence of lowbrow, and, more insidiously, middlebrow literary works available on the market.


“It is not an exaggeration to say that for most people ‘a book’ means a novel” (6).

Capitalism and lending-libraries dilute good literature in favor of “popular” literature (11).

The function of reading has changedL it is now “to provide reading fodder for odd moments,” so it is essential that the content be “short, snappy, and crudely arresting” (28).

There is a difference between Literature and “clean relaxation for cleanly-minded virile sort of people” (53).

“The reader of the great bestsellers goes to them … to be confirmed in his prejudices and ‘uplifted'” (69) It should not offer “refuge from actual life but help the reader to deal less inadequately with it” (73-4)

This sort of reading reinforces “herd values” (197)


Glenn Hughes, Imagism & the Imagists

Hughes, Glenn. Imagism & the Imagists. The Humanities Press, 1960.

“T.E. Hulme, an aesthetic philosopher who quite reasonably may be called the father of imagism” (9).

Pound declared, “It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works.” (29.)

The imagist poets combined with The New Freewoman to create The Egoist

Pound then developed a “new -ism” even more “startling than imagism” (34) Pound “defected” from the imagist ideal, in no small part due to his disenchantment with Amy Lowell’s overtake of it

Lowell “set herself the task of selling the new poetry to the world…” (36). populist v. radical -isms

Pound himself said, “Imagism was a point on the curve of my development. Some people remained at that point. I moved on.” …… “It is patently impossible for him to play second fiddle to anyone, and Amy Lowell had planted herself firmly in the first fiddler’s chair” (38).

Ms. Lowell defined vers libre as follows:

“The definition of vers libre is: a verse-form based on cadence.

To understand vers libre, one must abandon all desire to find in it the even rhythm of metrical feet. One must allow the lines to flow as they will when read aloud by an intelligent reader.

Free verse within its own law of cadence has no absolute rules; it would not be ‘free’ if it had.

The unit of vers libre is not the foot, the number of the syllables, the quantity, or the line. The unit is the strophe, which may be the whole poem, or may be only a part. Each strophe is a complete circle” (71).

T.S. Eliot later criticized that “vers libre does not exist; for there is only good verse, bad verse, and chaos” (73).

Later, John Gould Fletcher wrote in the preface to his volume Goblins and Pagodas “In prose, the emotions expressed are those that are capable of development in a straight line. In so far as prose is pure, it confines itself to the direct orderly progression of a thought or conception or situation from point to point of a flat surface. The sentences, as they develop this conception from its beginning to conclusion, move on, and do not return upon themselves….. In poetry we have a succession of curves. The direction of the thought is not in straight lines, but wavy and spiral. IT rises and falls on gusts of strong emotion. Most often it creates strongly marked loops and circles. Depth is obtained by making one sphere contain a number of concentric or overlapping spheres” (80).

Herbert Read wrote in the introduction to his study English Prose Style, “Poetry is creative expression; Prose is constructive expression. … By creative I mean original. In Poetry the words are born or reborn in the act of thinking” (82). Generated rather than constructed from ready-made materials


Of H.D. “A handful of greek dust may seem more precious to her than it does to most of us, but that is because in her hands it turns to something more than dust – to flowers or to flame” (124).


Susan Stanford Friedman, Penelope’s Web

Friedman, Susan Stanford. Penelope’s Web. Cambridge University Press, 1990.


In Advent, H.D. writes of her novel-writing process, “It must be Penelope’s web I’m weaving” (qtd in Friedman 1). Friedman reads H.D.’s entire poetic process as a reconfiguration of the Penelope myth– “ever aware of her position in men’s texts as a signifier of the desired,” Friedman argues, “H.D.-as-Penelope wove herself into the design as another kind of signify-er, that is, as the one who signifies, who signs her own desire within and against an economy that would deny her that agency” (1-2).


It’s interesting that critics of H.D.’s work continually turn her into one of the figures of Greek mythology that she writes about – she’s Psyche; she’s Penelope. In her own work, however, H.D. maintains a strong distinction between the writer and the myth. The myth is a function of the writer, perhaps, insofar as both the writer and the myth are feminine, and the writer is a function of the myth, perhaps, insofar as both are mutually imbricated in the project of reformulating a set of historical dicta, but a distinction between the two is necessary in order for the work of “diving into the wreck” to be complete. The diver/writer is in the wreck; she is even of the wreck; but in order to “dive,” she cannot be the wreck.


Alice A. Jardine theorizes that “(male) modernity posits woman as signifier of its characteristic epistemological crisis of the subject, signification, language and writing. Within this perspective, the feminine engendered modernity” (qtd here, 2). Check out Gynesis even though you will disagree with much of it


Bonnie Kime Scott’s The Gender of Modernism


An important, if conservative, question: What happens to the real child in Notes on Thought & Vision? Does the child matter? Is this just a re-focusing of traditional narratives that focus on the child instead of the mother, and is that ok?


Conrad Aiken critiques H.D.’s “feminine writing” in Palimpsest: “There are stylistic oddities – elisions and abruptness – which pull one up, and occasionally carelessness… One would have preferred, in the second section, a little more stiffening – more of the direct narrative… H.D. overdoes a little the interpolative method, with its interjections, qualifications, parenthetic questions, parenthetic reminiscences – one feels, in the midst of this burning subjectivism, this consuming Narcissism, that it would be a relief to often come upon a simple narrative statement…” (qtd here 28).


Definitely read H.D.’s Asphodel


As H.D. wrote to Cournos, “I do not put my personal self into my poems.” (qtd here 50).


“H.D.’s sense of entrapment in the words of her reviewers centered on a word many used about her early imagist lyrics: crystalline, which reflects the sculpted quality of ‘The early H.D.” and suggests poems carved in rock… But in attempting to write herself out of the word that immobilized her, H.D. redefined the word crystalline to mean ‘of crystal,’ a mineral that she called a matrix of concentrated energy: ‘For what is crystal or any gem but the concentrated essence of the rough matrix of the energy, either of the over-intense heat or over-intense cold that projects it? … The energy itself and the matrix itself has not yet been assessed” (H.D. by Delia Alton 184, qtd here 54).


Alfred Kreymborg wrote about her early poetry: “Never the soft, the effeminate, is allowed to intrude, not even among the flowers” (qtd here 59). A too-easy conflation of H.D.’s professed bi-sexual state and the “crystalline” nature of her poems would subsume her authoress-ship into the hard masculinity of the Vorticist poetic strategy. By H.D.’s own account, however, the “crystalline” nature of her poetry is actually an explicitly feminine quality insofar as it is produced by the very “matrix”-ial energy that Notes later argues is essential to the production of Vision.


Perhaps she needs a hard, crystalline maternity after her issues with Aldington, her stillbirth, and her ambivalence about the child Perdita


An essay called “Autogynography”


Can maternity be both “crystalline” and “excess” ? Can it be both “crystalline” and “abject”? what does it mean to deem the abject “crystalline” or to “crystalize” the abject? Means it’s untranscendable


Kloepfer, “Flesh Made Word”

Susan Rubin Suleiman, “Rewriting the Body”


In Her: her=object, she=subject (subject and object circle each other in a gyre of birthing)


“Pound’s words in Hilda’s Book are literally – literarily – H.D.’s ‘plague.’ …Trapped as a ‘tree’ in Pound’s text, H.D. freed herself by reclaiming ‘treeness’ for Hermoine in her own text. Gradually, trees become the motif of Hermoine’s autonomous inner self” (118). Is woman’s only freedom to ‘claim’ for herself what man has already penned her in with? Can we call it “reclaiming” if the cow identifies the fence-posts with her innermost self? This seems both insidious and depressing.


Hermoine is literally the “HER” of Pound’s text, but she makes HER speak. This is complicated beautifully by the grammatical subject/object problem of her name



Check out Nancy Huston’s “The Matrix of War: Mothers and Heroes” in which she suggests that “the fundamental binary of civilization is not men and women, but heroes and mothers. Men express their virility through aggression while women express their power through birth” (186).

What happens to the creative matrix once birth is over? Perdita wrote of her mother, “H.D. was hardly an archetypal mother… she was intensely maternal–on an esoteric plane. She venerated the concept of motherhood, but was unprepared for its disruptions. She flinched at sudden noise, and fled from chaois. Mercifully for her, she was well-buffered” (Perdita Schaeffer, “The Egyptian Cat,” 143). Pregnancy is not a “self-contained experience” (226) in that it produces a mother as well as a child, but pregnancy does end. The maternal function is important to H.D.; the child maybe not


“H.D. wanted motherhood on her own terms, in her own time and place, ones that did not include the primary responsibility for caretaking and discipline” (227). That’s great. But someone has to be the real mother and do the work of motherhood. Someone has to be the body in order for you to have the vision.


H.D.’s abortion 231


Alicia Ostriker, “The Open Poetics of H.D.”


Miranda B. Hickman, The Geometry of Modernism

Hickman, Miranda B. The Geometry of Modernism. University of Austin Press:2005.

“In the inaugural issue of Blast, Pound publically associated H.D. with Vorticism by featuring her poem “Oread” – he quoted the poem without supplying the title – as his sole exemplar of Vorticist Poetic technique. Despite this, and despite her close association with Pound and acquaintance with other Vorticists and their work, H.D. never explicitly acknowledged what she thought of Vorticisim. Given H.D.’s comments in an unpublished review of Yeats’s Responsibilities written during the First World War, however, many critical accounts have emphasized H.D.’s stated antipathy to, if not the Vorticist movement per se, at least the values and practices she associated with Vorticism” (35).


In this review, H.D. used geometric images “to represent the aesthetic programs of Vorticism and Futurism, which she condemned for cooperating with forces that brought about the bleakness of mechanized modernity and the violence of war” (135).


Look up H.D., “Poetics Out of War”


T.E. Hulme in Speculations: “Why make use of the human body in this art” if it is inimical to the “geometric character” of modernism – why “make it look like a machine”? (142). “The interest in living flesh as such… is entirely absent” (Hulme 106).


Hulme notes that rather than show an ‘interest’ in ‘living flesh as such’, artists who produce ‘geometrical art’ want to ‘translate’ flesh – i.e. what is ‘changing and limited,’ frail and mortal – into something ‘unlimited and necessary,’ to trans mute the organic into something ‘hard and durable.’ Modern artists such as Lewis focus on the body, he suggests, because the desire for abstraction is best fulfilled when a nonabstract object (one that is ‘organic’) such as the human body, is subjected to the process of abstraction” (142).


Look up Ortega y Gasset, “The Dehumanization of Art” : in it he says, “to paint a man who resembles a man as little as possible” (22) is the object of art. (Yeats & myth vs. Pound & geometry)


From Hulme’s Speculations: “generation, which is the very essence of all qualities which we have here called organic, has been turned into soething as hard and durable as a geometrical figure itself” (143). (Is Yeats’s geometrical and mathematical religious system a way to obscure bodies in geometry, despite the apparent differences between his religious mythology and Pound’s geometric mythology?)


In the first issue of Blast, Wyndham Lewis declares that in the Vorticist era “THE ACTUAL HUMAN BODY BECOMES OF LESS IMPORTANCE EVERY DAY” (B1 141). This in fact reveals a troubled preoccupation with the body, and the need to obscure it by fabricating objects of greater importance.


“Coexisting with the desire to reform the body geometrically is not only a fascination with it, but also an admiration for its wild potency… an Aristotelian desire to impose a schema upon the untamed hule, a geometric form upon body-as-matter, they do not accordingly disparage the bodily matter as mere potential awaiting actuation; rather, they regard the body as an indispensable element of the process toward revelation” (144). It seems to be a process through which birth is subsumed into the function of birth, or, perhaps more insidiously, into the word “birth.” This is still a far cry from “woman will be redeemed through childbearing.” Neither redemption seems to serve her well, redemption through birth or logos.)


It’s a kind of “ascesis,” or desire to turn the body into something ethereal.


Pound “associates this ideal bodily state with geometry because it transforms the individual’s body into a condition in which its own form becomes evident and which the individual’s sensitivity to the forms of other bodies increases” (147). Indeed, we might shorten this to state that, for Pound, the ideal bodily state simply “transforms the individual’s body into a condition,” a condition of possibility perhaps for ethereal things to occur. Still a function rather than a body.


Pound is interested in “pure form” – back to Plato – form is masculine; matter is feminine.


In H.D.’s review of Yeats’s Responsibilities, she praises him for his “worship of beauty” and “aligns herself with the 1890s from which he emerges, regretting that the present generation, ‘inasmuch as its cubes and angles seem a sort of incantation, a symbol for the forces that brought on this world calamity, seems hardly worthy to compare with the nineties in its helpless stand against the evils of ugliness” (155). (Not all incantations are good ones.) She continues, “The black magic of triangles and broken arcs has conquered and we who are helpless before this force of destruction can only hope for some more powerful magic to set it right” (53, qtd here 155). Will she supply the magic?


Oderman, Pound and the Erotic

H.D.’s Freudian Poetics discusses la mysterique and HD


H.D.’s characters often seem to yearn toward this rarefaction of the body, however much disdain she officially holds for Vorticism’s “cubes and angles.” Her Notes on Thought & Vision, for instance, while putting forth a startling validation of the maternal body, roots this validation in the maternal body’s spiritual potentiality. In other words, as Hickman notes, “the suggestion here is that the body becomes worthy only as it can become spiritualized into a purer form… Notes could be said to indicate an uneasiness with the physical body” (171). The physical body in Notes, “fulfills its highest function when it is being consumed” or “transmuted” through a process of holy burning from the physical form into a “different form, concentrated, ethereal, which we refer to in common speech as spirit” (47-8). The physical body is, in other words, the “coal” that produces the white-hot “heat” of spirit.


H.D.’s text reflects those of her Vorticist contemporaries in its conspicuous genuflection away from fleshy, abject, physical bodies in favor of bodies in the process of rarefaction and “transcendence.” H.D. averts attention from the mother’s physical body in favor of the mother’s body’s function of spiritual potentiality. Compare this to Marder’s maternal function in Mother in the Age


Look up Chisholm “Pornopoeia”


“If the qualities of Vorticism are aimed to counter effeminacy, H.D.’s imagination here, celebrating Vorticist qualities through the construction of the geometric body, may analogously counter weakness and vulnerability” (184).


In Hickman’s argument, “geometric” seems to be the equivalent of the term “form” – which is itself in turn the equivalent of both “bodily form” and “body.” It is important, I think, to distinguish between these terms. For H.D., bodily processes like desire are diffuse rather than formal, and this complicates the relation of the bodily form (or function) to the body. The body’s matter (desire, diffusion) USES the form in a radical reformation of Plato’s matter-form dialectic.


H.D.’s epics narrativize visionary experience in order to “piece togheter the elements of her visionary knowledge in order to promote healing” (191). Like Yeats, she sought to “spend what remained of life explaining and piecing together” what was revealed by mystic visions (191). This seems to be a telos far from Eliot’s Waste Land.


We constantly look to geometry to explain difficult ideas. This is not necessarily correct. (in HD and Yeats)

Alison Light, Forever England: Femininity, Literature and Conservatism Between the Wars

Light, Alison. Forever England. Routledge. 1991.

“Indeed ‘home’ itself, any attachment to indigenous cultures in Britain between the wars, to feelings of belonging rather than exile, are likely to be conspicuously absent in literary histories. It is a legacy of ‘modernism’ that it turns the gaze else, to the writings of those for whom marginality was the only desirable place” (6).

“Since war, whatever its horrors, is manly, there is something both lower-class and effeminate about peace-time… heroes are by definition incapable of domesticity… home was also the place where women were” (7).

“If masculinity and ideas of the nation were being ‘feminised,’ one can discover an equally powerful reaction on the part of many women against the ideologies of home and womanliness which belonged to the virtues and ideals of the pre-war world… a resistance to ‘the feminine’ as it had been thought of in late-Victorian or Edwardian times” (10).

Feminism “must deal with the conservative as well as the radical imagination, and […] it may have been this which held the hearts and minds of generations of women of all classes and all creeds at different times in the past… Above all, the conservative critique of rationalism, its emphasis upon private life and personal feeling, has especial significance for women who have long been seen as the feeling sex; for feminists, half of the battle with socialism has been with its inability to recognise the demands of home and family, the pulls of psychic as well as social structures, all areas which conservatism certainly takes seriously, and for which it frequently has a language” (14).


Janet Montefiore, Feminism and Poetry

Montefiore, Janet. Feminism and Poetry. Harper Collins, 1997.

Montefiore argues that while feminist poetry seems in many ways antithetical to Romantic poetry, it is in fact shaped by many of its tenets. “Romanticism underlies two aspects of the radical feminist aesthetic: its belief that poetry gives us privileged access to the (woman) poet’s own experience, and that poetry is a form of transcendence” (11).

She notes however that “the tendency to privilege the notion of a female experience, and to think of women’s poetry as a magically powerful collective consciousness, can make for a too-easy and uncritical assumption of identity between all women” (12).

It also sometimes draws on the quasi-Romantic assumption that “sexuality is the area where the self is most profoundly known and defined” (14).

“to criticize tradition is not to be disconnected from it” (15). … “tradition appears as determining in the way it defines the symbolic and referential context of the poems, and not necessarily as a product of the poet’s own intention” (19).

“The Romantic conception of the writer alone with her words and thoughts…does not take enough account of the material conditions which it make it possible for women to write” (31). (re: Woolf)

woman as “bearer of significance” in a poem (32). “Bearer” interesting here: bearing as “symbolizing” v. bearing as “birthing” – what is she doing? Is it active?

“Women are conspicuously excluded from Benjamin’s essay on storytelling” (41).

“Revisionary storytelling is… a limited project… the nature of that limitation clarifies women’s difficult relation to literary tradition” (55).

The recasting of myth by women poets seems like the solution to this paradox, but “just because this material is both traditional and powerful, it is resistant to recasting. Political interpretations can deflect but not alter its meanings, which either return to haunt the poem that overtly discards them, or vanish into witty analysis. strategies of storytelling are not, finally, effective in overcoming the paradoxes of exclusion. There is truth as well as optimism in the claim that women need to make their own tradition” (56).

A Women’s tradition, as opposed to the recasting of myth, would serve to “help make a woman’s discourse thinkable” (57).

There is a subtle difference between “Tradition” and strategies for navigating tradition, and even the men who take part in the tradition spend a lot of energy navigating it. Is woman’s language resistant to tradition at all? (Laura Riding Jackson)

Montefiore reminds us that “Subject matter of itself does not make up a poem, much less a tradition” (77).

Recasting myth may be powerful in “the relation they evoke between a mythical past available only to the imagination and all too intrusive hostile present” (78).Not a myth, in other words, but an epistemology. “Not enforcing orthodoxy but suggesting a mythology” (84).

In all but especially patriarchal love poems, “what is at stake is not the success or failure of a courtship, but the establishing of an identity through the dialectic of desire and response” (98).

Also it always exists in an I-thou dyad conflicting with Irigaray’s diffuse multiplicity of desire

Edna Vincent Millay’s poems “do not question their own terms (that is, a commitment to Romantic love matched by an appropriately traditional technique); their adherence to – not parody of – tradition is an implicit claim for unhindered speech, a denial that there is any dissonance between being a woman and being a poet…” (124).

“The classic masculine love-poem is both structured and limited by this mirroring relationship, which defines the boundaries of its meaning, referring only indirectly to the world of social intercourse. The obvious conclusion to be drawn from these arguments is that, being conventionally the means of reflecting masculine identities, women cannot readily reverse the process to create female subjectivities, and therefore cannot find it easy – or even possible – to produce poems in the imaginary mode” (136). What is a female lyric?

“Certainly, it is true that the notion of a specifically female language and identity is utopian, like that of a female tradition of poetry written without reference to any masculine discourse. But the value of utopias is that they enable us to imagine possibilities of difference for the brute, contingent world…” (179).

Susan Stanford Friedman, Psyche Reborn

Friedman, Susan Stanford. Psyche Reborn. 1987: University of Indiana Press.

Psyche Reborn argues that H.D.’s experience as an analysand with Sigmund Freud and her exploration of esoteric tradition provided her with an interrelated framework of quest that nourished the explosion of a new kind of poetry and prose during the forties and fifties” (ix).

“Her poems avoid the vague moralizing and sentimental mythologizing that the imagists deplored in much of the ‘cosmic’ poetry of the late nineteenth century” (2).

“The mythological personae that appear in many of her poems did not represent an escapist attempt to return to ancient Greece, but rather served as personal metaphors or masks that allowed her to distance intense emotion sufficiently for artistic expression” (2).

For H.D., imagism could not “explain the violence of war and the fragmentation of belief systems. Its disdain for philosophies and cosmologies as well as its demand for brevity left both form and content of the imagist poem inadequate before the historical imperatives for a literature based on the search for living mythologies” (4).

In Trilogy, H.D. sought to “discover or create through the ‘Word’ some ordering pattern that could redeem the surrounding ruin” (8). (AD: not “explain,” not “logically”)

She writes in Tribute to Freud that Freud is the “midwife to the soul” (T.F. 116)

Freud told H.D. that she would be the one to “carry on the torch of Freud’s ideas in her own way” (22), but this is problematic insofar as Freud is the “Father” and H.D. is not a phallic “son” – attempting to serve as an analogue to the Father, an impossibility for woman, redirects her attempts to do her own thing

Friedman argues that “H.D.’s mythological masks do not reflect her envy of the phallic self so much as they reflect the paucity of tradition. As analysand, she had to revise tradition to become a hero on her own terms… she identified herself with male heroes as a way of acquiring the strength, objectivity and completeness denied to women by nature” (25).

H.D.’s breakdowns: first, after failing out of Bryn Mawr College, then at the stillbirth at her child. Then, after the birth of Perdita, when Aldington threatened her with a lawsuit if she registered the child as his because he had a lover. First, failure of mind, second, failure of body. Pregnancy and trauma intimately related (27) During the healing process from almost dying while birthing Perdita, she experienced her “visions” and she and her friends associated them with her breakdowns. Visions come from botched maternity; failures of mind and body

The archetype of the “quester” is “overwhelmingly male:” Perseus, Hercules, Jason, Theseus, Lancelot, Percival, and Beowulf overshadow Demeter, Isis, and Psyche. In fact, “complementary assumptions about the nature of the heroine frequently presuppose feminine passivity and helplessness. Patriarchal tradition held out little encouragement for H.D. to develop a woman-centered epic in which woman was the seeker and doer instead of the angelic or evil object of male quest” (11).

“H.D. sought inspiration from one of the greatest legitimizers of patriarchy. Her success as a woman depended upon conflict” (13). (Freud)

She writes in Trib to Freud that Freud is the “midwife of the soul” (116). “But, once reborn, Psyche emerged with a voice distinctly her own. Once having clarified the poles of opposition, her search for synthesis led to a transcendence of their differences in a vision that incorporated the whole. This transformation of Freudian theory simultaneously served as the basis of her mature art and as a brilliant reevaluation of Freud’s significance for the twentieth century” (14).

Gender trouble brings on her miscarriage: Aldington’s affair with Dorothy Yorke as well as her brother’s and father’s deaths and the bombings of London


Check out Magic Mirror 

“War, death, masculine insensitivty and betrayal became completely interwoven in H.D.’s mind” (29).

“Although the nature of her relationships varied greatly,H.D.’s feelings of inadequacy as a woman, especially as a sexual woman, was so central to the breakup of her marriage that her other experiences of rejection were probably colored by this insecurity. Aldington apparently told Yorke that H.D. could not bring him happiness because “she had no body”” (38).

She wrote to Bryher that “I am that all-but-extinct phenomenon, the perfect bi-[sexual]” (47).

Did H.D. seek to identify with Freud’s “phallic power” in order to safeguard against the deficiencies of her androgynous state?

Freud deems dreams and poetry the “Kingdom of the Illogical…where the governing laws of logic have no sway” (53, qdt from Interpretation of Dreams). These non-rational modes of thoughts “create pictographs in which every fragmentary image is weighted with significance and ‘over-determined’ by a wealth of associations” (54). This sounds like imagism. Images are non-rational.

“Freud believed that the objective of analysis was to pierce the disguise, undo the dream-work by decoding the hieroglyphs of the dream, and bring to consciousness the forbidden latent thoughts of the unconscious realm” (54). What is de-code-able? Into an equally problematic language? Is H.D.’s project to de-code? It doesn’t seem so.

Lionel Trilling argues that Freud understands poetic form as “indigenous” to the unconscious mind,” which is a “poetry-making organ” (266-67, “Freud and Literature,” in Psychoanalysis and Literature). The work of the imagination is to distort. 

Images are very different from similes  – similes work in the realm of the analogue, while images present an existence. For example, H.D.’s poem “Oread”

H.D.’s own unconscious, rather than an external female figure, is her Muse (she writes herself as Muse)

Freud argues in Civilization and its Discontents that “mystical experience of the divine reproduces the primal bond of mother and child… the religious experience of Oneness emerges out of the unconscious, re-creating the baby’s subjective fusion with the mother” (72).

H.D. believed that, in the past, “people thought consciousness in the picture-making mode which we use in the dream and which we see as reminders in the ancient hieroglyphic scripts” (92). However insufficient the ancient world’s images to describe the modern world, especially that of a woman, its mode of thought is a good start.

Important to remember that Freud emphatically did not condone the wishes of the unconsciousness, often associating them with “abhorrence” and “evil.” (94). The analyst’s job is to keep the analysand “tied to reality” and to “keep the unconscious in check” (100).

“H.D. approaches external reality in the same way she learned to read the mysterious script of psychical reality from Freud. The rubble contains, she believes, a coded message whose interpretation can reveal an order underlying the surface reality of chaos” (104). So chaotic surface feminine contains masculine logic? Very different from Irigaray

For H.D., like for Yeats, history is “not a progression; it is a processus of recreated essences” (112).

Freud translated H.D.’s occult experiences as “an unresolved attachment to her mother” (130). He translates her writing-on-the-wall Vision as “a sort of display or entertainment for my mother” (TF 176).

H.D. often starts with father-symbols and moves backward to birth (starts with mythology and moves to primal mother.) System of history as “protean” (Yeats’s gyre)

H.D. was very interested in her horoscope. Her Ascendant is Sagittarius, the symbol of which is “an arrow shooting off into the heavens” (185). (re: Plath)

“epiphany” in H.D. v. Joyce: in H.D. it is de-centered from self, related to mysticism

H.D. and tradition: unlike men, she is related to the image of the tradition as well as to the tradition itself

“Initiation or rebirth in H.D.’s symbolic system is not the Gnostic escape from the world of forms, but the soul’s discovery of the esoteric wisdom underlying the hieroglyphs of war” (217). A worm is simultaneously an Ophite serpent… a woman is simultaneously a function, a man

Critics often blandly assert that a female writer “re-writes mythology,” but it’s important to appreciate that this is radical, difficult, unrewarded work

adoration for the function of woman is often rooted in hatred for the real woman who the function seeks to eclipse

H.D.’s strategy v. confessional poet strategies like Plath & Sexton

H.D. “offers a vision of power based on life instead of death.” (265). Is it effective in a masculine world? Well, it helped her. If the alternative is focusing on war



William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. Originally 1930. New York: Vintage International Edition, 1990. 

[Cora] “Someone comes through the hall. It is Darl. He does not look in as he passes the door. Eula watches him as he goes on and passes from sight again toward the back. Her hand rises and touches her beads lightly, then her hair. When she finds me watching her, her eyes go blank” (9). (AD: sexual attraction in the same room as Addie’s death. Waiting to consume her role as “female” in Darl’s life.)

Cora describes Dewey Dell as “that near-naked girl always standing over Addie with a fan” (24).

Dewey Dell describes obliquely how she came to be pregnant:

“The first time me and Lafe picked on down the row… picking on into the secret shade with my sack and Lafe’s sack. Because I said will I or wont I when the sack was half full because I said if the sack is full when we get to the woods it won’t be me. I said if I will turn up the next row but if the sack is full, I cannot help it. It will be that I had to do it all the time and I cannot help it. And we picked on toward the secret shade and our eyes would drown together touching on his hands and my hands and I didn’t say anything. I said ‘What are you doing?’ and he said ‘I am picking into your sack.’ And so it was full when we came to the end of the row and I could not help it” (27). (AD: feminine feeling of helplessness regarding her own fertility. Pandora’s box metaphor of woman as container that man literally puts his seed into: interesting here that it isn’t actually his seed, it’s just generic “seed,” as if it’s so archetypical that it doesn’t really belong to either of them. Whose seed is this anyway?)


[Tull] “It’s a hard life on women, for a fact. Some women. I mind my mammy lived to be seventy and more. Worked every day, rain or shine; never a sick day since her last chap was born until one day she kind of looked around her and then she went and taken that lace-trimmed night gown she had had for forty-five years and never wore out of the chest and put it on and laid down on the bed and pulled the covers up and shut her eyes. ‘You will all have to look out for pa the best you can,’ she said. ‘I’m tired.'” (30).

Anse keeps saying “the Lord giveth” but not finishing the verse with the Lord taketh away (30). Perhaps because, as we find when he obtains a new wife at the end, for him the Lord does keep giving women – Addie herself being “taken” doesn’t really matter; she is a maternal function , as Marder would say. As Kate says at the end of the chapter, “he’ll get another one before cotton-picking” (34).

Darl “It takes two people to make you, and one people to die. That’s how the world is going to end.” (39).

Peabody the doctor “She has been dead for ten days. I suppose it’s having been a part of Anse for so long that she cannot even make that change, if change it be. I can remember when I was young I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind – and that of the minds of the ones who suffer the bereavement…. she is no more than a bundle of rotton sticks” (44).

“That’s the one trouble with this country: everything, weather, all, hangs on too long” (45). (AD: Addie = weather)

“I have seen it before in women. Seen them drive from the room them coming with sympathy and pity, with actual help, and clinging to some trifling animal to whom they never were more than pack-horses. That’s what they mean by the love that passeth understanding: that pride, that furious desire to hide that abject nakedness which we bring here with us, carry with us into operating rooms, carry stubbornly and furiously with us into the earth again” (46).

Her last look is at Vardaman: she ignores Anse completely (48). Darl wasn’t there for her death, but is narrating the death-story. Why? Is Addie the narrator and her experience conjured through her children?

The sexual cow: Vardaman narrates “The cow is standing in the barn door, chewing. When she sees me come into the lot she lows, her mouth full of flopping green, her tongue flopping.

‘I ain’t a-goin to milk you. I aint a-goin to do nothing for her.’

I hear her turn when I pass. When I turn she is just behind me with her sweet, hot, hard breath.

‘Didn’t I tell you I wouldn’t?’

She nudges me, snuffing She moans deep inside, her mouth closed. I jerk my hand, cursing her like Jewel does.” (55). (AD: conflation of mother, fish, cow; maternity, sexuality. Milking the cow is somehow a service “for them” that killed his mother: he knows that reproduction is in service of the type of machine by which his mother is killed and eaten and replaced. Also knows that the cow’s milk is no substitute for his mother’s milk that he has lost.)

“Cooked and et. Cooked and et.” (of the fish – but also of Addie. They kill and consume her like the fish. Children and family milk you dry, kill you and consume you. Vardaman knows this on some childish, primal level. Also, perhaps he is a fish-man to pair with Freud’s wolf-man – he knows that his father’s power to castrate killed his mother in the same way that he killed the fish. He has this power in himself, as a male, and this is terrifying.)

Dewey Dell “He is his guts and I am my guts. And I am Lafe’s guts. That’s it.” (AD: description of fertility. Having a baby = being; having someone’s baby = being their guts.)

“Pa helps himself and pushes the dish on… He looks like right after the maul hits the steer and is no longer alive and don’t yet know that it is dead” (61). (AD: because he was Addie’s guts too, in DD’s narration at least)

“The cow lows at the foot of the bluff. She nuzzles at me, snuffing, blowing her breath in a sweet, hot blast, through my dress, against my hot nakedness, moaning. ‘You got to wait a little while. Then I’ll tend to you.’ She follows me into the barn where I set the bucket down. She breathes into the bucket, moaning. ‘I told you. You just got to wait, now. I got more to do than I can tend to.’ The barn is dark. When I pass, he kicks the wall a single blow. I go on… The cow in silhouette against the door nuzzles at the silhouette of the bucket, moaning” (61). (AD: this cow is ghostly. Is it Addie? Mother who has been milked lowing? Or Anti-Addie: please milk me? Warning DD. Feminine milk, fertility, cow sniffing her like a dog sniffs blood, familiarity, like for like. Cow’s milk is stolen from her. Is female fertility? Both want it anyway, and need some sort of relief from it.)

“What you got in you aint nothing to what I got in me, even if you are a woman, too. …The cow breathes upon my hips and back, her breath warm, sweet, stertorous, moaning” (63). femininity = sweet, stertorous, nature, warm, colonized/colonizable)

“I feel like a wet seed wild in the hot blind earth” (64). (AD: one problem of female fertility is that the woman still perceives herself as the seed rather than the box: she sees herself as more than the maternal function.)

Vardaman: “It was not her. I was there, looking. I saw. I thought it was her, but it was not. It was not my mother. She went away when the other one laid down in her bed and drew the quilt up. She went away” (66). (AD: (M)other = literally other/not herself: mother is not a body that is useless to a child. Usefulness to a child makes her the Mother rather than the other.)

“It was not her because it was laying right yonder in the dirt. And ow it is all chopped up. I chopped it up. It’s laying in the kitchen in the bleeding pan, waiting to be cooked and et. Then it wasn’t and she was, and now it is and she wasn’t. And tomorrow it will be cooked and et and she will be him and pa and Cash and Dewey Dell and there won’t be anything in the box so she can breathe” (67). (AD: Vardaman knows that he, as a male child, has contributed to his mother’s death.)

Tull: “I reckon Cora’s right when she says the reason the Lord had to create women is because man don’t know his own good when he sees it” (71).

Darl’s obsessive confusion of “is” and “is not” : “Yet the wagon is, because when the wagon was, Addie Bundren will not be. And Jewel is, so Addie Bundren must be. And then I must be, or I could not empty myself for sleep in a strange room. And so if I am not emptied yet, I am is” (80-1). (AD: Addie Bundren’s being as dependent on her offspring as theirs is on her: is = not having emptied yourself. Offspring = fullness of self.)

Vardaman: “My mother is a fish.” (AD:What does fishiness mean for maternity? Vardaman is also a fish. Neither can breathe or survive in the Bundren household. Abject when out of place. Killed and et.)

Addie is buried in her wedding dress (88). Not even in death can we inconvenience patriarchal institutions – she’s defined by her relationship to men

Darl : “I cannot love my mother because I have no mother. Jewel’s mother is a horse.” (95). (AD: since the children don’t add up, is it possible that Darl doesn’t exist? Miscarriage? Addie’s spirit? Since Jewel’s father isn’t Vardaman’s father, is Jewel’s mother Vardaman’s mother? Does paternity change the mother? Is Addie a fish or a horse or a wife or Addie?)

Vardaman: “I am. Darl is my Brother.

But you are, Darl, I said.

I know it, Darl said. That’s why I am not isAre is too many for one woman to foal.” (101). (AD: A little phenomenology for a funeral. What is the difference between are and is? A matter of number, of perception, of the speaking subject.)


Samson: “Who’s talking about him?” she said. “Who cares about him?” she says, crying. “I just wish that you and him and all the men in the world that torture us alive and flout us dead, dragging us up and down the country–”

“Now, now,” I says. “You’re upset.”

“Don’t you touch me!” she says. “Don’t you touch me!”

A man can’t tell nothing about them. I lived with the same one fifteen years and I be durn if I can” (117). (AD: She realizes that this is about Anse rather than Addie, and that it is always about the patriarch rather than the woman. She realizes that man’s touch is the thing that cooks and eats her.)

His wife’s name is Rachel: “I could still hear her crying even after she was asleep…” (118). (AD: Biblical Rachel weeping or her children. For women’s reproductivity.)

Dewey Dell: “That’s what they mean by the womb of time: the agony and despair of spreading bones, the hard girdle in which lie the outraged entrails of events” (121).

Dewey Dell is always looking at people… “that gal watching me like I had made to touch her” (125). She’s afraid of men touching her because she knows that’s what happens to women.

Giving makes Addie sick. “Jewel,” ma said, looking at him. “I’ll give – I’ll give –– give ––” Then she began to cry…. a little sick looking” (135). (AD: giving makes her sick – they kill and eat her. Communion loaf. Then they drink her drained fish-blood.)

Darl: “It is as though the space between us were time: an irrevocable quality. It is as though time, no longer running straight before us in a diminishing line, now runs parallel between us like a looping string, the distance being the doubling accretion of the thread and not the interval between” (146). (AD: this is what the narrative structure says about abject time – if Addie narrates, maybe this is “dead time”)

“together we shove Addie forward, wedging her between the tools and the wagon bed” (147). (not her body – but her. Addie.)

Cora tells Addie that “God gave you children to comfort your hard human lot and for a token of his own suffering and love, for in love you conceived and bore them,” but Addie considers them a punishment rather than a salvation” (167). She also believes though that Jewel rather than Jesus will save her “from the water and the fire” (168). Literal interpretation of the verse “woman will be saved through childbearing.” Children will save her in mortal rather than immortal way.

Addie’s chapter

“I would go down the hill to the spring where I could be quiet and hate them… And when I would have to look after them day after day, each with his and her secret and selfish thought, and blood strange to each other blood and strange to mine, and think that this seemed to be the only way I could get ready to stay dead, I would hate my father for ever having planted me” (170). These children seem to be her siblings, but it’s unclear: children are kind of interchangeable. Children = a never ending cycle; Plath’s “immortality she never wanted”

Anse comes to her because he has no “womenfolk”: “I ain’t got none…That’s what I come to see you about.” (171). She is a commodity, she is the function of “womenfolk.”

“So I took Anse. And when I knew that I had Cash, I knew that living was terrible and that this was the answer to it” (171). (Anse is also a commodity, a paternal function. Living is terrible and children are the answer to it.)

“When he was born I knew that motherhood was invented by someone who had to have a word for it because the ones that had the children didn’t care whether there was a word for it or not. I knew that fear was invented by someone that had never had the fear; pride who never had the pride… i knew that it had been, not that my aloneness had to be violated over and over each day, but that it had never been violated until Cash came. Not even by Anse in the nights.” (172). (AD: Maternity is extra-lingual, it escapes language. Words don’t work in motherhood. Mothers don’t need words.

“He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn’t need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear” (172).

Anse “tricked” her into having Darl… “but then I realized that I had been tricked by words older than Anse or love, and that the same word had tricked Anse too, and that my revenge would be that he would never know I was taking revenge” (173). (man = the words she’s tricked with; sex=being tricked)

After Darl “I was three now.” (173). She’s three people now.

Cora told Addie “what I owed to my children and to Anse and to God. I gave Anse the children. I did not ask for them. I did not even ask him for what he could have given me: not-Anse” (174).

“My children were of me alone, of the wild blood boiling along the earth, of me and of all that lived; of none and of all. Then I found that I had Jewel. When I waked to remember to discover it, he was two months gone” (175).

“I gave Anse Dewey Dell to negative Jewel. Then I gave him Vardaman to replace the child I had robbed him of. And now he has three children that are his and not mine. And then I could get ready to die.” (176). Woman has children as fidelity pawns on the marriage market. The imprint of her soul stays around long enough to tell her story – or she’s narrating it all, since her children ARE her.)

they know something is up with Jewel’s parentage (195)

Dewey Dell tries to buy an abortion pill and the doctor says “The Lord gave you what you have, even if He did use the devil to do it; you let Him take it away from you if it’s His will to do so” (203). (AD: Wait on a man or a male god to determine your fertility.)

Cash: some are more kin to each other than others (234)

“Dewey Dell” sounds pastoral

Pa takes Dewey Dell’s abortion money: male manipulates female fertility again. He uses it to buy teeth so he can obtain a new wife.

Cash: “It’s Cash and JEwel and Vardaman and Dewey Dell,” pa says, kind of hangdog and proud too, with his teeth and all, even if he wouldn’t look at us. “Meet Mrs Bundren,” he says.” (261).

vs. Addie, she has no name. Women are replacable and buyable insofar as they are a “womenfolk” function. He uses’s DD’s money to buy a new wife. Like at the end of Hemingway’s Garden of Eden, the female protagonist’s fate is always to be replaced immediately by a new, and more appropriate (here because alive) wife. All this happens As Addie Lays Dying – man must always have a woman.


Deborah Tannen, Gender and Discourse

Tannen, Deborah. Gender and Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Much of the literature suggests that “approaches to gender and language fall into two categories: the ‘cultural difference’ approach, as opposed to a ‘power’ or ‘dominance’ approach… I have come to feel that [this dichotomy] obfuscates more than it clarifies” (9).

“Many of those who believe – in my view, wish – the differences to be purely biological in origin assume that if this is the case, then women must be subordinate and there is no point in trying to effect social change. Many of those who believe (or wish) the differences to be purely cultural in origin assume that if this is so, they can easily change whatever they don’t like in the social order. Neither of these assumptions seems justified to me. Nothing is more human than to go against nature, and cultural patterns are extremely resistant to change” (13). She later notes in a footnote that the former are usually men and the latter women (15).

“That men dominate women is not in question…. the same linguistic means can be used for different, even opposite, purposes and can have different, even opposite, effects in different contexts” (21).

She proposes the relativity of five linguistic strategies: indirectness, interruption, silence versus volubility, topic raising and adversativeness

Words and acts can be “polysemous” in containing both dominance- and solidarity-strategies (24). Tannen makes the distinction between “ambiguous” and “polysemous” strategies – some are indeed polysemous.

“Communication is a double bind in the sense that anything we say to honor our similarity violates our difference, and anything we say to honor our difference violates our sameness” (29). The tension between “similarity” and “difference” is one basic to human communication, and “may be the one most basic to language” (29).

What has been seen as “interruption” might be seen instead as a “conversational duet” (61). Women often interject as a way to show support, which is not always “interruption”

In one test group, “there was no interruption, only supportive satisfying speaking together” (62). (AD: re: quand nos levres se parlent)

Reisman coined the term “contrapuntal conversations” (69).

Edelsky’s study found that “women are more comfortable talking when there is more than one voice going at once” (70).

“The organization of coherence in conversation must not be a preexisting structure, but an emergent one, much as Hopper (1988) shows grammar to be emergent. In other words, conversation is not flesh shaped by a preformed skeleton, but a shape which is renegotiated in interaction, created anew by participants in accordance with shared expectations…” (86). (AD: in other words, female conversation is emergent rather than analogic.)

In one study of sixth-graders, “whereas ‘man’ is the characteristic discourse marker of the six-grade boys, the discourse marker that peppers Julia’s talk…is ‘god’ or ‘oh god'” (108).



Elissa Marder, The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Marder, Elissa. The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Psychoanalysis, Photography, Deconstruction. New York, 2012. Fordham University Press. 

(Introduction: Pandora’s Legacy)

“Sigmund Freud famously derives the psychoanalytic notion of the uncanny (the disturbing convergence of what is most familiar and most strange) from the etymology of the german word “Unheimlich” (or “unhomelike”) and associates this figure with the passage through the mother’s body in the event of being born” (1).

“…the uncanny maternal body is itself a conceptual matrix that demands to be read” (1).

Marder distinguishes between the physical act of childbearing undergone by real human mothers and the “maternal function,” which is “anything but natural” (2).

The “maternal function operates at the very outer limits of the human” (2).

“…the ‘mother’ is often the philosophical name given to that which cannot be thought philosophically” (3). (like Nature.)

The event of birth is “not our own, even if it is profoundly and uniquely addressed to us…birth is both shared and not shared with the mother who makes it possible” (4-5).

“Literature…has the capacity to give birth to forms of life for which the distinction between life and death does not hold” (8).

“According to the legend that comes to us from an ancient Greek text by Hesiod, Pandora, the first woman, was artificailly produced rather than naturally born from any mother or mother figure. Commissioned by Zeus and fabricated by Hephaestus out of clay and water, this first woman, first of the race of all future ‘human’ women, is a manufactured product” (9). (AD: re: H.D. and Pandora myth in Friedman)

“…the story of Pandora marks the culmination or endpoint of a larger narrative that provides an account for how ‘man’ became human in the first place. As the story goes, in the golden age before the invention of woman, there were already men, and those men lived openly together with the gods. Those early men were born of the (Mother) Earth rather than from any woman. In those happy days before woman was made, there was no illness, no misery, no toil, no death, hence no birth, and no children. The invention of the first artificial woman puts an end to that prehistorical era and inaugurates the dawn of human time and human history. Human history, therefore, begins with Pandora’s arrival into the world of men; she brings ‘death,’ ‘birth’ and sexual difference with her in addition to all the other ‘ills’ associated with mortal life” (10).

Marder cites Nicole Loraux that in this myth Pandora has no “body,” but is instead an “image, the mere appearance of a woman” (11). In other words, she is a function rather than an individual.

The single gift famously in Pandora’s box is “hope.” Marder notes that although elpis has traditionally been translated as “hope,” other scholars have noted that it can mean “fear,” hope,” “futurity,” and “anticipation” as well (13). Both Pandora and her jar are “beautiful on the outside while being disgusting, evil and debased on the inside. In both cases, the alluring external attributes conceal internal destructiveness. This scene has also often been read as an allegory of childbearing in which the jar…represents the female womb that receives man’s ‘seeds'” (13).


Of Freud’s Totem and Taboo: “totemism itself comes into being in response to a radical confusion about how babies are born” (31).

(in T&T) “Freud clearly states that the source of them power given to totemic animals is conceived of by women” (31).

Review Freud’s “Medusa’s Head” & “On Femininity”

Birth and death are related because “the presumed incontestable ‘reality’ of our birth is, in its own way, as remote and inconceivable to us as our future death” (33).

“At its most basic level, the psychoanalytic term ‘primal scene’ generally refers to an early, traumatic, formative event during which a young child witnesses his parents copulating at an age when he is too young to understand what he has seen” (57). (AD: emphasis on “he”)

The question of the “primal scene” is this: “How, why, and when does the animal-like substratum of the human psyche, sexuality, give birth to human subjectivity?” (59). And what do women have to do with it?

The primal scene is the basis for establishing the “distinction between ‘animal’ instinct and ‘human’ drive” (60).

Freud’s case is “predicated upon the idea that only animal like sex (or sex in the manner of animals) renders the genitals visible enough for the infant to perceive the evidence of sexual difference” (65). This involves, in Freud’s words, “the man upright, and the woman bent down like an animal” (qtd in Marder, 66). For Freud, this invokes the fear of castration by the father.

When animal figures are present, “the female figures apparently disappear from the scene” (69), perhaps because they are interchangeable.

Freud points out that the “Critical element in the phobia is not the figure of the wolf itself, but its ‘erect posture'” (70). In other words, the critical element in the phobia is not the father himself but the father function, represented here by the father’s characteristic penetrating erectness.

“the animal figure comes to stand in for something in the human sexual experience that cannot be translated, transferred, or communicated at all” (73).


“Freud suggests that to be born is to be born into anxiety. To be born into anxiety is to be torn out of linear time. Thus the very first act of life, the cry that emanates from the heart and lungs, is itself a traumatic repetition of the signal by which anxiety calls us into time… Anxiety is the first sign of life, and it is the most irreducible form of life’s relationship to what lies ‘beyond.’ Anxiety has no proper time” (88).


The photograph has the power to “ope[n] up and extend the field of anamnesis from the time that ‘starts with me’ to the time before me” (181). (AD: does literature have this power? tempting to men.)


In her discussion of Cixous:

“To be born is to be born into language and to be exile from the mother. In this sense, the word ‘mother’ is profoundly meaningless and can be read only as a figure of speech, even as the figure from which speech necessarily springs. How can the word ‘mother’ speak the unaccountable event of our birth, which we can neither remember nor bear to forget? …the mother’s legacy is not the safe haven of prelinguistic plenitude, but rather the strange exile of speech itself” (196). (AD: Mother = anti-language; Language = anti-mother)

“Literature lets me put my death in a matchbox, lets me play with it in secret hidden places close to me. But to play with literature is to play with fire. No way of telling when it might flare up, no way to contain the flames; no accounting for the bits or knowing what remains” (242).


Timothy Materer, Modernist Alchemy: Poetry and the Occult

Materer, Timothy. Modernist Alchemy: Poetry and the Occult. Cornell University Press, 1995.

“Occultism is usually seen as an inversion or direct challenge to Christian doctrine; for example, occultism may emphasize the feminine or androgynous nature of the deity in defiance of Christianity’s God the Father” (xiii).

“The medieval Saint Anselm said that he believed in order to understand: credo ut intelligam. Like Tertullian’s phrase, Anselm’s suggests that one wills a belief that, a a result of believing it, only them seems intellectually coherent” (2).

“Elissa New says that to study [religious] lyrics is to be ‘thrust out of the theoretical universe we’ve come to know’ with its assumptions about ‘the equation of literariness and an intrinsic skepticism of language’… certain poems… resist the ‘disenchantments of irony;” (3). (AD: mystic writing isn’t suspicious of language since it assumes and harnesses language’s inability to directly and accurately describe. This inability is necessary for mysticism to exist, and some sort of mystic connection between word and thing is necessary for language to work at all.)

“In Horizons of Ascent, [Alan Wilde] maintains that modernist irony registers the disparity between the past and the present, or between an ideal world and a depressingly real one, without any hope of healing the breach” (3).

Mysticism may in some way be related to Keats’s “negative capability.” Richard Ellman writes that Yeats possessed “Affirmative Capability” (5). Ellmann thinks this altered term is more appropriate to Yeats because “it begins with the poet’s difficulties but emphasizes his resolutions of them.” (5). (AD: isn’t this just negative capability with a happy ending?)

Sigmund Freud “considered [occultism] an attempt to compensate in a spiritual world for the diminished attractiveness of earthly existence and deplored its tendency to reimpose ‘the old religious faith’ or the ‘superseded convictions of primitive people'” (9).

“W. H. Auden is another Christian poet who considered occultism a fraud. Beyond his amusing dismissal of Yeats’s occultism as “Southern Californian,” he had a serious objection that it deflected concern away from real-world psychological problems” (15). (AD: yes: but what if your real world psychological problem is, like H.D.’s, that the world does not accept you as a woman writer, who you are as a person? What if it isn’t fixable? Occultism might be nice.)

Ezra Pound defended Blavatsky as an “occultist Gertrude Stein, dealing in Upanishads rather than Picassos, and knowing, nacherly, more of the subject than rural uyokels of 1900 or 1880” (17). Pound was condescending toward the occult, but recognized it had some kind of artistic power (17).

“W. B. Yeats is a classic case of a writer who turns to occultism as a compensation for a lost traditional faith” (25).

Some critical work on Yeats is “weakened by an implausible attempt to make occultism respectable” (28). (AD: they try to entrap it into some sort of, if alternative tradition. It is by definition not respectable)

“The reality of the cathedral is meaningless to Yeats unless it interprets or corresponds to an inner, spiritual reality. Pound’s implied criticism is that the ‘whatever’ discovered by ‘dawdling’ is not precise enough to achieve an imagist ‘precise rendering of things'” (30).

Pound did like yogi philosophy, and “as he grew dissatisfied with the static images of the imagist movement, he sought a term of ‘patterned’ or ‘dynamic’ image and so developed the name of the movement meant to supersede imagism: vorticism” (33).

“We have seen that the poetry of both Yeats and Pound drew upon the ‘daemonic images’ of occultism. Although Yeats directly influenced Pound’s treatment of the image, the similarity in their poetry was more the indirect result of their sharing in this stock of images. The conception of the poet as a magus is inherent in this imagery. Like the magi of old, the poet, for Yeats and Pound, is one who can ‘read the signs’ and transmit to initiates the secret wisdom incomprehensible to ‘shallow wits'” (50).

“The Greek word magos denotes both a magician and member of a priestly caste that understands occult arts” (51).

Yeats’s “Rosa Alchemica” and Pound’s “The Alchemist”

In Pound’s “The Alchemist,” the “pattern of mystic marriage of male and female, or solar and lunar,” is a recurring theme. (58).

In “Xenia,” Pound wrote of the alchemical alembic as a “glass subtly evil” (58).

In Canto 82, the “hope of rebirth accompanies the motif the mystic marriage. The poet is married with the earth (“connubium terrae”) and trunk with the Dionysian power of the earth’s ichor (“ichor of chthonios”)” (64).

The “obscurity” of Pound’s later volumes is a “natural development of Pound’s conception of himself as a magus illuminated by the golden dawn of wisdom” (69). (AD: as compared to H.D.)

In Canto 107: “I am not a demigod / I cannot make it cohere” . H.D: the demigod’s role is to illuminate incoherence, not make it cohere. She has a very different idea about “magi”

“A magnus risks sounding pretentious and merely oracular, and Pound’s gnomic utterances in the late Cantos certainly run this risk. True occultists, such as YEats and H.D., seem to avoid this portentousness through their evident sincerity. They reveal a reverence in the use of sacred images like the sphere which is missing in the brashness of Pound’s poetry” (70). (AD: Pound feels like he OWNS the images, H.D. and Yeats are a conduit.)

“Eliot criticized such writers as Irving Babbitt and D. H. Lawrence for believing in exotic or primitive systems that had been ‘made palatable for the intellectual and cultivated modern man’ and ‘not only purified but canned; separated from all the traditional ways of behaving and feeling” (72).

“Yeats hunts Eliot’s poetry like a ghost…who must be exorcised” (73). Helen Gardner’s The Composition of Four Quartets identifies this specifically as the ghost of “Little Gidding”

Richard Ellman “acknowledges Auden’s personal attraction to the occult but concludes that in his words he ‘includes the occult only to overcome it.'” (74). Auden’s “The Quest” and “Uncreated Nothing”

Reacting to his own thoughts when writing The Waste Land, Eliot said he regarded his interests in “dubious mysticisms” with the “reformed drunkard’s abhorrence of intemperance” (74). He also studied Eastern and Western mysticism at Harvard

Magic is, for eliot, “a reckless desire for the absolute” (78)

Eliot defuses Yeats of his magic in his late essay “Yeats,” praising his “moral, as well as intellectual, excellence”

Look at critique of occultism in “The Dry Salvages”

H.D. is one of the only poets who did not “weave doubts about the validity” of occult images into her poetry (87)

H.D. pored over Ambelain’s Dans l’ombre des cathédrales, a book describing the medieval symbolism of Europe’s cathedrals. Ambelain sees the “pentagramme d’harmonie” in the rose symbols of Notre DAme, which signify “l’aspect féminin de Dieu” (94). (re: roses in H.D.’s writing; sea rose in particular)

“The “feminine aspect of God” is crucial to H.D.’s interpretation of the Hermetic tradition and is related to the importance of Hermes in her poetry” (94).

“The basic elements of the alchemist’s art were sulphur and mercury. Sulphur represented combustibility, mercury liquidity; sulphur as masculine and solar, mercury feminine and lunar. Both elements, however, represented the spiritual aspects of the psyche. To represent the body, the suphur/mercury duality became the ‘alchemical triad’ with the addition of salt to represent the body. The merging of these contraries is what Jung…calls the mysterium coniunctionis, or alchemical marriage. Jung cites an alchemical work attributed to Hermes Trismegistus himself on this sacred marriage: ‘When we marry the crowned king with the red daughter, she will conceive a son in the gentle fire'” (95).

In the Jungian tradition, Hermes is a hermaphrodite (95)

Linguistic alchemy in Tribute: “From the word vase the poem moves through etymological play to the Latin phrase “vas spirituale,” which means a spiritual vessel in reference to Mary’s womb as the vessel that carried the Christ child. Finally, the product is not, as in Eliot’s Four Quartets, the rosa mystica. Although it is mystical, the product is also human – not the mystical rose itself, but a human face ‘like a Christmas rose'” (99).

“To use Pound’s term, her poetry is a ‘phantastikon’ in which one mythical figure or image merges into another, in a manner that defies ‘fixed meanings,’ and in a process that her ply-over-ply stanza forms re-enforces” (104). (Pound’s phantastikon comes from Platonic philosophy… question it)

Virginia Woolf’s Diary: “My writing is a species of mediumship. I become the person” (125).

H.D. & Plath both drew from Graves’s White Goddess

“A letter Plath wrote just before her marriage in 1956 shows how central occultism was in her relationship to Hughes: ‘When Ted and I begin living together we shall become a team better than Mr. And Mrs. Yeats – he being a competent astrologist, reading horoscopes, and me being a tarot-pack reader…” (128). (AD: of course, the difference is that she refused to let Hughes be the Yeats – she forgot that Yeats stole all of Georgie’s visions and claimed them as his own.)

“If Sylvia Plath’s fascination with the occult reached the level of a neurotic obsession, Ted Hughes’s seems in contrast detached and intellectual” (141). (HE wrote an article called “myth and education”)

“Hughes suggests the possibility that the quester of Cave Birds might recover the hunter’s mythical consciousness. Nevertheless, there is no hope for the woman consumed by fire. The alchemical process seems more destructive than restorative” (148, echoing Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark”)

Materer suggests that, for Hughes, alchemy is “supposed to create a mythical time in which a persona’s guilt can be transcended” (153).


“These late poems are Hughes’s version of the burying of Prospero’s magical book and the breaking of his staff. We have seen this poetic gesture in Yeats’s doubt of the ‘half-read wisdom of daemonic images,” Pound’s admission that he could not make his work cohere, and Plath’s breaking of the wine glass in “Dialogue over a Ouija Board” (155). (There seems to be a moment when everyone gives up.) Why does Prospero bury his magical book?



Shadowed Dreams: Women’s Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance

Shadowed Dreams: Women’s Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance. ed. Maureen Honey. Rutgers University Press, 1999.

Introduction by Maureen Honey

“This is the first anthology to be devoted exclusively to women poets of the Harlem Renaissance” (1).

“Poetry was the preferred form of most Afro-American women writers during the 1920s” (1). (AD: re: Audre Lorde’s assertion that poetry is more economical than prose.)

“Scholars who lived through the Renaissance generally wrote favorably of them,” though “later critics have tended to see women’s verse as conventional and sentimental, out of step with the militant, rebellious race consciousness of the period… known primarily for their lyrical, pastoral verse, women have been judged as imitating European traditions and contributing little that was useful to the creation of a Black aesthetic” (1-2).

However, Honey argues that “much of their poetry exhibits the qualities of “New Negro” writing: identification with the race, a militant proud spirit, anger at racism, determination to fight oppression, rejection of white culture, and an attempt to reconstruct an invisible heritage… that their exploration takes place in a personal landscape…should not detract from its radical implications” (2-3).

“Nineteenth-century Romantics were particularly compelling as models because they shared this generation’s alienation from modern society, although not in a fully realized, articulated way… Nature offered an Edenesque alternative to the corrupted, artificial environment created by ‘progress'” (7). (AD: Also, valorizing black love was radical, and Eden is an alternative to a white supremacist culture)

While they invoke nature, they do not, like HD, invoke the goddess – white supremacist cultural heritage of that religious symbol

Instead, they use the symbol of “night” : “Just as the death of each day is followed by a healing period of quiet repose, so, too, does the battered spirit find sustenance in womblike suspension of interaction with the outside world… Although the day’s piercing light destroys, it can be thwarted by guarding the innermost recesses of the self” (17). (AD: black women most guard themselves from, rather than become, a god)

“a fundamental tenet of white supremacy was that Afro-Americans were not capable of fine, romantic feelings… to make visible an Afro-American tradition of love poetry [is] a form of resistance” (20).

“the frankly erotic dimension of women’s poetry negated desexed images of the plantation mammy…to bring their bodies into public view on their own terms is to state that Black women were sentient, complex beings deserving of sexual pleasure” (21).

“On the other hand, women as mothers were glorified by male artists of the Harlem Renaissance. The frontispiece to Alain Locke’s The New Negro, for example, is a portrait of a young woman cradling a baby, entitled ‘The Brown Madonna.’ Indeed, one of the primary metaphors of the New Negro movement was that of the young mother leading the race to a brighter day. As a representation of rebirth, such an image was irresistible and women, too, made use of it but more ambivalently. Often, for instance, birth is distanced by embedding it in a natural landscape described as pregnant or maternal… Many of these poets were, in fact, single or childless” (21).

“The radical nature of this poetry lies not only in its employ of what was considered nonpoetic language, but also in Johnson’s praise of those aspects of Black culture most despised by whites” (28).

“White Things,” by Anne Spencer (49)

“Letter to My Sister” by Anne Spencer (51)

“It is dangerous for a woman to defy the gods…” (1)

“Lady, Lady” by Anne Spencer (56) (vs H.D.’s “Lady”)

“Motherhood” by Georgia Douglas Johnson (64)

“Chalk-Dust” by Lilian Byrnes (86)

“To a Dark Girl” by Gwendolyn B. Bennett (108)

“Black Baby” by Anita Scott Coleman (112)

“Oriflamme” by Jessie Fauset (122)

“To a Dark Dancer” by Marjorie Marshall” (140) (v. McKay’s “Harlem Dancer”)

“Night’s Protégé” by Marjorie Marshall (141)

“Touché” by Jessie Fauset (158) (white is ideal of beauty)

“Things Insensible” by Kathleen Tankersley Young (166)

“Grass Fingers: by Angelina Weld Grimké (183) (v. Whitman’s Leaves)

“Substitution” by Anne Spencer (203)


Alain Locke, The New Negro Anthology

Locke, Alain. The New Negro Anthology. 1925 ; 1991 Anthaneum. 

Introduction by Arnold Rampersand:

“art within black America reached its zenith in the second half of the 1920s… The New Negro is its definitive text, its Bible” (ix).

While many at the time considered Locke the “dean” or “father” of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes “described Locke as only one of the three ‘midwives’ of the movement, along with Charles S. Johnson and the literary editor of The Crisis magazine, Jessie Fauset” (xi).

While many authors represented in The New Negro resented Alain Locke’s often domineering leadership – Rampersad notes that Claude McKay was “incensed,” for example, when Locke changed the title of his poem “The White House” to “White Houses” without permission in order to “avoid possible repercussions” – the most aggrieved author should have been Jessie Fauset (xxii). Rampersad notes that the pivotal Civic Club dinner that birthed the New Negro had been arranged “to mark the publication of her first novel, There Is Confusion. However, she had seen her achievement glossed over, and Locke hailed as the dean of the movement, although she had done far more, as literary editor of The Crisis, than he to discover and nurture the younger writers. And the commission of the special number had gone to him” (xxii).

Rampersad argues that the New Negro “exudes more than energy–it exudes a quality suspiciously like joy… This quality of youthful energy and joy is in contrast to the lassitude described in the greatest poem of the age, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land…” (xxiii).

Foreward by Alain Locke:

“Of all the voluminous literature on the Negro, so much is mere external view and commentary that we may warrantably say that nine-tenths of it is about the Negro rather than of him, so that it is the Negro problem rather than the Negro that is known and mooted in the general mind”(xxv).

“So far as he is culturally articulate, we shall let the Negro speak for himself” (xxv). (AD: emphasis on “he.” also, this seems timid.)

“The galvanizing shocks and reactions of the last few years are making by subtle processes of internal reorganization a race out of its own disunited and apathetic elements. A race experience penetrated in this way invariably flowers” (xxvii). (weird, floral, fertile language)

Poems on Fertility:

“To a Brown Girl” by Countée Cullen (129)

“Like a Strong Tree” by Claude McKay (134) (see also “Harlem Dancer” by Claude McKay)

“The Creation” by James Weldon Johnson (137)

“Song” by Langston Hughes (143)

“The Ordeal” by Georgia Douglas Johnson (146)

Note: why did he stick all the female poets in the back

“The Task of Negro Womanhood” by Elsie Johnson McDougald

She opens by arguing that “throughout the years of history, woman has been the weather-vane, the indicator, showing in which direction the wind of destiny blows…What then is to be said of the Negro woman of to-day?” (369). McDougald calls on her people to measure with other civilizations “throughout the years of history” by showing themselves better treaters of women

“She is conscious that what is left of chivalry is not directed at her. She realizes that the ideals of beauty, built up in the fine arts, have excluded her almost entirely (370). (re: Jessie Fauset’s poem)

“The masses of Negro men are engaged in menial occupations throughout the working day. Their baffled and suppressed desires to determine their economic life are manifested in overbearing domination at home. Working mothers are unable to instill different ideals in the sons. Conditions change slowly” (380).


Jean Toomer, Cane

Toomer, Jean. Cane. 1923 Liveright, 2011 Norton Critical Editions. 


  • dedicated “to my grandmother” (my female ancestor)
  • Instead of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Cane is organized around stalks of cane – instead of numbered sections, “leaves,” named women, “stalks.”
  • Although Toomer noted in a letter to Waldo Frank that his book is organized around three “movements” of south & north, past & present, it is also organized around the beauty, ripeness, rotting waste of these women’s fertility.
  • Modern fragmentation related to this “off” fertility


Afterword by Rudolph P. Byrd and Henry Louis Gates Jr.

“Raised as African American but, to most observers, racially indeterminate, Toomer embodied in his person, in his disposition, and in his art many of the signal elements – hybridity, alienation, fragmentation, dislocation, migration, fluidity, experimentation – that define American modernism” (166).

“When he made the commitment to become a writer, Toomer gave himself the androgynous name of Jean, which stemmed from his admiration of Romain Rolland’s novel Jean-Christophe. During the 1930s and 1940s, Toomer published under the name of N. J. Toomer, initials for Nathan Jean… to distance himself from Cane and the racial identity of its author… and to mark a rebirth in his life…” (176).

Toomer “never conceived of himself as a bridge” between the two communities of the Harlem Renaissance writers and white modernists like Waldo Frank, but instead “took what was useful from each in his efforts to create a work that expressed his own particular artistic and philosophical vision” (200).

In a letter to Waldo Frank: “From three angles, CANE’s design is a circle. Aesthetically, from simple forms to complex ones, and back to simple forms. Regionally, from the South up into the North, and back into the South again. Or, from the North down into the South, and then a return North. From the point of view of the spiritual entity behind the work, the curve really starts with Bona and Paul (awakening), plunges into Kabnis, emerges in Karintha etc. swings upward into Theatre and Boxseat, and ends (pauses) in Harvest Song. Whew!” (214).

“It is clear that Toomer wanted to write about the Negro, but not be regarded as a negro. In fact, it is also clear that he wanted to break out of the race itself through out, transcending the Negro world…” (223).

Cane is, perhaps, the first work of fiction by a black writer to take the historical experiences and social conditions of the Negro, and make them the metaphor for the human condition, in this case, the metaphor for modernity itself” (226). (AD: turning the African American into the symbol for modernity is a way of universalizing or normalizing him in ways that are usually barred from him as “other.” Could this also apply to Modernist women’s use of the “goddess” figure?)

“Toomer takes Du Bois’s concept of double consciousness and boldly declares that this fragmentation is, ultimately, the sign of the Negro’s modernity, first, and that the Negro, therefore, is America’s harbinger of and metaphor for modernity itself. It is a stunningly brilliant claim, this rendering by Toomer of the American Negro as the First Modern Person” (227).

Opening sentence: “Men always wanted her…” (3). “The young fellows counted the time to pass before she would be old enough to mate with them. This interest of the male, who wishes to ripen a growing thing too soon, could mean no good to her” (3).”Karintha was a woman. Men do not know that the soul of her was a growing thing that ripened too soon” (5).

She most likely kills her baby in a sawdust pile (4-5) followed by a poem called “Reapers” that starts “Black reapers” and tracks a field rat killed by a reaping blade (who are they reaping for? Not themselves. Who profits from black women’s fertility? An easy answer would be “white men,” but in a later story, “Blood Burning Moon,” neither white man nor black man (nor black woman) emerge victorious from their battle over the body of a black woman.)

In “Fern,” “men are apt to idolize or fear that which they cannot understand, especially if it be a woman” (22).

Woman often described as a “canebrake ripe for cutting” (25)

Also the figure of the stunted/frustrated “black madonna” as in “Esther”: King Barlo turns out to be not the God-figure Esther needs to conceive her child, despite her fantasies, and after finding him drunk and determines that “conception with a drunken man must be a mighty sin,” she “draws away frozen,” frigid, and rejecting her role as bearer of the Christ-child (36).

In “Blood Burning Moon,” Bob Stone, the white suitor of a black woman, says to himself, “She was lovely – in her way. Nigger way. What way was that? Damned if he knew… [he would have to] cut through old Lemon’s canefield by way of the woods, that he might meet her. She was worth it. Beautiful nigger gal. Why not, just gal? No, it was because she was nigger that he went to her. Sweet… the scent of boiling cane came to him. Then he saw the rich glow of the stove” (45).

The protagonist of “Box Seat” declares “Look into my eyes. I am Dan Moore. I was born in a canefield.” (77).

The narrator of “Kabnis” lyricizes: “Night, soft belly of a pregnant Negress, throbs evenly against the torso of the South. Night throbs a womb-song to the South. Cane- and cotton-fields, pine forests, cypress swamps, sawmills, and factories are fecund at her touch. Night’s womb-song sets them singing. Night winds are the breathing of the unborn child whose calm throbbing in the belly of a Negress sets them somnolently singing. Hear their song.

White-man’s land.

Niggers, sing.

Burn, bear black children…..” (142). (AD: black fertility makes the crops grow. For whom? The white man, it seems, but the fertile ones find some pleasure in the beauty / maternity/ creation of this fertility nevertheless.)

Final sentences of the book: “Outside, the sun arises from its cradle in the tree-tops of the forest. Shadows of pines are dreams the sun shakes from its eyes. The sun arises. Gold-glowing child, it steps into the sky and sends a birth-song slanting down gray dust streets and sleepy windows of the southern town.” (160). (AD: ends with a birth – we start all over again at the beginning, with Karintha. So, the birth happens, and is beautiful, but it produces the same suffering over and over again.)



Dylan Thomas

“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

“And Death Has No Dominion”

“A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London”

“On the Marriage of a Virgin”

“Do You Not Father Me”

“Altarwise by Owl-Light”

“Death is all metaphors, shape in one history”

“The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower”

Archibald Macleish

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.


A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.


A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean
But be.



Wallace Stevens

“Le Monocle de Mon Oncle” as a comedic alternative to Eliot’s “The Waste Land”

From “Le Monocle”

If sex were all, then every trembling hand
Could make us squeak, like dolls, the wished-for words.
But note the unconscionable treachery of fate,
That makes us weep, laugh, grunt and groan, and shout
Doleful heroics, pinching gestures forth
From madness or delight, without regard
To that first, foremost law. Anguishing hour!
Last night, we sat beside a pool of pink,
Clippered with lilies scudding the bright chromes,
Keen to the point of starlight, while a frog
Boomed from his very belly odious chords.

In Wallace Stevens: An Introduction to the Poetry, Susan B. Weston wrote that in “Of Modern Poetry,” as with many poems in Parts of a World, “Stevens cannot say what the mind wants to hear; he must be content to write about a poetry that would express what the mind wants to hear, and to render the satisfaction that might ensue.” She added, “Stevens’s is a conditional world indeed.”

The Emperor of Ice-Cream

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month’s newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Of Modern Poetry

Related Poem Content Details

The poem of the mind in the act of finding
What will suffice. It has not always had
To find: the scene was set; it repeated what
Was in the script.
                               Then the theatre was changed
To something else. Its past was a souvenir.
It has to be living, to learn the speech of the place.
It has to face the men of the time and to meet
The women of the time. It has to think about war
And it has to find what will suffice. It has
To construct a new stage. It has to be on that stage
And, like an insatiable actor, slowly and
With meditation, speak words that in the ear,
In the delicatest ear of the mind, repeat,
Exactly, that which it wants to hear, at the sound
Of which, an invisible audience listens,
Not to the play, but to itself, expressed
In an emotion as of two people, as of two
Emotions becoming one. The actor is
A metaphysician in the dark, twanging
An instrument, twanging a wiry string that gives
Sounds passing through sudden rightnesses, wholly
Containing the mind, below which it cannot descend,
Beyond which it has no will to rise.
                                                      It must
Be the finding of a satisfaction, and may
Be of a man skating, a woman dancing, a woman
Combing. The poem of the act of the mind.

Sunday Morning

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.
Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.
Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind.
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.
She says, “I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?”
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured
As April’s green endures; or will endure
Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow’s wings.
She says, “But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.”
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.
Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.
Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.
She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

Laura Riding Jackson, Anarchism Is Not Enough

Lisa Samuels’s introduction notes that Laura Riding’s and Robert Graves’s Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927) “provided William Empson with some of the close-reading tools he developed in his highly successful Seven Types of Ambiguity” (xiii).

Riding is interesting in developing a “generative indeterminacy” outside of schema, and her work “combines Surrealist unknowability (though it doesn’t mention the Surrealists) with modernist authority (though not in order to establish a system of thought)” (xvii).

Anarchism “is not enough because anarchism operates in reaction to the structures of (social and political) reality and so remains within their systematizing orbits… She resists common modernist binaries (classicism/romanticism, abstraction/experience) in favor of this “unreal,” which is a kind of synthetic shadow an invisible syllogistic avatar, of those binaries” (xviii).

Poetry is for Riding a “vaccuum, a ‘nothing,’ the closest we can come in language, our keenest intellectual medium, to Anarchism‘s ideal. Since ‘vaccuum’ and ‘nothing’ are not destinations, this ideal is unreachable, as Riding readily admits” (xxi).

“Emersonian self-reliance was not her only ideal; Whitmanesque contrariness was every bit as important” (xxxix).

Riding “wants to set up what we might call subjective correlatives, matrices of words that evoke for each person– writer and reader–an experience of the individual-unreal, the shared but never duplicable sense of a languaged self” (xli).

“Riding’s famous difficulty stems partly from the fact that her ‘correlatives’ are not ‘objective’ in Eliot’s sense. Her poems, and much of Anarchism‘s prose, are instead constructs for entering into events that are linguistically and epistemologically unstable. They cannot feel the same to all readers precisely because their language and syntax refuse fixed meaning-ratios… They make the reader experience that instability rather than indulging int he comfort of an ‘objective’ human representation” (xlii).

If Riding’s work sounds like a set up for logical failure, that’s because it makes no attempt to succeed at logic. She writes that “we are all in an impossible position; which you handle by making less, myself more impossible (xlvii).

Riding says in First Awakenings, “if this voyage reveals a futility, it is a futility worth facing” (lx).

She starts her chapter about “The Myth” with a confused reproductive scenario: “When the baby is born there is no place to put it: it is born, it will in time die, therefore there is no sense in enlarging the world by so many miles and minutes for its accommodation” (9).

“Words have three historical levels. They may be true words, that is, of an intrinsic sense; they may be logical words, that is, of an applied sense; or they may be poetical words, of a misapplied sense, untrue and illogical in themselves, but of supposed suggestive power” (12).

“Language is a form of laziness; the word is a compromise between what it is possible to express and what it is not possible to express” (13).

“Poetry is an attempt to make language do more than express; to make it work; to redistribute intelligence by means o the word… Poetry always faces, and generally meets with, failure. But even if it fails, it is at least at the heart of the difficulty…” (14).

“What is a poem? A poem is nothing” (16). (AD: later, she says “nothing is enough”) Not only is the poem nothing to see, but it refuses to serve as a mirror

“The only productive design is designed waste” (18). Creation results in nothing “but the destruction of the designer” (18).

There is designed happiness, undesigned unhappiness, and designed unhappiness. Poetry is “anticipated unhappiness, which, because it has design, foreknowledge, is the nearest approach to happiness” (19). (AD: we suppose undesigned happiness is ridiculous?)

“The Corpus” (feminine body, maternal body, literary body, corpse) 27

“The first condition was chaos. The logical consequence of chaos was order… order yielded to the individual by allowing him to call it a universe, but triumphed over him since, by naming it, the individual made the universe his society and therefore his religion. Order is the natural enemy of the individual mind” (27). (AD: order masters the human because he becomes a slave to it, re Hegel)

“We live on the circumference of a hollow circle. We draw the circumference, like spiders out of ourselves: it is all criticism of criticism” (31).

“The making of poems, dreams and children is difficult to explain because they all somehow happen and go on until the poem comes to an end and the sleeper wakes up and the child comes out into the air. As for children, there are so many other ways of looking at the matter that poetry is generally not asked to provide a creative parallel” (39).

Hierarchy: Poetry (“canniest intelligence”) –> awakeness/mediocrity –> sleep/dream “canniest imbecility” (40)

society is “historical romance” and nature is “nonhistorical romance” (43)

“The Collective-real is man in touch with man. The individual-real is man in touch with the natural in him… the individual-unreal” (44).

“The right (the unreal) remains (as it should) categorically non-existent” (54).

Things become real by symbolization (59), which leads to bad art.

“The only position relevant to the individual is the unreal, and it is relevant because it is not a position but the individual himself… To put it simply, the unreal to me is poetry. The individual-real is a sensuous enactment of the unreal, opposing a sort of personally cultivated physical collectivity to the metaphysical mass-cultivated collectivity of the collective-real. So the individual-real is a plagiarizing of the unreal which makes the opposition between itself and the collective-real seem that of poetic to realistic instead of (as it really is) that of superior to inferior realistic” (69).

“Poetry is a stolen word, and in using it one must remain conscious of its perverted sense in the service of realism, or one suddenly finds oneself discussing not poetry but realism; and this is equally painful. But if poetry is a stolen word, so is reality: reality is stolen from the self, which is thus in its integrity forced to call itself unreal” (80).

“Reason is socialized reality” (86).

She calls Eliot “a poetical yogi” (89)

“Words in their pure use, which I assume to be their poetic use, are denials rather than affirmations of reality. The word hat, say, does not create a real hat: it isolates some element in the real hat which is not hat, which is unreal, the hat’s self” (99).

Poetry needs to be non-purposive (116)

“The end of poetry is to leave everything as pure and bare as possible after its operation. It is therefore important that its tools of destruction should be as frugal, economical as possible… they are the pure residue, and the meaning if there is any…” (117).

“What is enough? Nothing is enough” (132).

“I am not discussing creation. Personally, I do not believe in creation. Creation is stealing one thing to turn it into another. What i am discussing is existence, uncorrupted by art” (133)

Laura Riding Jackson, “Eve’s Side of It”

“Lilith is no longer bodiless… yet she has not become Eve, nor have I become Lilith. She, too, has ceased to exist, yet still is. We have both become a new one, who is neither Lilith nor myself, yet no one else” (159).

“I have sometimes thought of Lilith as my mother. This, of course, is a foolish way of thinking about her. It is true that Lilith made me, but I had no father. I was entirely her own idea” (160).

“Where is it?” they asked. “What is it? Who is it?” Naturally Lilith was not the sort of person to answer: “It is here, it is this, it is I. Lilith was everything, but she was also nothing in particular…. she could not honestly have used the word ‘I’ about herself, or in any other way refer to herself” (161). …”and so it happened that she let herself by treated as nothing by what was actually nothing itself” (161). (don’t accept the I on male terms.)

“It must not be thought that I was tempted by the Serpent. The Serpent was Lilith’s way of encouraging me to do what I would have done in any case. I was fully aware that the fruit was unripe and therefore not good for the health. But things could not go on being lovely for ever when they were going to be very difficult… Things had to begin somewhere to be somewhat as they were going to be. …I have had a point of view of my own about things; my side of the story is not merely that I have been unlucky in love… I should not like it thought that I expected men to have my point of view about things. They are bound to feel that I led them on. Of course I led them on” (165).


Laura Riding Jackson, The Word ‘Woman’

Begins with a poem that Riding wrote; makes me think of Robert Graves and his poem on the “White Goddess”

Unlike Graves’s White Goddess, the woman of “The Lady of the Apple”:

“When future has them all unburdened of manfulness and all acquitted

Of destinies, the vision that was foretold

To darkness will be lovely with a promise

And pledge renewal from discovered lips

Quick with the certain need and pain of speech.”

Introduction by Elizabeth Friedman

“Feminists sometimes attempted to incorporate Laura (Riding) Jackson’s writing into their official canon, but she resisted, assiduously maintaining that women writers should not be seen as constituting a separate professional category, nor should their work be treated as a separate subject of literary or artistic interest” (3). (AD: feminism is, for Riding, “schematizing,” which is the primary sin)


“The question of the essential, or the cosmic, nature and functionality of woman identity, in human identity. I labor in this piece through the accumulated historical trappings with which the subject ‘woman’ is perforce associated. Later I preoccupied myself less and less with them, more and more with essential significances, the essential ‘story’” (9).

[on Robert Graves]
Until our association began, the subject woman did not exist for him. Nor had he any instinctive feelings on the subject… [it] was as a subject for professional literary treatment. From treating of the subject in his writings during our association with the air of supporter of my thinking on it, he graduated himself into the identity of writer holding boldly independent and importantly novel ideas on it. Everything he has put forth in this guise of male pioneer in new thinking on Woman and Women is derived appropriatively from my thinking as he had direct personal contact with it, and from the varied manifestations of my experiences of feeling and thought on the subject to be found in my writings, poetic and general” (10).

“I believe that a close reading of the text of The Word ‘Woman’ may strip literature of its mythologies of ludicrous pieties–whether of the Italo Calvino order or of hypocrisies of the Graves order of upper-notch Anglo-Saxon romanticism” (13).

“The Word Woman”

Riding begins with a section entitled “Definitions and Generalizations,” in which she notes that the etymology of woman is grounded in man. “female” derives from the Latin “femina,” she notes, which is “associated with fecundus, fertile” (17). The anglo-Saxon “wif” is, Riding argues, a “convenience-name rather than a definition, as ‘cat’ is a convenience-name rather than a definition” (17).

“‘Woman’ and ‘God’ are the two notions which resist absorption in the meanings with which man enlarges his nature” (18-19).

“‘God’ seems to have difference, ‘woman’ merely differences. So the courtesy of being, roughly speaking, man, is extended to woman: as, when strangers come to some country and settle down in it peaceably and co-operatively, they are in time regarded as fellow-citizens. …. Women are strangers in the country of man: they are, that is, immediate manifestations of the existence of something else besides man” (19). (re: Woolf on woman having no country in Three Guineas)

“The word ‘woman’ is included in the word ‘man,’ and its meanings do no more than supplement and liberalize the meanings of ‘man'” (20).

However, while experiences with God is, “by definition, a ‘different’ experience,” experience of woman is “an actual experience: it happens” (20). (AD: the physical presence of woman forces man to deal with the word woman in ways they are able to defer with God)

“Women” are distinct from the word “woman” – “woman” is a word, “women” are actual experiences (21).

“[man] assumes that she is some mechanical extension of himself, an outer atmosphere as it were breathed by himself which becomes as fantastic as bad weather when it behaves with distinct personality” (22). (AD: re: CPG that man is woman’s “environment” because he is her economic situation)

Men “are not really interested in determining what man is as against what woman is, only in not being bothered by women” (24).

There remains even in modern man an “involuntary primitive recognition of woman as something different; and, along with it, a persistent consciousness of himself as something different, in spite of his efforts to generalize all difference under the titular identity ‘man’. There remains an untranslatable residue, which he regards, nevertheless, as ideally translatable into himself…” (27).

“The language in which the Lord is addressed is indistinguishable from the language in which an adored woman might be addressed; and the emotions professed suggest that the divine is really a female notion in male disguise” (34). (aD: sounds like Gerard Manley Hopkins.)

Riding is interested in discovering a feminine “principle” as against all the “meanings” described on the feminine through the word “woman” (37).

“The meanings attributed to woman represent merely what man would like woman to mean” (37).

“…woman, in her relations with man, operates differently. She applies herself so directly, so immediately, to these relations that she cannot be said to think, or even perceive, in the same way that man does. The result to her of these relations is not a set of opinions, or even a set of sensations; the result is, at any moment, the relations themselves…. man ‘registers’ woman, but woman registers man and woman” (40). (AD: she’s exactly describing DuBoisian double consciousness. Woman has no space to ‘think’ reactions; she lives them daily)

“We cannot get truth because his consciousness records only difference; he is an egocentric, not universal-minded, being. We can get truth–how things are as a whole–only from woman: man operates through the sense of difference, woman through the sense of unity” (40).

“conceived as a notion, she discredits the reality of other notions; she is more real than God, more real than man” (46). (“real” in the sense of the individual collective ‘real’ vs. ‘unreal’?)

“Woman is the major incident in man’s life. She is man’s most different experience–the most unselflike material of perception that confronts his consciousness” (47). Riding is concerned with considering “what it is to be this experience – what it feels like to be a woman” (47). She has to consider what it is like to be a woman in terms of male experience because that is woman’s lived reality.

“‘Woman’ thus comes to represent, as a word, man’s power over his own fortuitousness; woman is the symbol for the conquered, or conquerable enemy. He resists understanding woman in any other sense because he fears to go beyond the momentary reality: that he lives” (50).

“Woman has two works to perform: a work of differentiation, of man form herself, and a work of unification, of man with herself” (53).

Odd claim that her “difference is erased in the magic word ‘equality'” and that “man himself invented feminism, not woman” (53). Because feminism schematizes women’s difference into the masculine neutral

“Independence from woman has been the object of all the so-called ‘creative’ activity of man: the very notion of ‘creation’ implies the disappearance of the separate phenomenon ‘woman’ in male activity” (57).

“consciousness is a waste of self” for women since it is unrelated to the “communicating” between consciousness that they were doing (59).

The sense that man has of woman is the difference between the universal and particular – as long as woman is just a particular instance of the greater ‘man’ “there is no resultant whole, only a large outdoor abstraction” (63)

Women cannot fulfil themselves as women merely by extracting concessions from men which improve their social, their human, standing. They can only be women fully through an internal realization of their meaning as woman. The standing does not matter, for standing does not last… Not a respectable human standing, but an active consciousness of themselves, should be the object of women’s endeavor on their own behalf. Justice cannot be done women by men, only by themselves” (73).

“She remains a curiosity: always something above and beyond the immediate role. She exhausts the role, but the role does not exhaust her” (89).


Ezra Pound, Prose

“A Retrospect” and “A Few Don’ts” (1918)


There has been so much scribbling about a new fashion in poetry, that I may perhaps be pardoned this brief recapitulation and retrospect.

In the spring or early summer of 1912, “H. D.,” Richard Aldington and myself decided that we were agreed upon the three principles following:

  1. Direct treatment of the “thing” whether subjective or objective.
  2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

Upon many points of taste and of predilection we differed, but agreeing upon these three positions we thought we had as much right to a group name, at least as much right, as a number of French “schools” proclaimed by Mr. Flint in the August number of Harold Monro’s magazine for 1911.

This school has since been “joined” or “followed” by numerous people who, whatever their merits, do not show any signs of agreeing with the second specification. Indeed vers libre has become as prolix and as verbose as any of the flaccid varieties that preceded it. It has brought faults of its own. The actual language and phrasing is often as bad as that of our elders without even the excuse that the words are shovelled in to fill a metric pattern or to complete the noise of a rhyme-sound. Whether or no the phrases followed by the followers are musical must be left to the reader’s decision. At times I can find a marked metre in “vers libres,” as stale and hackneyed as any pseudo-Swinburnian, at times the writers seem to follow no musical structure whatever. But it is, on the whole, good that the field should be ploughed. Perhaps a few good poems have come from the new method, and if so it is justified.

Criticism is not a circumscription or a set of prohibitions. It provides fixed points of departure. It may startle a dull reader into alertness. That little of it which is good is mostly in stray phrases; or if it be an older artist helping a younger it is in great measure but rules of thumb, cautions gained by experience.

I set together a few phrases on practical working about the time the first remarks on imagisme were published. The first use of the word “Imagiste” was in my note to T. E. Hulme’s five poems, printed at the end of my “Ripostes” in the autumn of 1912. I reprint my cautions from Poetry for March, 1913.


An “Image” is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time. I use the term “complex” rather in the technical sense employed by the newer psychologists, such as Hart, though we may not agree absolutely in our application.

It is the presentation of such a “complex” instantaneously which gives that sense of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sense of sudden growth, which we experience in the presence of the greatest works of art.

It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works.

All this, however, some may consider open to debate. The immediate necessity is to tabulate A LIST OF DON’TS for those beginning to write verses. I can not put all of them into Mosaic negative.

To begin with, consider the three propositions (demanding direct treatment, economy of words, and the sequence of the musical phrase), not as dogma—never consider anything as dogma—but as the result of long contemplation, which, even if it is some one else’s contemplation, may be worth consideration.

Pay no attention to the criticism of men who have never themselves written a notable work. Consider the discrepancies between the actual writing of the Greek poets and dramatists, and the theories of the Graeco-Roman grammarians, concocted to explain their metres.


Use no superfluous word, no adjective which does not reveal something.

Don’t use such an expression as “dim lands of peace.” It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writer’s not realizing that the natural object is always the adequate symbol.

Go in fear of abstractions. Do not retell in mediocre verse what has already been done in good prose. Don’t think any intelligent person is going to be deceived when you try to shirk all the difficulties of the unspeakably difficult art of good prose by chopping your composition into line lengths.

What the expert is tired of today the public will be tired of tomorrow.

Don’t imagine that the art of poetry is any simpler than the art of music, or that you can please the expert before you have spent at least as much effort on the art of verse as an average piano teacher spends on the art of music.

Be influenced by as many great artists as you can, but have the decency either to acknowledge the debt outright, or to try to conceal it.

Don’t allow “influence” to mean merely that you mop up the particular decorative vocabulary of some one or two poets whom you happen to admire. A Turkish war correspondent was recently caught red-handed babbling in his despatches of “dove-grey” hills, or else it was “pearl-pale,” I can not remember.

Use either no ornament or good ornament.


Let the candidate fill his mind with the finest cadences he can discover, preferably in a foreign language [This is for rhythm, his vocabulary must of course be found in his native tongue], so that the meaning of the words may be less likely to divert his attention from the movement; e.g. Saxon charms, Hebridean Folk Songs, the verse of Dante, and the lyrics of Shakespeare—if he can dissociate the vocabulary from the cadence. Let him dissect the lyrics of Goethe coldly into their component sound values, syllables long and short, stressed and unstressed, into vowels and consonants.

It is not necessary that a poem should rely on its music, but if it does rely on its music that music must be such as will delight the expert.

Let the neophyte know assonance and alliteration, rhyme immediate and delayed, simple and polyphonic, as a musician would expect to know harmony and counterpoint and all the minutiae of his craft. No time is too great to give to these matters or to any one of them, even if the artist seldom have need of them.

Don’t imagine that a thing will “go” in verse just because it’s too dull to go in prose.

Don’t be “viewy”—leave that to the writers of pretty little philosophic essays. Don’t be descriptive; remember that the painter can describe a landscape much better than you can, and that he has to know a deal more about it.

When Shakespeare talks of the “Dawn in russet mantle clad” he presents something which the painter does not present. There is in this line of his nothing that one can call description; he presents.

Consider the way of the scientists rather than the way of an advertising agent for a new soap.

The scientist does not expect to be acclaimed as a great scientist until he has discovered something. He begins by learning what has been discovered already. He goes from that point onward. He does not bank on being a charming fellow personally. He does not expect his friends to applaud the results of his freshman class work. Freshmen in poetry are unfortunately not confined to a definite and recognizable class room. They are “all over the shop.” Is it any wonder “the public is indifferent to poetry?”

Don’t chop your stuff into separate iambs. Don’t make each line stop dead at the end and then begin every next line with a heave.

Let the beginning of the next line catch the rise of the rhythm wave, unless you want a definite longish pause.

In short, behave as a musician, a good musician, when dealing with that phase of your art which has exact parallels in music. The same laws govern, and you are bound by no others.

Naturally, your rhythmic structure should not destroy the shape of your words, or their natural sound, or their meaning. It is improbable that, at the start, you will he able to get a rhythm-structure strong enough to affect them very much, though you may fall a victim to all sorts of false stopping due to line ends, and caesurae.

The Musician can rely on pitch and the volume of the orchestra. You can not. The term harmony is misapplied in poetry; it refers to simultaneous sounds of different pitch. There is, however, in the best verse a sort of residue of sound which remains in the ear of the hearer and acts more or less as an organ-base.

A rhyme must have in it some slight element of surprise if it is to give pleasure, it need not be bizarre or curious, but it must be well used if used at all.

Vide further Vildrac and Duhamel’s notes on rhyme in “Technique Poétique.”

That part of your poetry which strikes upon the imaginative eye of the reader will lose nothing by translation into a foreign tongue; that which appeals to the ear can reach only those who take it in the original.

Consider the definiteness of Dante’s presentation, as compared with Milton’s rhetoric. Read as much of Wordsworth as does not seem too unutterably dull.

If you want the gist of the matter go to Sappho, Catullus, Villon, Heine when he is in the vein, Gautier when he is not too frigid; or, if you have not the tongues, seek out the leisurely Chaucer. Good prose will do you no harm, and there is good discipline to be had by trying to write it.

Translation is likewise good training, if you find that your original matter “wobbles” when you try to rewrite it. The meaning of the poem to be translated can not “wobble.”

If you are using a symmetrical form, don’t put in what you want to say and then fill up the remaining vacuums with slush.

Don’t mess up the perception of one sense by trying to define it in terms of another. This is usually only the result of being too lazy to find the exact word. To this clause there are possibly exceptions.

The first three simple prescriptions will throw out nine-tenths of all the bad poetry now accepted as standard and classic; and will prevent you from many a crime of production.

“. . . Mais d’abord il faut ětre un poète,” as MM. Duhamel and Vildrac have said at the end of their little book, “Notes sur la Technique Poétique.”

Since March 1913, Ford Madox Hueffer has pointed out that Wordsworth was so intent on the ordinary or plain word that he never thought of hunting for le mot juste.

John Butler Yeats has handled or man-handled Wordsworth and the Victorians, and his criticism, contained in letters to his son, is now printed and available.

I do not like writing about art, my first, at least I think it was my first essay on the subject, was a protest against it.





Rhythm.—I believe in an “absolute rhythm,” a rhythm, that is, in poetry which corresponds exactly to the emotion or shade of emotion to be expressed. A man’s rhythm must be interpretative, it will be, therefore, in the end, his own, uncounterfeiting, uncounterfeitable.

Symbols.—I believe that the proper and perfect symbol is the natural object, that if a man use “symbols” he must so use them that their symbolic function does not obtrude; so that a sense, and the poetic quality of the passage, is not lost to those who do not understand the symbol as such, to whom, for instance, a hawk is a hawk.

Technique.—I believe in technique as the test of a man’s sincerity; in law when it is ascertainable; in the trampling down of every convention that impedes or obscures the determination of the law, or the precise rendering of the impulse.

Form.—I think there is a “fluid” as well as a “solid” content, that some poems may have form as a tree has form, some as water poured into a vase. That most symmetrical forms have certain uses. That a vast number of subjects cannot be precisely, and therefore not properly rendered in symmetrical forms.

“Thinking that alone worthy wherein the whole art is employed” [Dante, De Volgari Eloquio]. I think the artist should master all known forms and systems of metric, and I have with some persistence set about doing this, searching particularly into those periods wherein the systems came to birth or attained their maturity. It has been complained, with some justice, that I dump my note-books on the public. I think that only after a long struggle will poetry attain such a degree of development, or, if you will, modernity, that it will vitally concern people who are accustomed, in prose, to Henry James and Anatole France, in music to Debussy. I am constantly contending that it took two centuries of Provence and one of Tuscany to develop the media of Dante’s masterwork, that it took the latinists of the Renaissance, Pleiade, and his own age of painted speech to prepare Shakespeare his tools. It is tremendously important that great poetry be written, it makes no jot of difference who writes it. The experimental demonstrations of one man may save the time of many—hence my furore over Arnaut Daniel—if a man’s experiments try out one new rime, or dispense conclusively with one iota of currently accepted nonsense, he is merely playing fair with his colleagues when he chalks up his result.

No man ever writes very much poetry that “matters.” In bulk, that is, no one produces much that is final, and when a man is not doing this highest thing, this saying the thing once for all and perfectly. . . . [H]e had much better be making the sorts of experiment which may be of use to him in his later work, to his successors.

“The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.” It is a foolish thing for a man to begin his work on a too narrow foundation, it is a disgraceful thing for a man’s work not to show steady growth and increasing fineness from first to last.

As for “adaptations”; one finds that all the old masters of painting recommend to their pupils that they begin by copying masterwork, and proceed to their own composition.

As for “Every man his own poet,” the more every man knows about poetry the better. I believe in every one writing poetry who wants to; most do. I believe in every man knowing enough of music to play “God bless our home” on the harmonium, but I do not believe in every man giving concerts and printing his sin.

The mastery of any art is the work of a lifetime. I should not discriminate between the “amateur” and the “professional.” Or rather I should discriminate quite often in favour of the amateur, but I should discriminate between the amateur and the expert. It is certain that the present chaos will endure until the Art of poetry has been preached down the amateur gullet, until there is such a general understanding of the fact that poetry is an art and not a pastime; such a knowledge of technique, of technique of surface and technique of content, that the amateurs will cease to try to drown out the masters.

If a certain thing was said once for all in Atlantis or Arcadia, in 450 Before Christ or in 1290 after, it is not for us moderns to go saying it over, or to go obscuring the memory of the dead by saying the same thing with less skill and less conviction.

My pawing over the ancients and semi-ancients has been one struggle to find out what has been done, once for all, better than it can ever be done again, and to find out what remains for us to do, and plenty does remain, for if we still feel the same emotions as those which launched the thousand ships, it is quite certain that we come on these feelings differently, through different nuances, by different intellectual gradations. Each age has its own abounding gifts yet only some ages transmute them into matter of duration. No good poetry is ever written in a manner twenty years old, for to write in such a manner shows conclusively that the writer thinks from books, convention and cliché, and not from life, yet a man feeling the divorce of life and his art may naturally try to resurrect a forgotten mode if he finds in that mode some leaven, or if he think he sees in it some element lacking in contemporary art which might unite that art again to its sustenance, life.

In the art of Daniel and Cavalcanti, I have seen that precision which I miss in the Victorians, that explicit rendering, be it of external nature, or of emotion. Their testimony is of the eyewitness, their symptoms are first hand.

As for the nineteenth century, with all respect to its achievements, I think we shall look back upon it as a rather blurry, messy sort of a period, a rather sentimentalistic, mannerish sort of a period. I say this without any self-righteousness, with no self-satisfaction.

As for there being a “movement” or my being of it, the conception of poetry as a “pure art” in the sense in which I use the term, revived with Swinburne. From the puritanical revolt to Swinburne, poetry had been merely the vehicle—yes, definitely, Arthur Symons’s scruples and feelings about the word not withholding—the ox-cart and post-chaise for transmitting thoughts poetic or otherwise. And perhaps the “great Victorians,” though it is doubtful, and assuredly the “nineties” continued the development of the art, confining their improvements, however, chiefly to sound and to refinements of manner.

Mr. Yeats has once and for all stripped English poetry of its perdamnable rhetoric. He has boiled away all that is not poetic—and a good deal that is. He has become a classic in his own lifetime and nel mezzo del cammin. He has made our poetic idiom a thing pliable, a speech without inversions.

Robert Bridges, Maurice Hewlett and Frederic Manning are [Dec. 1911] in their different ways seriously concerned with overhauling the metric, in testing the language and its adaptability to certain modes. Ford Hueffer is making some sort of experiments in modernity. The Provost of Oriel continues his translation of the Divina Commedia.

As to Twentieth century poetry, and the poetry which I expect to see written during the next decade or so, it will, I think, move against poppy-cock, it will be harder and saner, it will be what Mr Hewlett calls “nearer the bone.” It will be as much like granite as it can be, its force will lie in its truth, its interpretative power (of course, poetic force does always rest there); I mean it will not try to seem forcible by rhetorical din, and luxurious riot. We will have fewer painted adjectives impeding the shock and stroke of it. At least for myself, I want it so, austere, direct, free from emotional slither.

What is there now, in 1917, to be added?


I think the desire for vers libre is due to the sense of quantity reasserting itself after years of starvation. But I doubt if we can take over, for English, the rules of quantity laid down for Greek and Latin, mostly by Latin grammarians.

I think one should write vers libre only when one “must,” that is to say, only when the “thing” builds up a rhythm more beautiful than that of set metres, or more real, more a part of the emotion of the “thing,” more germane, intimate, interpretative than the measure of regular accentual verse; a rhythm which discontents one with set iambic or set anapaestic.

Eliot has said the thing very well when he said, “No vers is libre for the man who wants to do a good job.”

As a matter of detail, there is vers libre with accent heavily marked as a drum-beat (as par example my “Dance Figure”), and on the other hand I think I have gone as far as can profitably be gone in the other direction (and perhaps too far). I mean I do not think one can use to any advantage rhythms much more tenuous and imperceptible than some I have used. I think progress lies rather in an attempt to approximate classical quantitative metres (NOT to copy them) than in a carelessness regarding such things. [Let me date this statement 20 Aug. 1917.]

I agree with John Yeats on the relation of beauty to certitude. I prefer satire, which is due to emotion, to any sham of emotion.

I have had to write, or at least I have written a good deal about art, sculpture, painting and poetry. I have seen what seemed to me the best of contemporary work reviled and obstructed. Can any one write prose of permanent or durable interest when he is merely saying for one year what nearly every one will say at the end of three or four years? I have been battistrada for a sculptor, a painter, a novelist, several poets. I wrote also of certain French writers in The New Age in nineteen twelve or eleven.

I would much rather that people would look at Brzeska’s sculpture and Lewis’s drawings, and that they would read Joyce, Jules Romains, Eliot, than that they should read what I have said of these men, or that I should be asked to republish argumentative essays and reviews.

All that the critic can do for the reader or audience or spectator is to focus his gaze or audition. Rightly or wrongly I think my blasts and essays have done their work, and that more people are now likely to go to the sources than are likely to read this book.

Jammes’s “Existences” in “La Triomphe de la Vie” is available. So are his early poems. I think we need a convenient anthology rather than descriptive criticism. Carl Sandburg wrote me from Chicago, “It’s hell when poets can’t afford to buy each other’s books.” Half the people who care, only borrow. In America so few people know each other that the difficulty lies more than half in distribution. Perhaps one should make an anthology: Romains’s “Un Etre en Marche” and “Priéres,” Vildrac’s “Visite.” Retrospectively the fine wrought work of Laforgue, the flashes of Rimbaud, the hard-bit lines of Tristan Corbiére, Tailhade’s sketches in “Poémes Aristophanesques,” the “Litanies” of De Gourmont.

It is difficult at all times to write of the fine arts, it is almost impossible unless one can accompany one’s prose with many reproductions. Still I would seize this chance or any chance to reaffirm my belief in Wyndham Lewis’s genius, both in his drawings and his writings. And I would name an out of the way prose book, the “Scenes and Portraits” of Frederic Manning, as well as James Joyce’s short stories and novel, “Dubliners” and the now well known “Portrait of the Artist” as well as Lewis’ “Tarr,” if, that is, I may treat my strange reader as if he were a new friend come into the room, intent on ransacking my bookshelf.



I am almost a different person when I come to take up the argument for Eliot’s poems.


“A. B. C. of Economics”

“Probably the only economic problem needing emergency solution in our time is the problem of distribution. There are enough goods, there is superabundant capacity to produce goods in superabundance. Why should anyone starve?” (234). (AD: Charlotte Perkins Gilman would have some things to say about this, re: man as woman’s environment and woman needing to work)

The first “clean cut to be made” is the “shortening of the working day” (236).

“Marx has aroused interest far less than the importance of his thought might seem to have warranted. He knew, but forgot or at any rate failed to make clear, the limits of his economics. That is to say, Marxian economics deal with goods for sale, goods in the shop. The minute I cook my own dinner or nail four boards together into a chair, I escape from the whole cycle of Marxian economics.

‘Can’t move ’em with a cold thing like economics,’ said Mr. Griffiths, the inventor of Sinn fein” (239). (AD: does woman escape Marxian economics by performing domestic labor? Does man escape Marxian economics by performing feminine labor? Is he escaping woman as imposer of Marxian economics?)

“Time is not money, but it is nearly everything else. That is to say… It is not money, food, raw materials, women or various fundamental necessities which  I cannot at the moment remember, including possibly health, but it is a very important lever to most of them” (243). (AD: both time and money are a “lever” to obtaining the “fundamental necessity” of women.)

“In practice it has been shown that families who do not overproduce, that is, who beget no more children than they can support, have been able to maintain decent standards of living, and that other families do not.

It is probably useless to propound theories of perfect government or of perfect economics for human beings who are too demnition stupid and too ignorant to acquire so rudimentary a perception of cause and effect” (245).

“Until we have decent economics the sane man will refuse to overbreed. And pity for the large poor family will continue to be pity for idiotic lack of precision.

It may be that all, or most, sciences start from suffering or from pity; but once a science is started these emotions have no place in that science.” (245).

Pound considers the possibility of “national dividends,” which sounds similar to CPG’s idea of paying women to perform maternal tasks (252).

“Personally I favor a home for each individual, in the sense that I think each individual should have a certain amount of cubic space into which he or she can retire and be exempt from any outside interference what so damn ever.

From that I should build individual rights, and as they move out from that cubicle or inverted trapezoid they should be modified by balancing and counterpoise of the same-sprung rights of others, up to the rights of the state or the congeries” (253). (AD: Woolf’s room of one’s own taken farther… Pound feels he can demand more, but interestingly demands it for women as well as for men. This also sounds oddly like the marital argument at the end of Herland)

“An economic system in which it is more profitable to make guns to blow men to pieces than to grow grain or make useful machinery is an outrage, and its supporters are enemies of the race” (263).

Political Bearing

Both in England and in America the new party should be a MATERIAL PARTY with three parts to its platform:

  1. When enough exists, means should be found to distribute it to the people who need it.
  2. It is the business of the nation to see that its own citizens get their share, before worrying about the rest of the world. (If not, what is the sense of being ‘united’ or organised as a state? What is the meaning of ‘citizen’?)
  3. When the potential production (the possible production) of anything is sufficient to meet everyone’s needs, it is the business of the government to see that both production and distribution are achieved” (264). (AD: do we see Fascist roots here?)


“The Wisdom of Poetry”

“The function of an art is to free the intellect from the tyranny of the affects, or, leaning on terms, neither technical nor metaphysical: the function of an art is to strengthen the perceptive faculties and free them from encumbrance, such encumbrances, for instance, as set moods, set ideas, conventions; from the results of experience which is common but unnecessary, experience induced by the stupidity of the experiencer and not by inevitable laws of nature” (360).

“What the analytical geometer does for space and form, the poet does for the states of consciousness. Let us therefore consider the nature of the formulae of analytics.

By the signs (a squared plus b squared equals c squared), I imply the circle. By (a-r) squared + (b-r)squared = (c-r)squared, I imply the circle and its mode of birth. I am led from the consideration of the particular circles formed by my ink-well and my table-rim, to the contemplation of the circle absolute, its law; the circle free in all space, unbounded, loosed from the accidents of time and place. Is the formula nothing, or is it cabala and the sign of unintelligible magic? The engineer, understanding and translating to the many, builds for the uninitiated bridges and devices, He speaks their language. For the initiated the signs are a door into eternity and into the boundless ether.

As the abstract mathematician is to science so is the poet to the world’s consciousness. Neither has direct contact with the many, neither of them is superhuman or arrives at his utility through occult and inexplicable ways. Both are scientifically demonstrable” (362).



“Energy creates pattern… emotional force gives the image. …Intense emotion causes pattern to arise in the mind–if the mind is strong enough. Perhaps I should say, not pattern, but pattern-units, or units of design… I want to get away from the confusion between ‘pattern’ and ‘decoration’… By pattern-unit or vorticist picture I mean the single jet. The difference between the pattern-unit and the picture is one of complexity. The pattern-unit is so simple that one can bear having it repeated several or many times. When it becomes so complex that repetition would be useless, then it is a picture, an ‘arrangement of forms'” (374).

Images can be “of two sorts. It can arise within the mind. It is then ‘subjective.’ …. [or] the Image can be objective. Emotion seizing up some external scene or action carries it intact to the mind; and that cortex purges it of all save the essential or dominant or dramatic qualities, and it emerges like the external original. In either case the image is more than an idea. It is a vortex or cluster of fused ideas and it is endowed with energy. If it does not fulfil these specifications, it is not what I mean by an image” (375).

“Even if his thought be very slight it will not gain by being swathed in sham lace” (375).

“Where the voltage is so high that it fuses the machinery, one has merely the ’emotional man; not the artist. The best artist is the man whose machinery can stand the highest voltage. The better the machinery, the more precise, the stronger, the more exact will be the record of the voltage and of the various currents which have passed through it” (376).

“The vorticist position, or at least my position at the moment is this:

Energy, or emotion, expresses itself in form. Energy, whose primary manifestation is in pure form, i.e., form as distinct form likeness or association can only be expressed in painting or sculpture. ITs expression can vary…. Energy expressing itself in pure sound, i.e., sound as distinct from articulate speech, can only be expressed in music. When an energy or emotion ‘presents an image,’ this may find adequate expression in words. It is very probably a waste of energy to express it it in any more tangible medium. The verbal expression of the image may be reinforced by a suitable or cognate rhythm-form and by timbre-form. By rhythm-form and timbre-form I do not mean something which must of necessity have a ‘repeat’ in it. ….

The vorticist maintains that the ‘organising’ or the creative-inventive faculty is the thing that matters; and that the artist having this faculty is a being infinitely separate from the other type of artist who merely goes on weaving arabesques out of other men’s units of form.

Superficial capability needs no invention whatsoever, but a great energy has, of necessity, its many attendant inventions” (377).


“Marianne Moore and Mina Loy”

“In the verse of Marianne Moore I detect traces of emotion; in that of Mina Loy I detect no emotion whatever” (424).

melopoeia, imagism, logopoeia

“It is possible, as I have written, or inteded to write elsewhere, to divide poetry into three sorts;

1) melopoeia, to wit, poetry which moves by its music, whether it be a music in the words or an aptitude for, or suggestion of, accompanying music; 2) imagism, or poetry wherein the feelings of painting and sculpture are predominant (certain men move in phantasmagoria; the images of their gods, whole countrysides, stretches of hill land and forest, travel with them); and there is, thirdly, logopoeia, or poetry that is akin to nothing but language, which is a dance of the intelligence among words and ideas and modification of ideas and characters. Pope and the eighteenth-century writers had in this medium a certain limited range. The intelligence of Laforgue ran through the whole gamut of his time. T. S. Eliot has gone on with it. Browning wrote a condensed form of drama, full of things of the senses, scarcely ever pure logopoeia.

One wonders what the devil anyone will make of this sort of thing who has not in their wit all the clues. It has none of the stupidity beloved of the ‘lyric’ enthusiast and the writer and reader who take refuge in scenery description of nature, because they are unable to cope with the human” (424).

(AD: Pound here obviously uses “logos” as “word” rather than in its logical basis, but still interesting that “logopoeia” seems to involve many of “feminine writing”s aspects.)


Moore and Loy “write logopoeia. It is, in their case, the utterance of clever people in despair, or hovering upon the brink of that precipice…. It is a mind cry, more than a heart cry” (424).

They are, to Pound, “interesting and readable,” but he imagines that these poems would “drive numerous not wholly unintelligent readers into a fury of rage-out-of-puzzlement” (425).


Ezra Pound, Cantos

Some critics argue that just as the aesthetic and political are merged in the early Modernist aspect of Pound’s poetry, in the later, the aesthetic and Fascist elements are merged. Futurist writers like Marinetti are the heirs and successors of Dante.

Marinetti and Dazzi feature as Dantesque shades or ghosts that appear to the narrator.

“Pound’s ‘Ideogrammatic Method’ as Illustrated in Canto XCIX.” Ben D. Kimpel and T. C. Duncan Eaves, American Literature: A Journal of Literary History, Criticism, and Bibliography, May 1979.

“Pound believed that almost all the [Chinese] characters are ideograms, that is, composed of two or more pictures which when put together create a new word; to choose a real ideogram as an example, ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ together mean ‘bright.’ He also believed that various elements put together in a canto (of in The Cantos as a whole) create a new concept” (205).

Ideogrammatic method “has not been unambiguously defined, either by Pound or by his critics, though everyone seems to agree that it involves juxtaposition of independent elements rather than logical or chronological development” (206).

“The Chinese character, Pound says, also begins not with abstractions but with concrete illustrations: the character for “red,” for example, is composed of pictures of a rose, a cherry, iron rust, and a flamingo. His illustration shows another difficulty in his use of the ideogrammic method if one conceives of the method as a mere collection of facts : there is no such Chinese character for “red,” there are not even pictograms of the four elements Pound imagined as composing it, and Fenollosa does not say that there is such a composite character or such pictograms, though he does make the same point Pound is making that “red” can be better defined by illustration than by abstraction” (207).

“There are genuine pictograms and genuine ideograms among the Chinese characters, but scholars of Chinese do not support Fenollosa’s claim and hold that the large majority of the characters have elements which contribute not to meaning but to sound. This fact would not have bothered Pound, with his distrust of stuffy academicians except when it suited him to consult the experts. He began interpreting the characters as ideograms before he had learned any Chinese to speak of and published some fanciful readings of them at the end of The Chinese Written Character; in some of his translations of the Confucian classics he expanded characters by interpreting their elements, as he did also in the Pisan Cantos” (209).

“Pound had become a reader rather than a speaker of Chinese, and his interest in the language was more visual than auditory to use his own terms, he was interested in its phanopœia rather than its melopœia, and most of all in the possibilities for logopœia afforded by the multiple meanings which could be extracted from the characters” (211).

What does the need for intonation in the Chinese language say about Pound’s poetry? Needs to be spoken?

“Some passages can be thought of as “enriched” paraphrase, that is paraphrase which takes advantage of all the suggestions of the words” (232).

“Almost everything in Canto XCIX can thus be logically explicated ; and yet the explication falls far short of the effect of the canto. Indeed, though many lines require explication, it is possible to hold that the canto as a whole can make its effect without explication and even loses some of the force of its effect if one remembers the details of the explication while rereading” (234-5).

“And Pound ends by resounding (as compressed apothegms expressed in accurate language) the themes of agriculture and education, reminding us briefly of the heterodox religions, and concluding, as he had begun, with man as a part of Nature. With the last word, “grows,” which is connected with agriculture, education, and Nature, he seems to lead us on beyond the Edict or any other fixed ideal. This effect is attained whether or not the reader knows what stimulated the phrases. ” (235).

“Many lines are so obscure that most readers can only skip over them with a shrug, which as far as the reader is concerned means that they “contribute” nothing and therefore violate the second principle of imagism: “To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.”*^ But this principle was stated when Pound was concerned mainly with brief lyrics; per-haps a long poem can afford some lines of use only to a few readers. ” (237).

“Modernist Abstraction and Pound’s First Cantos” The Ethos for a New Renaissance” by Charles Altieri. Kenyon Review, September 1985

“Analogies to cubism and vorticism allow [Hugh] Kenner to describe clearly how Pound replaces vague symboliste correspondences with the foregrounding of precisely patterned energies” (80).

“Pound’s Vorticism as a Renewal of Humanism.” Charles Altieri, Boundary 2: A Journal of Postmodern Literature and Culture  March 1984.

“The description of vorticism quickly shifts into an autobiographical narrative—not as an assertion of the unified ego nor as a simple rhetorical distrust of abstraction, but as a way of confronting the fragmentation of self issuing from received humanist values: “In the ‘search for myself,’ in the search for ‘sincere selfexpression,’ one gropes, one finds some seeming verity. One says ‘I am’ this or the other, and the words scarcely uttered one ceases to be that thing” (GB, p. 85).”” (445).

“Yeats, Pound implies, preserves only the dead content of Renaissance values. The Vorticists, on the other hand, recover the energies informing the spirit of that movement, but this also entails breaking with established ways:

If these men set out to “produce horrors,” obviously it is not from ignorance or from lack of respect for tradition. No. The sum of their so called revolt is that they refuse to recognize parochial borders to the artistic tradition. That they think it not enough to be the best painter in Chelsea, SW Vorticism refuses to discard any part of the tradition merely because It is a difficult bogey…. Art comes from intellect stirred by will, impulse, emotion, but art is emphatically not any of these others deprived of intellect and out drunk on its ‘lone, saying it is the “that which is beyond the intelligence.” {GB, p. 105)

At stake ultimately are the principles allowing us to make art a basis for idealizing energies which one can then pursue in life. For Modernist artists the resulting cult of intelligence must begin by denying direct mimesis: “We have again arrived at an age when men can consider a statue as a statue. The hard stone is not the iive coney. Its beauty cannot be the same beauty” {GB, p. 107). Once this is achieved, we in fact get back to life more richly and deeply because the energies art organizes are not devoted to some substitute fantasy. Rather they are dynamic realities in the present and thus can enter a timeless world where all traditions speak and where Renaissances are reborn. An art devoted to arranging masses in relation “is not an empty copy of empty Roman allegories that are themselves copies of copies It is energy cut into stone making the stone expressive …” {GB, p. 110). Such energies give us the strength to persist in “an unwavering feeling that we live in a time as active and as significant as the Cinquecento. We feel this ingress and we are full of the will for its expression” {GB, p. 110)” (445-6).

“Form for Pound is the overall effect of stasis produced by expressive energy as it becomes manifest within a concrete structure and as it captures the power of that energy to permeate the seen or remembered. On this basis Pound can attribute social significance to art while evading the standard categorical claims to universality on which such attributions are usually based” (448).

“”Obviously you cannot have ‘cubist’ poetry or ‘imagist’ painting” (GB, p. 81). But one can define a single principle for the modern arts by basing it precisely on this 448 recognition of differences—the modern arts are devoted to the position that every concept, every emotion presents itself to the vivid consciousness in some primary form” {GB, p. 81). Vorticism in particular roots the vortex in the power of each art to capture this “point of maximum energy” by making the qualities of “primary pigment” their central locus of semantic energies, whether the pigment be images, design forms, color in position, or dance movement.” (447-8).

“For Pound, on the other hand, all traditions continue to live, to establish possible ways of being, to the extent that we know how to read expressions as permanent metaphors, exemplary as models of energy always capable of taking new forms. Thus one makes a Renaissance. I call the basis of this remaking the undoing of categorical judgment without anxiety about origins. The crucial factor is the recasting of ideals” (453).

“society, not influence the models it uses. Society as a material entity may require shared laws and shareable beliefs. But as a spiritual entity, as something productive of claims to nobility and dignity because of the symbolic intensiveness it makes possible, society must take the form of the exchange of creative energies. In Pound’s world such energies derive from a vision of experience as the risking and challenging of identities through processes of making claims upon one another. Social life becomes a matter of reciprocal assertions: “You find a man one week young, interested, active, following your thought and his thought, parrying and countering, so that the thought you have between you is more alive than the thought you have apart” (GB, p. 108).'” Since there is no common set of ideals, there is no point in making abstract judgments of what others do. Instead our task as social beings is to keep one another alive by cultivating even sharper, more intensive expressions of difference” (456).

“Gyre and Vortex: W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound.” Colin McDowel and Timothy Materer. Twentieth Century Literature: A Scholarly and Critical Journal. December 1985.

Critics of Modern poetry have often treated Yeats and Pound as “the poetic opposites of modern literature,” Yeats being the “last romantic,” and Pound as the “poet of the precise image, who believed that the natural object is always the adequate symbol, and who scorned the Romantic age as a ‘blurry, messy sort of a period'” (343).

“Like the great symbolist poet he was, Yeats is in search of correspondences in the outer world for an inner reality. The ‘whatever’ in Yeats’s mind might be the archetype of the Mother Goddess or a theory about the medieval age. The reality of the cathedral is meaningless to Yeats unless it interprets of corresponds to an inner, spiritual reality. Pound’s implied criticism is that the ‘whatever’ discovered by ‘dawdling’ is not precise enough to achieve an ‘exact rendering of the thing.’ He suspects that Yeats imposes rather than discovers poetic form” (344).

Both poets however were “deeply committed to occult studies and both attempted to go beyond merely personal versions of myth to find the recurrent patterns that underlie all myths” (345).

“The ‘sphere’ [in Yeats] is analogous to the eternal or divine spirit in Pound’s poetic world…We can also see that a gyre or spiral may be thought of as a figure for the methodical examination of the object: one starts out with a wide circle of perception, in which one grasps the gestalt, gradually narrowing one’s focus” (347).

Pound used the Gyre image in the (early) 1908 poem “Plotinus” and “Before sleep” has some gyre-like imagery

We can see “a spiral flight out of a spiritual hell” as the progression of the cantos (356)

[AD: we could see this perhaps in the outline Pound wrote his father:

Another approach to the structure of the work is based on a letter Pound wrote to his father in the 1920s, in which he stated that his plan was:

A. A. Live man goes down into world of dead.
C. B. ‘The repeat in history.’
B. C. The ‘magic moment’ or moment of metamorphosis, bust through from quotidian into ‘divine or permanent world.’ Gods, etc.]





Jessie L. Weston, From Ritual to Romance

“the main features of the Grail story–the Waste Land, the Fisher King, the Hidden Castle with its solemn Feast, and mysterious Feeding Vessel, the Bleeding Lance and Cup” (3). (AD: we begin with the Waste Land – what follows Eliot’s set up?)

“The Dead king may, as I have said above, be regarded as the Benefactor, as the Protector, of his people, but it is the Living king upon whom their actual and continued prosperity depends. The detail that the ruling sovereign is sometimes regarded as the re-incarnation of the original founder of the race strengthens this point – the king never dies–” (8).

In all the various traditions, the seeker “ought to have enquired concerning the nature of the Grail, and that this enquiry would have resulted in the restoration to fruitfulness of a Waste Land” (11). (does the modernist poet’s “asking” do something similar? Is it meant to?)

“The question is changed; the hero no longer asks what the Grail is, but whom it serves?” (14). (re:, perhaps, the War)

“The condition of the king is sympathetically reflected on the land, the loss of virility in one brings about a suspension of the reproductive processes of Nature on the other” (21). (AD: this seems like some sort of odd male generative fantasy of withholding)

Like Eliot, Weston draws on both Western and Eastern (Vedic) myths about fertility

“Their hymns and prayers…and their dramatic ritual, were devised for the main purpose of obtaining from the gods of their worship that which was essential to ensure their well-being and the fertility of their land–warmth, sunshine, above all, sufficient water” (24). (AD: how do poetry and dramatic ritual relate? Is Eliot’s poetry a dramatic ritual, serving this purpose? Does death by water mean an over-watering, did it succeed too much?)

The Lance or Spear represents male, and the cup female, reproductive energy (71)

The Tarot were originally not for telling futures but predicting the rise and fall of water for irrigation (79)

The Fisher King is killed and brought to life again (117). (How does this relate to Eliot’s invocation of “tradition”?)

The Grail mysteries are so secret and sacred that no woman may venture to speak of it (130).

exoteric v esoteric rituals 133

“The Grail romances repose eventually, not upon a poet’s imagination, but upon the ruins of an august and ancient ritual, a ritual which once claimed to be the accredited guardian of the deepest secrets of life” (176).

“…Ritual, having for its ultimate object the initiation into the secret of the sources of Life, physical and spiritual. This ritual, in its lower, exoteric, form, as affecting the processes of Nature, and physical life, survives to-day…” (191)

Mina Loy, Selected Essays

“The Sacred Prostitute” (drama)

FUTURISM: Love is a feminine conception spelt “Greed” with a capital “G”–this is female, all right! (197).


FUTURISM: Hurry up! And love me! (distractedly) There is no time to waste– life has got to be lived – There’s no time to stop to enjoy it! (201)


FUTURISM: Women are so illogical.

LOVE: So are you.

FUTURISM: Futurism is diametrically opposed to logic (204).


FUTURISM: I am sacrificing my life to make things new–and only succeeding in making them louder. As for this, it’s only the eternal axiom in waging the sex war–that “Man and Woman” are enemies. But that woman has one greater enemy than man–woman!

DON JUAN: Ah, now that’s recognizable–insult the sex, to catch the demonstrated exception?

FUTURISM: Precisely. This dodge covers the whole field–hitherto you stopped short at maternity–we annihilate woman completely! (205).


(NATURE comes on)

DON JUAN: Oh, Mammy, you must help us. Futurism has invented a new game–we want to make our own children, evolve them from our own indomitable intellects.

NATURE: Then do it–You can’t expect me to help you with your intellects, they’ve raced far beyond my control.

FUTURISM: Never mind the intellects–they’re our business. Your affair is the children–you’re the only person who understands them.

DON JUAN: You always do what we want, dear, are we not your favorite offspring? In fact, you would be the perfect mother, if only you had restricted your family to us–we don’t want a little sister–she’s remained a child too long!

NATURE: I have been looking into the feminist propaganda–and I am already seriously considering allowing her to grow up!

FUTURISM AND DON JUAN: Great Heavens! Anything but that!

NATURE: I made you entirely independent, except for this question of reproduction–and you have shown no filial gratitude whatever–and to tell the truth, I’m beginning to feel rather out of touch with you… now you’ve overeaten yourselves, you want me to make you a perfect world–with no temptations. Well, I shan’t–you’ll just go on the best way you can–until you’ve learnt a little self control.

FUTURISM: There’s nothing more to be got out of her! –Let’s identify ourselves with machinery! (205-7).


LOVE: …I assure you every time woman gives herself to man, it means a struggle between her pride and her desire. It’s so stupid this appearing to succumb to diplomacy–I know you’re going to win…But do fight me with new weapons–I do want to be amused (210).


Censor Morals Sex”

If as Freud infers–Religion and Sex are interchangeable–why not reintegrate both giving the people an impetus toward the equilibrium they require?

Sexual myths become the masters of civilization” (226).



“In psycho-analytic literature, at least, we are offered no escape from the post-natal womb of the Eternal Mother

And the Eternal Mother devours her literary kittens –––––– invariably…” (227).

“mechanized mysticism” related to the mother complex and the Absolute (228)

“The aim of the artist is to miss the Absolute–the only possible creative gesture–whereas the mystic impulse is to embrace a ‘ready made’ in the way of absolutes” (228).


“Gertrude Stein”

“Gertrude Stein is not a writer in any of the currently accepted senses of the word.

She does not use words to present a subject, but uses a fluid subject to float her words on” (233).


“History of Religion and Eros”

“The secret Universe of omniscient creative impetus comprises the power-house generating our obvious universe.

From this power-house science has induced innumerable demonstrations of its mathematical abstract potency” (237).

“Inversely to the direct co-operation of the ancients, the occidental scientist interposes between himself and the Power Universe gigantic machinery, microscopic instrumentation to indirectly contact it” (238).

“Whatever transpired in the ego-laboratory of mystic research proved so mysterious to the occidentals that finally they easily accepted it as the mystery to end all mysteries: the nothing-at-all” (239).

“Human emotion is become excessively confused owing to the scission of sex from religion.

Sex presented to the purity of youth as at once beatitude and secret filth

Religion, as sole security and total prohibition

Sex! This word, at last, so overflows with misassociations. To clarify its future significance, sex must be renamed” (247). For now, she substitutes EROS

“Freud is unnecessary to the future. His utile achievement lay in his solution of the problem, ‘To mention or not to mention.’ By making it, aided by the scientific aegis– fashionably polite to mention. Clearing a way out for inhibition” (252).


“The Library of the Sphinx”

“While the sphinx retains her secret, who shall reveal the unconsummated significance of the asterisk–––

Notwithstanding that the secret of the sphinx is not conveyed in words–the asterisk is an assumption that the secret is possessed by each of us and therefore need never be mentioned–

the asterisk is the signal of a treasure which is not there” (253).

“The secret–that the sphinx does not know her own secret–

Impossible–it would have been remarked upon ere now–

–Not so–for the sphinx has never spoken” (253).

“Let us examine your literature –

It was written by men–

And the sphinx never gave a sign.” (254).

“In the soggy atmosphere of T. S. Eliot is embedded the typist who fresh from the embraces of a stray acquaintance–

turns on the gramophone

and swallows her hairpins

(I am not quite clear in my recollection of the latter line)

Mr. Eliot has observed the typist and her combinations drying on the roof with the same disrespectfully acute ray of observation that he turns on classicism and pessimism alike” (257).


“The Logos in Art”

“The church–that ungainly edifice that so impoliment shuts out the divine ‘view'” (260)

“It is the unpresentable in presentation that causes it to exceed replica–” (261).

“Apparently because the proportions of their superficies are too great for their purpose–leading as they do to no altars–For there is no common-sense reason why a straight line should not have the same significance in the twelfth and the twentieth century–

The logos is insinuated Modern art–because there is a certain renaissance–evidently the masters they follow were of healthier contagion than those of some previous generations–

And there is no renaissance without breath–

The breathing upon the logos–” (261-2). (AD: breathing by whom?)


“The Metaphysical Pattern in Aesthetics”

“The pattern of a work of art is interposed between the artist’s creation and the observer in the mode of a screen formed by the directing lines or map of the artist’s genius.

This is the essential factor in a work of art” (263).


“Mi & Lo”

Hi- Lo, Mina Loy, me/my the, almost musical notation (do-re-mi-fa-sol)

This is a Platonic dialogue.


“Tuning In on the Atom Bomb” and “Universal Food Machine” about the wars

“You will nowhere find an individual who prays for War. Yet War would not come upon us if it were not invoked. By whom is it invoked? It seems impossible that it should be so–and yet it is so–War is not a scourge of destiny which falls upon us independently of our will” (291).



Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics

“…these sorrows and perplexities of our lives are but the natural results of natural causes, and that, as soon as we ascertain the causes, we can do much to remove them” (1). (AD: and to mystify them is to refuse to remove them.)

“The food supply of the animal is the largest passive factor in his development; the processes by which he obtains his food supply, the largest active factor…. We are the only animal species in which the female depends on the male for food, the only animal species in which the sex-relation is also an economic relation. With us an entire sex lives in a relation of economic dependence upon the other sex, and the economic relation is combined with the sex-relation. The economic status of the human female is relative to the sex-relation” (2-3).

“Economic progress…is almost exclusively masculine. ….This is not owing to lack of the essential human faculties necessary to such achievements, nor to any inherent disability of sex, but to the present condition of woman, forbidding the development of this degree of economic ability” (5). (AD: who is the agent here? Language carefully masks cause of female subordination)

“Although not producers of wealth, women serve in the final processes of preparation and distribution. Their labor in the household has a genuine economic value. …The horse is an economic factor in society. But the horse is not economically, independent, nor is the woman” (6).

“we are told that the duties and services of the mother entitle her to support.

If this is so, if motherhood is an exchangeable commodity given by women in payment for clothes and food, then we must of course find some relation between the quantity or quality of the motherhood and the quantity and quality of the pay. …Are we willing to hold this ground, even in theory?” (8).

“The female of genus homo is economically dependent on the man. He is her food supply” (11). (AD: she cannibalizes woman!)

“To be ill-fed or ill-bred, or both, is largely what makes us the sickly race we are” (13).

Monogamy is “as natural a condition as polygamy or promiscuity” because it is found among other animals, and it is the most beneficial to the “Race” (13). However, “the moral quality of monogamous marriage depends on its true advantage to the individual and to society. If it were not the best form of marriage for our racial good, it would not be right” (14).

“The unnatural feature by which our race holds an unenviable distinction consists mainly in…a morbid excess in the exercise of [the sex] function” (15).

In a normal condition, “the amount of hunger we feel is exactly proportionate to the amount of food we eat,” but we as a “race, manifest an excessive sex-attraction, followed by its excessive indulgence, and the inevitable evil consequence” (16).

A vicious cycle is created in which “the more widely the sexes are differentiated, the more forcibly they are attracted to each other,” and the more they are attracted, the stronger the sex binary becomes (16).

The sex distinction should really only appear in “processes of reproduction” (18).

There are sex instincts, but they should “not appear till the period of adolescence” (29). Girls should not be feminine “till it is time to be,” nor men “aggressively masculine till it is time to be” (29). (i.e., in mating season)

“The sex relation is intensely personal. All the functions and relations ensuing are intensely personal… By confining half of the world to this one set of functions, we have confined it absolutely to the personal” (42).

Mothers do not explain to their daughters what their lives are going to hold. “The pressure under which this is done is an economic one. The girl must marry: else how live? The prospective husband prefers the girl to know nothing. He is the market, the demand. She is the supply. And with the best intentions the mother serves her child’s economic advantage by preparing her for the market” (44).

“Although marriage is a means of livelihood, it is not honest employment where one can offer one’s labor without shame, but a relation where support is given outright, and enforced by law in return for the functional service of the woman, the ‘duties of wife and mother.’ Therefore no honorable woman can ask for it” (45).

“Why should we blame the woman for pursuing her vocation? Since marriage is her only way to get money, why should she not try to get money in that way?” (47).

This schema turns man into a “Getter” rather than a “Doer” of things (57).

Unable to create anything herself, she becomes a consumer. she becomes “the priestess of the temple of consumption” (60).

“Maternal energy is the force through which have come into the world both love and industry” (63). … “the conserving force of female energy” (63).

“Maternal energy, working externally through our elaborate organism, is the source of productive industry, the main current of social life” (63). (AD: how does maternal energy relate to capitalism?)

“Most women still work only as they ‘have to’… Men, too, liking the power that goes with money, and the poor quality of gratitude and affection bought with it, resent and oppose the change, but all this disturbs very little the course of social progress” (76).

“Our belief that a thing is ‘natural’ does not mean that it is right” (103).

“If women did choose professions unsuitable to maternity, Nature would quietly extinguish them by her unvarying process” (121).


Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland

Chapter 1 entitled “a Not Unnatural Enterprise” (what they find is not unnatural, nor is their masculine desire to try to find it)

Terry’s “great aim was exploration. He used to make all kinds of a row because there was nothing left to explore now…” (3).

“None of them had ever seen it. It was dangerous, deadly, they said, for any man to go there” (4).”There was something attractive to a bunch of unattached young men in finding an undiscovered country of a strictly Amazonian nature” (7). (AD: still extremely androcentric; they are “attractive” to men)

Terry decides “let’s call it Feminisia” (9). (AD: masculine entitlement to name and categorize)

Jeff thinks the land will be “blossoming with roses and babies,” Terry “just Girls and Girls and Girls” (9). Narrator insists “you’ll find it’s built on a sort of matriarchal principle–that’s all” (9).

They can’t be all that dangerous despite their ability to defend themselves because “where there’s motherhood you don’t find sisterhood–not much” (10). Terry is confident he can use this division to get himself crowned king.

“Why, this is a civilized country! I protested. There must be men” (13). (AD: men = culture. Sherry Ortner)

“We’d better import some of these ladies and set ’em to parking the United States, I suggested. Mighty nice place they’ve got here” (20). (Assumption that woman’s place is to make life more beautiful for men. Also, assumption that women can be “imported,” that they have no nationality, a la Woolf)

“In all our discussions and speculations we had always unconsciously assumed that the women, whatever else they might be, would be young. Men do think that way, I fancy.

‘Woman’ in the abstract is young, and, we assume, charming. As they get older they pass off the stage, somehow, into private ownership mostly, or out of it altogether. But these good ladies were very much on the stage, and yet any one of them might have been a grandmother” (22).

“And now here they were, in great numbers, evidently indifferent to what he might think, evidently determined on some purpose of their own regarding him, and apparently well able to enforce their purpose” (23).

The women have a very simple, non-ornamental dress and hairstyle.

“It was not pleasant, having them always around, but we soon got used to it” (30).

“They don’t seem to notice our being men.. They treat us – well – just as they do one another. It’s as if our being men was a minor incident” (32). (AD: not only are men nothing special qua men, but also, the gender binary is not foregrounded as it is in our society)

The women are “impudent” and “uncomfortably strong” (35)

The women question the men’s conception of virgin and virginity and make the men uncomfortable as they explain how mating works so poorly in their country

“We have cats,’ she said. ‘The father is not very useful'” (49).

The cats only have a mating season once a year. Sex is used for reproduction only (52).

“They were inconveniently reasonable, these women” (57). (they access logos)

“…these ultra-women, inheriting only from women, had eliminated not only certain masculine characteristics, which of course we did not look for, but so much of what we had always thought essentially feminine. The tradition of men as guardians and protectors had quite died out….The power of mother-love, that maternal instinct we so highly laud, was theirs of course, raised to its highest power; and a sister-love…” (59).

“…as to everyone knowing which child belongs to which mother–why should she?’

Here, as in so many other instances, we were led to feel the difference between the purely maternal and paternal attitude of mind. The element of personal pride seemed strangely lacking” (77).

“When I dug into the records to follow out any line of development, that was the most astonishing thing–the conscious effort to make it better” (77). 

“To them the country was a unit–it was Theirs. They themselves were a unit, a conscious group; they thought in terms of the community. As such, their time-sense was not limited to the hopes and ambitions of an individual life. Therefore, they habitually considered and carried out plans for improvement which might cover centuries” (80).

The girls “train out, breed out, when possible, the lowest types” (83). This is how they have not had a criminal in 600 years. Reproductive eugenics. Only the fittest and best are allowed to reproduce.

Maternity is the highest honor, but education the “highest art, only allowed to our highest artists” (83). The care of babies is “Education” and is treated with the highest respect.

When he meets and offends the girls, Terry calls them “boys! nothing but boys, the lot of them” (87).

“To get an idea of their attitude you have to hold in mind their extremely high sense of solidarity. They were not each choosing a lover; they hadn’t the faintest idea of love–sex-love, that is. These girls–to each of whom motherhood was a lodestar, and that motherhood exalted above a mere personal function, looked forward to as the highest social service, as the sacrament of a lifetime–were now confronted with an opportunity to make the great step of changing their whole status, of reverting to their earlier bi-sexual order of nature” (89).

“When a man has nothing to give a woman, is dependent wholly on his personal attraction, his courtship is under limitations” (90).

“There was no sex-feeling to appeal to, or practically none. Two thousand years; disuse had left very little of the instinct; also we must remember that those who had at times manifested it as atavistic exceptions were often, by that very fact, denied motherhood.

Yet while the mother process remains, the inherent ground for sex-distinction remains also; and who shall say what long-forgotten feeling, vague and nameless, was stirred in some of these mother hearts by our arrival?

What left us even more at sea in our approach was the lack of any sex-tradition. There was no accepted standard of what was ‘manly’ and what was ‘womanly'” (93).

“All the surrendering devotion our women have put into their private families, these women put into their country and race. All the loyalty and service men expect of wives, they gave, not singly to men, but collectively to one another” (96).

they’re “neuters” (99), but this is NOT the neutral=masculine

When asked if they have respect for the past, Alina answers, “Why should we? They are all gone. They knew less than we do. If we are not beyond them, we are unworthy of them–and unworthy of the children who must go beyond us” (111).

The women do not want immortality because their children continue them

on sex v mating seasons: “I found that much, very much, of what I had honestly supposed to be a physiological necessity was a psychological necessity” (127).

“Here I was, with an Ideal in mind, for which I hotly longed, and here was she, deliberately obtruding in the foreground of my consciousness a Fact – a fact which I coolly enjoyed, but which actually interfered with what I wanted” (128).

Terry attempts to “master” (rape) Alina and he is taken out and banished from the garden. This is the unpardonable sin. Gilman notes that “in a court in our country he would have been held quite within his rights, of course” (131).

“When we say men, man, manly, manhood, and all the other masculine derivatives, we have in the background of our minds a huge vague crowded picture of the world and all its activities…. “the world.”

And when we say women, we think female –the sex.

But to these women, in the unbroken sweep of this two-thousand year feminine civilization, the word woman called up all that big background, so far as they had gone in social development; and the word man meant only to them male –the sex” (135).

Alice Duer Miller, Are Women People?

Our Idea of Nothing at All

(“I am opposed to woman suffrage, but I am not opposed to woman.”—Anti-suffrage speech of Mr. Webb of North Carolina.)

O women, have you heard the news

Of charity and grace?

Look, look, how joy and gratitude

Are beaming in my face!

For Mr. Webb is not opposed

To woman in her place!

O Mr. Webb, how kind you are

To let us live at all,

To let us light the kitchen range

And tidy up the hall;

To tolerate the female sex

In spite of Adam’s fall.

O girls, suppose that Mr. Webb

Should alter his decree!

Suppose he were opposed to us—

Opposed to you and me.

What would be left for us to do—

Except to cease to be?

The Revolt of Mother

(“Every true woman feels—-“—Speech of almost any Congressman.)

I am old-fashioned, and I think it right

That man should know, by Nature’s laws eternal,

The proper way to rule, to earn, to fight,

And exercise those functions called paternal;

But even I a little bit rebel

At finding that he knows my job as well.


At least he’s always ready to expound it,

Especially in legislative hall,

The joys, the cares, the halos that surround it,

“How women feel”—he knows that best of all.

In fact his thesis is that no one can

Know what is womanly except a man.


I am old-fashioned, and I am content

When he explains the world of art and science

And government—to him divinely sent—

I drink it in with ladylike compliance.

But cannot listen—no, I’m only human—

While he instructs me how to be a woman.


The Woman of Charm


(“I hate a woman who is not a mystery to herself, as well as to me.”—The Phoenix.)

If you want a receipt for that popular mystery

Known to the world as a Woman of Charm,

Take all the conspicuous ladies of history,

Mix them all up without doing them harm.

The beauty of Helen, the warmth of Cleopatra,

Salome’s notorious skill in the dance,

The dusky allure of the belles of Sumatra,

The fashion and finish of ladies from France.

The youth of Susanna, beloved by an elder,

The wit of a Chambers’ incomparable minx,

The conjugal views of the patient Griselda,

The fire of Sappho, the calm of the Sphinx,

The eyes of La Vallière, the voice of Cordelia,

The musical gifts of the sainted Cecelia,

Trilby and Carmen and Ruth and Ophelia,

Madame de Staël and the matron Cornelia,

Iseult, Hypatia and naughty Nell Gwynn,

Una, Titania and Elinor Glyn.

Take of these elements all that is fusible,

Melt ’em all down in a pipkin or crucible,

Set ’em to simmer and take off the scum,

And a Woman of Charm is the residuum!

(Slightly adapted from W.S. Gilbert.)

What Governments Say to Women

(The law compels a married woman to take the nationality of her husband.)


In Time of War


Help us. Your country needs you;

Show that you love her,

Give her your men to fight,

Ay, even to fall;

The fair, free land of your birth,

Set nothing above her,

Not husband nor son,

She must come first of all.


In Time of Peace


What’s this? You’ve wed an alien,

Yet you ask for legislation

To guard your nationality?

We’re shocked at your demand.

A woman when she marries

Takes her husband’s name and nation:

She should love her husband only.

What’s a woman’s native land?

Why We Oppose Votes for Men

1. Because man’s place is the armory.

2. Because no really manly man wants to settle any question otherwise than by fighting about it.

3. Because if men should adopt peaceable methods women will no longer look up to them.

4. Because men will lose their charm if they step out of their natural sphere and interest themselves in other matters than feats of arms, uniforms and drums.

5. Because men are too emotional to vote. Their conduct at baseball games and political conventions shows this, while their innate tendency to appeal to force renders them peculiarly unfit for the task of government.



“Mother, what is a Feminist?”

“A Feminist, my daughter,

Is any woman now who cares

To think about her own affairs

As men don’t think she oughter.”

The Unconscious Suffragists

“They who have no voice nor vote in the electing of representatives do not enjoy liberty, but are absolutely enslaved to those who have votes.”—Benjamin Franklin.

“No such phrase as virtual representation was ever known in law or constitution.”—James Otis.

“But these great cities, says my honorable friend, are virtually, though not directly represented. Are not the wishes of Manchester, he asks, as much consulted as those of any other town which sends members to Parliament? Now, sir, I do not understand how a power which is salutary when exercised virtually can be noxious when exercised directly. If the wishes of Manchester have as much weight with us as they would have under a system which gives representatives to Manchester, how can there be any danger in giving representatives to Manchester?”—Lord Macaulay’s Speech on the Reform Bill.

“Universal suffrage prolongs in the United States the effect of universal education: for it stimulates all citizens throughout their lives to reflect on problems outside the narrow circle of their private interests and occupations: to read about public questions; to discuss public characters and to hold themselves ready in some degree to give a rational account of their political faith.”—Dr. Charles Eliot.

“But liberty is not the chief and constant object of their (the American people) desires: equality is their idol; they make rapid and sudden efforts to obtain liberty and if they miss their aim, resign themselves to their disappointment; but nothing can satisfy them without equality, and they would rather perish than lose it.”—De Tocqueville: Democracy in America, 1835.

“A government is for the benefit of all the people. We believe that this benefit is best accomplished by popular government because in the long run each class of individuals is apt to secure better provision for themselves through their own voice in government than through the altruistic interest of others, however intelligent or philanthropic.”—William H. Taft in Special Message.

“I have listened to some very honest and eloquent orators whose sentiments were noteworthy for this: that when they spoke of the people, they were not thinking of themselves, they were thinking of somebody whom they were commissioned to take care of. And I have seen them shiver when it was suggested that they arrange to have something done by the people for themselves.”—The New Freedom, by Woodrow Wilson.


I went to see old Susan Gray,

Whose soldier sons had marched away,

And this is what she had to say:


“It isn’t war I hate at all—

‘Tis likely men must fight—

But, oh, these flags and uniforms,

It’s them that isn’t right!

If war must come, and come it does

To take our boys from play,

It isn’t right to make it seem

So beautiful and gay.”

I left old Susan with a sigh;

A famous band was marching by

To make men glad they had to die.

John Crowe Ransom

Led by John Crowe Ransom, then a member of the university’s English faculty, these young “Fugitives,” as they called themselves, opposed both the traditional sentimentality of Southern writing and the increasingly frantic pace of life as the turbulent war years gave way to the Roaring Twenties.
proved to be in the vanguard of a new literary movement—Agrarianism—and a new way of analyzing works of art—the New Criticism
As far as Ransom and his fellow Agrarians were concerned, noted John L. Stewart in his study of the poet and critic, “poetry, the arts, ritual, tradition, and the mythic way of looking at nature thrive best in an agrarian culture based on an economy dominated by small subsistence farms. Working directly and closely with nature man finds aesthetic satisfaction and is kept from conceitedness and greed by the many reminders of the limits of his power and understanding. But in an industrial culture he is cut off from nature…His arts and religions wither and he lives miserably in a rectilinear jungle of factories and efficiency apartments.”
Thomas Daniel Young in a study of the poet. His themes, continued Young, emphasized “man’s dual nature and the inevitable misery and disaster that always accompany the failure to recognize and accept this basic truth; mortality and the fleetingness of youthful vigor and grace, the inevitable decay of feminine beauty; the disparity between the world as man would have it and as it actually is, between what people want and need emotionally and what is available for them, between what man desires and what he can get; man’s divided sensibilities and the wars constantly raging within him, the inevitable clash between body and mind, between reason and sensibility; the necessity of man’s simultaneous apprehension of nature’s indifference and mystery and his appreciation of her sensory beauties; the inability of modern man, in his incomplete and fragmentary state, to experience love.”
Emily Hardcastle, Spinster
We shall come tomorrow morning, who were not to have her love,
We shall bring no face of envy but a gift of praise and lilies
To the stately ceremonial we are not the heroes of.
Let the sisters now attend her, who are red-eyed, who are wroth;
They were younger, she was finer, for they wearied of the waiting
And they married them to merchants, being unbelievers both.
I was dapper when I dangled in my pepper-and-salt;
We were only local beauties, and we beautifully trusted
If the proud one had to tarry, one would have her by default.
But right across the threshold has her grizzled Baron come;
Let them robe her, Bride and Princess, who’ll go down a leafy archway
And seal her to the Stranger for his castle in the gloom.
Janet Waking
Beautifully Janet slept
Till it was deeply morning. She woke then
And thought about her dainty-feathered hen,
To see how it had kept.
One kiss she gave her mother,
Only a small one gave she to her daddy
Who would have kissed each curl of his shining baby;
No kiss at all for her brother.
“Old Chucky, Old Chucky!” she cried,
Running across the world upon the grass
To Chucky’s house, and listening. But alas,
Her Chucky had died.
It was a transmogrifying bee
Came droning down on Chucky’s old bald head
And sat and put the poison. It scarcely bled,
But how exceedingly
And purply did the knot
Swell with the venom and communicate
Its rigour! Now the poor comb stood up straight
But Chucky did not.
So there was Janet
Kneeling on the wet grass, crying her brown hen
(Translated far beyond the daughters of men)
To rise and walk upon it.
And weeping fast as she had breath
Janet implored us, “Wake her from her sleep!”
And would not be instructed in how deep
Was the forgetful kingdom of death.
Miriam Tazewell
When Miriam Tazewell heard the tempest bursting
And his wrathy whips across the sky drawn crackling
She stuffed her ears for fright like a young thing
And with heart full of the flowers took to weeping.
But the earth shook dry his old back in good season,
He had weathered storms that drenched him deep as this one,
And the sun, Miriam, ascended to his dominion,
The storm was withered against his empyrean.
After the storm she went forth with skirts kilted
To see in the hot sun her lawn deflowered,
Her tulip, iris, peony strung and pelted,
Pots of geranium spilled and the stalks naked.
The spring transpired in that year with no flowers
But the regular stars went busily on their courses,
Suppers and cards were calendared, and some bridals,
And the birds demurely sang in the bitten poplars.
To Miriam Tazewell the whole world was villain,
The principle of the beast was low and masculine,
And not to unstop her own storm and be maudlin,
For weeks she went untidy, she went sullen.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Concerning Children

“Individuals may improve more or less at any time, though most largely and easily in youth; but race improvement must be made in youth, to be transmitted. The real progress of man is born in him.

If you were buying babies, investing in young human stock as you would in colts or calves, for the value of the beast, a sturdy English baby would be worth more than an equally vigorous young Fuegian…because it was better bred… Education can do much; but the body and brain the child is born with are all that you have to educate” (4).

“The surest, quickest way to improve humanity is to improve the stock…” (4). (AD: we should practice selective eugenics)

“Not only that the child is father to the man, but the child is the father to the state–and mother” (21).

We train children is submission and obedience, but this isn’t necessarily the best way to go about education. (28)

“The early Hebrew traditions of God, with which we are all so familiar, picture him as as in a continuous state of annoyance because his ‘children’ would not ‘mind'” (34).

“The rearing of children is the most important work, and it is here contended that, in this great educational process, obedience, as a main factor, has a bad effect on the growing mind” (38).

“The distinctive power of man is that of connected action. Our immense capacity for receiving and retaining impressions gives us that world-stock of stored information and its arrested stimulus which we call knowledge” (54).

“Here comes in our universal error. We concern ourselves almost wholly with what the child does, and ignore what he feels and thinks” (57).

“The main purpose is that the child’s conduct shall be his own, — his own chosen course of action, adopted by him through the use of his own faculties, not forced upon him by immediate external pressure” (68).

“In glaring instance is the habit of lying to children. A woman who would not lie to a grown friend will lie freely to her own child. A man who would not be unjust to his brother or a stranger will be unjust to his little son. The common courtesy given any adult is not given to the child. That delicate consideration for another’s feelings, which is part of our common practice among friends, is lacking in our dealings with chil-dren. From the treatment they receive, children cannot learn any rational and consistent scheme of ethics” (102).

“As the mother is so prominent a factor in influencing the child’s life, it is pre-eminently necessary that she should be grounded in this larger ethics, and able to teach it by example as well as by description” (116).

The answer is a “public nursery” or “baby garden” (123)

“The mother of a young baby should be near enough to nurse it, as a matter of course. She should “take care of it”; that is, see that it has everything necessary to its health, comfort, and development. But that is no reason why she should admin-ister to its every need with her own hands” (125).

“We cannot have separately what we have collectively” (129).

“The kind of forcing we use in our educa-tional processes, the “attention” paid to what does not interest, the following of required lines of study irrespective of inclination, —  these act to blunt and lower our natural inclinations, and leave us with this mischievous capacity for doing what we do not like” (152).

“The mother-love is essential to the best care of the young, and therefore it is given us. It is the main current of race preservation, and the basis of all other love-development on the higher grades. But it is not, therefore, an object of superstitious veneration, and in itself invariably right. The surrender of the mother to the child is often flatly injurious, if carried to excess” (193).

“These six mothers divide the working days of the week among them, agreeing that each shall on her chosen day take charge of the children of the other five. This might be for a part of the day or the whole day, as is thought best” (201).

“When we apply the word to human conduct, we ought to be clear in our own minds as to whether we mean “natural” — i.e., primitive, uncivilised, savage — or natural, —suited to man’s present character and conditions…

It is natural to do what is easiest for the mother and best for the baby ; and our modern skill and intelligence, our knowledge and experience, are as natural to us as ignorance, superstition, and ferocity were to our primal ancestors” (257-8).

“Motherhood is as open to criticism as any other human labour or animal function. Free study, honest criticism and suggestion, conscientious experiment in new lines, — by these we make progress. Why not apply study, criticism, suggestion, and experiment to motherhood, and make some progress there .

“Progress in motherhood” is a strange phrase to most of us. We would as soon speak of progress in digestion.

That shows how we persist in confounding the physical functions of reproduction with the elaborate processes that follow…” (262).

“we are have urgent need of the unnatural mother…” (268).

“The mothers of the world are responsible for the children of the world ; the mothers of a nation, for the children of a nation ; the mothers of a city, for the children of a city” (288).



Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


The “surgical introduction” of embryo into womb is an “operation undergone voluntarily for the good of Society, not to mention the fact that it carries a bonus amounting to six months’ salary” (5). (AD: is this the “paid reproduction” Woolf asks for? In a grotesque form?)

“Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before. Progress… a prodigious improvement, you will agree, on nature” (6-7).

“Embryos are like photographic film…they can only stand red light” (11).

“…in the vast majority of cases, fertility is merely a nuisance… But we want to have a good choice. And of course one must always have an enormous margin of safety. So we allow as many as thirty per cent of the female embryos to develop normally. The others get a dose of male sex-hormone every twenty-four metres for the rest of the course. Result: they’re decanted a freemartins–structurally quite normal…but sterile Guaranteed sterile. Which brings us at least…out of the realm of mere slavish imitation of nature into the much more interesting world of human invention” (13). They “didn’t content themselves with merely hatching out embryos: any cow could do that” (13). (AD: or woman.)

This is the delineation of Alphas to Epsilons, engineered intelligence levels. In order to breed happiness and order: “that is the secret of happiness and virtue–liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny” (16).

“Primroses and landscapes, he pointed out, have one grave defect: they are gratuitous. A love of nature keeps no factories busy. It was decided to abolish the love of nature” (23).

Education: “at last the child’s mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child’s mind” (29).

All games and amusement increases consumption: “Imagine the folly of allowing people to play elaborate games which do nothing whatever to increase consumption” (31).

The concept of a “viviparous mother” and “living with one’s family” laughed to scorn and fear (36). The mother “maniacally brooded over her children” (38)

“The world was full of fathers–was therefore full of misery; full of mothers–therefore every kind of perversion from sadism to chastity; full of brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts– full of madness and suicide” (39).

“Stability. The primal and the ultimate need. Hence all this” (43).

There is a “reservation” on which “children are still actually born” (102).

A slogan of the state is “civilization is sterilization” (110).

“You’ve got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We’ve sacrificed the high art. We have the feelies and the scent organ instead” (220).


Olive Schreiner, Woman and Labour

Like Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex, Schreiner starts off by noting that in “the great majority of species on the earth the female form exceeds the male in size and strength and often in predatory instinct…even in their sexual relations toward offspring, those differences which we, conventionally, are apt to suppose are inherent in the paternal or the maternal sex form are not inherent” (12).

Birds have outstripped us in gender equality (12).

in African tribes with serious gender inequality, there was “a stern and almost majestic attitude of acceptance of the inevitable…the women of no race or class will ever rise in revolt or attempt to bring about a revolutionary readjustment of their relation to their society, however intense their suffering and however clear their perception of it, while the welfare and persistence of their society requires their submission” (14). (AD: the onus is on society, therefore, rather than on women. Women can’t change if society says don’t, because women care inherently about society and reproducing society.)

“the direction in which the endeavour of woman to readjust herself to the new conditions of life is leading today, is not towards a greater sexual laxity, or promiscuity, or to an increased self-indulgence, but toward a higher appreciation of the sacredness of all sex relations, and a clearer perception of the sex relation between man and woman as the basis of human society…” (25). (AD: The way forward is still in heteronormative schema.)

She demands: “Give us labour!” (33)

Man’s greater strength than woman used to be necessary for functions such as ploughing crops and war. Now factory farming and machine guns have rendered his strength useless. His intellectual faculties have been called upon instead (45).

Despite that man complains woman steals his work, never before has “man’s field of remunerative toil been so wide, so interesting, so complex, and in its results so all-important to society” (48-9).

Woman, on the other hand, has been robbed of childrearing by education, weaving by machinery, and cooking by supermarkets (50). We have no labor left. If kept from professions we are destined to become parasites.

While “incessant and persistent childbearing is truly the highest duty and the most socially esteemed occupation of the primitive woman,” this is no longer necessary or socially helpful, because now it takes a lot to educate a human and we don’t need his brute strength. (57).

“the past material conditions of life have gone forever: no will of man can recall them; but this is our demand: We demand that, in that strange new world that is arising alike upon the man and the woman, where nothing is as it was, and all things are assuming new shapes and relations, that in this new world we shall also have our share of honoured and socially useful human toil, our full half of the labour of the Children of Woman. We demand nothing more than this, and we will take nothing less. This is our “WOMAN’S RIGHT!” (68).

“We make this demand, not for our own sakes alone, but for the succour of the race” (72).

“Again and again in the history of the past, when among human creatures a certain stage of material civilisation has been reached, a curious tendency has manifested itself for the human female to become more or less parasitic; social conditions tend to rob her of all forms of active, conscious, social labour, and to reduce her, like the field-tick, to the passive exercise of her sex functions alone. And the result of this parasitism has invariably been the decay in vitality and intelligence of the female, followed after a longer or shorter period by that of her male descendants and her entire society” (79).

This creates a chasm between progressive male and regressive female that “even sexual love could not bridge” (85).

Sexual parasites give birth to men “as effete as” their mothers (92)

The female has “one all-important though passive function which cannot be taken from her, and which is peculiarly connected with her own person, in the act of child-bearing… she is liable in a peculiarly insidious and gradual manner to become dependent on this one sexual function alone for her support” (102).

Schreiner places the social reorganization that integrates women “in line with those vast religious developments which at the interval of ages have swept across humanity, irresistibly modifying and reorganising it” (125).

Schreiner notes that the entire race passes through “the body of its womanhood as through a mold,” branded with the size and mark of the cervix which determines forever “the size at birth of the human head, a size which could only increase… if the cervix of woman should itself” increase (129-30). Same with intelligence and expansion: you cannot transcend woman. She determines your limits.

Schreiner’s jellyfish 135-6

The “New Woman” isn’t new; she’s been around and fighting for two thousand years. “Our breed is our explanation. We are the daughters of our fathers as well as of our mothers” (147).

Like de Beauvoir, Schreiner notes that male and female bodies are “in the main identical..” (182). Though she maintains that “a real and important difference is found to exist, radical though absolutely complemental,” in the sex organs.

While woman’s contributions to the professions would likely be exactly parallel to men’s, in social spheres she has “something radically distinct to contribute to the sum-total of human knowledge” (192).

Man is deeply distressed not so much by “the labour or the amount of labour, so much as the amount of reward that interferes with his ideal of the eternal womanly” (204).

“…changed social conditions may render exactly those subtile qualities, which in one social state were a disadvantage, of the highest social advantage in another” (210).

the male and female are “two halves of one whole… bound organically” (250-1).

there is also a “New Man,” but no one seems to be talking about him. Perhaps because the Woman’s evolution is more radical in its existence (254).


William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity

Ambiguity is, for Empson, “any verbal nuance, however slight, which gives room for alternative reactions to the same piece of language.”

“The fundamental situation, whether it deserves to be called ambiguous or not, is that a word or a grammatical structure is effective in several ways at once” (2).

Empson finds nine ways to read Shakespeare’s line “Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang,” and each is effective. “these reasons, and many more…must all combine to give the line its beauty, and there is a sort of ambiguity in not knowing which of them to hold most clearly in mind. Clearly this is involved in all such richness and heightening of effect, and the machinations of ambiguity are among the very roots of poetry” (3).

“a word may have several distinct meanings; several meanings connected with one another; several meanings which need one another to complete their meaning; or several meanings which unite together so that the word means one relation or one process. This is a scale which might be followed continuously. ‘Ambiguity’ itself can mean an indecision as to what you  mean, an intention to mean several things, a probability that one or other or both of two things has been meant, and the fact that a statement has several meanings… To be less ambiguous would be like analysing the sentence about the cat into a course of anatomy” (6).

“…behind this notion of the word itself, as a solid tool rather than as a collection of meanings, must be placed a notion of the way such a word is regarded as a member of the language; this seems still darker and less communicable in any terms but its own. For one may know what has been put into the poet, and recognise the objets in the stew, but the juice in which they are sustained must be regarded with a peculiar respect because they are all in there too, somehow, and one does not know how they are combined or held in suspension. One must feel the respect due to a profound lack of understanding for the notion of a potential, and for the poet’s sense of the nature of a language…

It is possible that there are some writers who write very largely with this sense of a language as such, so that their effects would be almost out of reach of analysis” (6). (he cites Racine.)

“I propose, then, to consider a series of definite and detachable ambiguities in which several large and crude meanings can be separated out, and to arrange them in order of increasing distance from simple statement and logical exposition” (7). (AD: vs. feminine entrances into the texts without such strict guidelines or expectations of clear delineation)

Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism


“There is another reason why criticism has to exist. Criticism can talk, and all the arts are dumb. In painting, sculpture, or music it is easy enough to see that the art shows forth, but cannot say anything. And, whatever it sounds like to call the poet inarticulate or speechless, there is a most important sense in which poems are as silent as statues. Poetry is a disinterested use of words: it does not address a reader directly. When it does so, we usually feel that the poet has some distrust in the capacity of readers and critics to [4] interpret his meaning without assistance, and has therefore dropped into the sub-poetic level of metrical talk (“verse” or “doggerel”) which anybody can learn to produce. It is not only tradition that impels a poet to invoke a Muse and protest that his utterance is involuntary. Nor is it strained wit that causes Mr. MacLeish, in his famous Ars Poetica, to apply the words “mute,” “dumb,” and “wordless” to a poem. The artist, as John Stuart Mill saw in a wonderful flash of critical insight, is not heard but overheard. * The axiom of criticism must be, not that the poet does not know what he is talking about, but that he cannot talk about what he knows. To defend the right of criticism to exist at all, therefore, is to assume that criticism is a structure of thought and knowledge existing in its own right, with some measure of independence from the art it deals with.”

“The poet may of course have some critical ability of his own, and so be able to talk about his own work. But the Dante who writes a commentary on the first canto of the Paradiso is merely one more of Dante’s critics. What he says has a peculiar interest, but not a peculiar authority. It is generally accepted that a critic is a better judge of the value of a poem than its creator, but there is still a lingering notion that it is somehow ridiculous to regard the critic as the final judge of its meaning, even though in practice it is clear that he must be. The reason for this is an inability to distinguish literature from the descriptive or assertive writing which derives from the active will and the conscious mind, and which is primarily concerned to “say” something.”

“It is hardly possible for the critical poet to avoid expanding his own tastes, which are intimately linked to his own practice, into a general law of literature. But criticism has to be based on what the whole of literature actually does: in its light, whatever any highly respected writer thinks literature in general ought to do will show up in its proper perspective. The poet speaking as critic produces, not criticism, but documents to be examined by critics. They may well be valuable documents: it is only when they are accepted as directives for criticism that they are in any danger of becoming misleading.”

“Once we admit that the critic has his own field of activity, and that he has autonomy within that field, we have to concede that criticism deals with literature in terms of a specific conceptual framework. The framework is not that of literature itself, for this is the parasite theory again, but neither is it something outside literature, for in that case the autonomy of criticism would again disappear, and the whole subject would be assimilated to something else.”

“If criticism exists, it must be an examination of literature in terms of a conceptual framework derivable from an inductive survey of the literary field. The word “inductive” suggests some sort of scientific procedure.”

“Either literary criticism is scientific, or all these highly trained and intelligent scholars are wasting their time on some kind of pseudo-science like phrenology.” (AD: literary criticism is LOGOS.)

“The development of such a criticism would fulfil the systematic and progressive element in research by assimilating its work into a unified structure of knowledge, as other sciences do. It would at the same time establish an authority within criticism for the public critic and the man of taste.” (vs. the chaotic feminine method of reading)

“Art, like nature, has to be distinguished from the systematic study of it, which is criticism.”

“We have no real standards to distinguish a verbal structure that is literary from one that is not, and no idea what to do with the vast penumbra of books that may be claimed for literature because they are written with “style” or are useful as “background,” or have simply got into a university course of “great books.””

“A theory of criticism whose principles apply to the whole of literature and account for every valid type of critical procedure is what I think Aristotle meant by poetics. Aristotle seems to me to approach poetry as a biologist would approach a system of organisms, picking out its genera and species, formulating the broad laws of literary experience, and in short writing as though he believed that there is a totally intelligible structure of knowledge attainable about poetry which is not poetry itself, or the experience of it, but poetics.”

“The first step in developing a genuine poetics is to recognize and get rid of meaningless criticism, or talking about literature in a way that cannot help to build up a systematic structure of knowledge. This includes all the sonorous nonsense that we so often find in critical generalities, reflective comments, ideological perorations, and other consequences of taking a large view of an unorganized subject. It includes all lists of the “best” novels or poems or writers, whether their particular virtue is exclusiveness or inclusiveness. It includes all casual, sentimental, and prejudiced value-judgments, and all the literary chit-chat which makes the reputations of poets boom and crash in an imaginary stock exchange.”

He frames his work as basically annotating T. S. Eliot

“The critic is similarly under no obligation to sociological values, as the social conditions favorable to the production of great art are not necessarily those at which the social sciences aim.” (AD: no necessity to comment on social issues like, say, women)

“Value-judgements are subjective in the sense that they can be indirectly but not directly communicated. When they are fashionable or generally accepted, they look objective, but that is all. The demonstrable value-judgement is the donkey’s carrot of literary criticism, and every new critical fashion, such as the current fashion for elaborate rhetorical analysis, has been accompanied by a belief that criticism has finally devised a definitive technique for separating the excellent from the less excellent. But this always turns out to be an illusion of the history of taste. Value-judgements are founded on the study of literature; the study of literature can never be founded on value-judgements.”

“The reader may sympathize with some of these “positions,” as they are called, more than with others, and so be seduced into thinking that one of them must be right, and that it is important to decide which one it is. But long before he has finished his assignment he will realize that the whole procedure involved is an anxiety neurosis prompted by a moral censor, and is totally devoid of content.”

“Finally, the skill developed from constant practice in the direct experience of literature is a special skill, like playing the piano, not the expression of a general attitude to life, like singing in the shower. The critic has a subjective background of experience formed by his temperament and by every contact with words he has made, including newspapers, advertisements, conversations, movies, and whatever he read at the age of nine. He has a specific skill in responding to literature which is no more like this subjective background, with all its private memories, associations, and arbitrary prejudices, than reading a thermometer is like shivering.”

“It should hardly be necessary to point out that my polemic has been written in the first person plural, and is quite as much a confession as a polemic. It is clear, too, that a book of this kind can only be offered to a reader who has enough sympathy with its aims to overlook, in the sense not of ignoring but of seeing past, whatever strikes him as in adequate or simply wrong. I am convinced that if we wait for a fully qualified critic to tackle the subjects of these essays, we shall wait a long time.” (AD: this is a more feminine than logocentric reading method he’s asking of us.)

Third Essay: “Archetypical Criticism: Theory of Myths”

“We begin our study of archetypes, then, with a world of myth, an abstract or purely literary world of fictional and thematic design, unaffected by canons of plausible adaptation to familiar experience. In terms of narrative, myth is the imitation of actions near or at the conceivable limits of desire. The gods enjoy beautiful women, fight one another with prodigious strength, comfort and assist man, or else watch his miseries from the height of their immortal freedom. The fact that myth operates at the top level of human desire does not mean that it necessarily presents its world as attained or attainable by human beings. In terms of meaning or dianoia, myth is the same world looked at as an area or field of activity, bearing in mind our principle that the meaning or pattern of poetry is a structure of imagery with conceptual implications. The world of mythical imagery is usually represented by the conception of heaven or Paradise in religion, and it is apocalyptic, in the sense of that word already explained, a world of total metaphor, in which every thing is potentially identical with everything else, as though it were all inside a single infinite body.

Realism, or the art of verisimilitude, evokes the response “How like that is to what we know!” When what is written is like what is known, we have an art of extended or implied simile. And as realism is an art of implicit simile, myth is an art of implicit metaphorical identity. The word “sun-god,” with a hyphen used in stead of a predicate, is a pure ideogram, in Pound’s terminology, or literal metaphor, in ours. In myth we see the structural principles of literature isolated; in realism we see the same structural principles (not similar ones) fitting into a context of plausibility. (Similarly in music, a piece by Purcell and a piece by Benjamin Britten may not be in the least like each other, but if they are both in D major their tonality will be the same.) The presence of a mythical structure in realistic fiction, however, poses certain technical problems for making it plausible, and the devices used in solving these problems may be given the general name of displacement.

Myth, then, is one extreme of literary design; naturalism is the other, and in between lies the whole area of romance, using that term to mean, not the historical mode of the first essay, but the [136] tendency, noted later in the same essay, to displace myth in a human direction and yet, in contrast to “realism,” to conventionalize content in an idealized direction. The central principle of displacement is that what can be metaphorically identified in a myth can only be linked in romance by some form of simile: analogy, significant association, incidental accompanying imagery, and the like. In a myth we can have a sun-god or a tree-god; in a romance we may have a person who is significantly associated with the sun or trees. In more realistic modes the association becomes less significant and more a matter of incidental, even coincidental or accidental, imagery. In the dragon-killing legend of the St. George and Perseus family, of which more hereafter, a country under an old feeble king is terrorized by a dragon who eventually demands the king’s daughter, but is slain by the hero. This seems to be a romantic analogy (perhaps also, in this case, a descendant) of a myth of a waste land restored to life by a fertility god. In the myth, then, the dragon and the old king would be identified. We can in fact concentrate the myth still further into an Oedipus fantasy in which the hero is not the old king’s son-in-law but his son, and the rescued damsel the hero’s mother. If the story were a private dream such identifications would be made as a matter of course. But to make it a plausible, symmetrical, and morally acceptable story a good deal of displacement is necessary, and it is only after a comparative study of the story type has been made that the metaphorical structure within it begins to emerge.”

“We have, then, three organizations of myths and archetypal symbols in literature. First, there is undisplaced myth, generally concerned with gods or demons, and which takes the form of two contrasting worlds of total metaphorical identification, one desirable and the other undesirable. These worlds are often identified with the existential heavens and hells of the religions contemporary with such literature. These two forms of metaphorical organization we call the apocalyptic and the demonic respectively. Second, we have the general tendency we have called romantic, the tendency to suggest implicit mythical patterns in a world more closely [139] associated with human experience. Third, we have the tendency of “realism” (my distaste for this inept term is reflected in the quotation marks) to throw the emphasis on content and representation rather than on the shape of the story. Ironic literature begins with realism and tends toward myth, its mythical patterns being as a rule more suggestive of the demonic than of the apocalyptic, though sometimes it simply continues the romantic tradition of stylization. Hawthorne, Poe, Conrad, Hardy and Virginia Woolf all provide examples”




I. A. Richards, Practical Criticism

The objective of his work was to encourage students to concentrate on ‘the words on the page’, rather than relying on preconceived or received beliefs about a text. For Richards this form of close analysis of anonymous poems was ultimately intended to have psychological benefits for the students: by responding to all the currents of emotion and meaning in the poems and passages of prose which they read the students were to achieve what Richards called an ‘organised response’. This meant that they would clarify the various currents of thought in the poem and achieve a corresponding clarification of their own emotions.


Practical Criticism, Richards wrote, was “the record of a piece of field-work in comparative ideology.”[1] Such field-work had three goals:

First, to introduce a new kind of documentation to those who are interested in the contemporary state of culture…Secondly, to provide a new technique for those who wish to discover for themselves what they think and feel about poetry…Thirdly, to prepare the way for education methods more efficient than those we use now…to understand what we hear and read. (3)

The method Richards employed to achieve these goals was fairly straightforward but unprecedented in literary criticism: Richards would present to his seminar of undergraduates at Cambridge thirteen poems wholly stripped of any identifying marks and then examine the ways his students interpreted these decontextualized texts. Richards hope was to move literary criticism away from historical and psychological studies of authors and reconvene it around the cognitive processes of “the general reader.”


That new type of work is of course New Criticism.

Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, No Man’s Land

Volume I

Thesis: “…we will argue here that, especially in the twentieth century, both men and women engendered words and works which continually sought to come to terms with, and find terms for, an ongoing battle of the sexes that was set in motion by the late nineteenth-century rise of feminism and the fall of Victorian concepts of femininity.

In particular, we will suggest that the literary phenomenon ordinarily called ‘modernism’ is itself–though no doubt overdetermined–for men as much as for women a product of the sexual battle that we are describing here, as are the linguistic experiments usually attributed to the revolutionary poetics of the so-called avant garde” (xii). (AD: vs. Perkins’ thesis that Modernism came from the war)

“Mid-Victorian writers of both sexes tended to dramatize a defeat of the female, while turn-of-the-century authors began to envision the possibility of women’s triumph” (4).

“The entrance of the ‘gentler sex’ into unknown territory…was not only figurative but literal, sot hat a world that had previously been a male empire might now become a no man’s land, disputed domain” (17).

Marinetti links militarism with misogyny 22

“Prufrock’s obsession with the fact that women could freely ‘come and go,’ not only ‘talking of’ but also gazing and and metaphorically possessing the paintings and sculptures of Michaelangelo…illuminates twentieth-century men’s heightened anxiety about women’s invasion of culture” (32).

“It is significant that these modernist formulations of societal breakdown consistently employed imagery of male impotence and female potency” (36).

Henry Miller declared in reference to Rebecca West’s work, “the loss of sex polarity is part and parcel of the larger disintegration, the reflex of the soul’s death, and coincident with the disappearance of great men, great causes, great wars” (43).

“Victorian women writers could not imagine female characters who might win sexual struggles through their own direct actions… Such women writers as Bronte, Barrett Browning and Eliot clearly understood that their heroines were embroiled in sexual contests, but they plainly believed that only a madwoman would attempt to win such a battle through ‘virile force'” (72).

Beerbohm’s short story “The Crime” details a narrator who flings a woman writer’s novel into the fireplace but “cannot seem to burn the book up” (126). Her book dampens his flames, and he is left alone. He has to admit that she has “scored again” (128).

“Where literary men had traditionally looked for inspiration to the idealized mother or mistress whom convention metaphorized as a muse, turn-of-the-century and twentieth-century men of letters suffered from a disquieting intimation that the goddess of literature, like the literary women male readers now encountered in increasing numbers, might reserve creative power for themselves” (130).

Beerbohm’s “futile rage became fertile rage, fueling the innovations of the avant garde in order to ward off the onslaughts of women” (131).

Modernist male writers may have felt “disturbed by their economic dependence on women as they were troubled by women’s usurpation of the marketplace…” (147. Many were sponsored by women *Yeats with Lady Gregory, etc)

“both men of letters and women of letters devised a variety of strategies for defusing anxiety about the literary combat in which they often felt engaged. Among male writers, such strategies included mythologizing women to align them with dread prototypes; fictionalizing them to dramatize their destructive influence; slandering them in essays, memoirs, and poems; prescribing alternative ambitions for them; appropriating their words in order to usurp or trivialize their language; and ignoring or evading their achievements in critical texts” (149).

Williams on HD 150

In “A Lecture on Modern Poetry,” T. E. Hulme complained that “imitative poetry springs up like weeds, and women whimper and whine of you and I alas, and roses, roses all the way. It becomes the expression of sentimentality rather than of virile thought” (154).

“it is possible to hypothesize that a reaction-formation against the rise of literary women became not just a theme in modernist writing but a motive for modernism” (156).

“…even when these literary men celebrate female contemporaries and precursors, they tend to single out a token woman for attention, or to qualify in one text the compliment expressed in another” (158)

The 20th century is unique in that women writers have both grandfathers and grandmothers… “both a matrilineal and patrilineal inheritance” (167).

according to Freud, there may be no possibility for a woman artist (183)

some women had a “master-muse” (Dickinson) this could be subversive or show allegiance to the man

women writers have “complex allegiances: first, each wishes to be a decorous daughter protected by a maternal presence who facilitates the neat endings of romance; second, each longs to be a singular and originatory figure who escapes the subjugation of heterosexual love while usurping the traditional patriarchal privilege of giving the daughter in marriage; third, each fears that to become such a figure is to be isolated from the comforts of the heterosexual community” (192).

Although there is no “mythic paradigm of Jocasta and Antigone which would parallel Bloom’s archetype of Laius and Oedipus, strong equals at the crossroads, most literary women do ask” who their rivals are, partially because we are fighting or a few coveted places in the approbation of the father… this approbation is almost always accompanied by revulsion, however, and “The autonomy of the mother is frequently as terrifying as it is attractive… it has been won at great cost” (195).

Metaphorically speaking, literary history “functions like a biological family, albeit a socially constructed one…” but “female genealogy does not have an inexorable logic because the literary matrilineage has been repeatedly erased, obscured, or fragmented. Thus, when the woman writer ‘adopts’ a mother… or an ‘aunt’…she is creating a fictive family whose romance is sufficient for her desire” (199).

Each woman “must inevitably ask, ‘Have I chosen the right–the most empowering, the most authoritative–ancestors? … Have I betrayed by ‘biological’ family?… Will I be engulfed or obliterated by the primacy of the foremothers whose power I need to invoke?” (200).

Muriel le Sueur remarked, “fortunately, Eliot didn’t speak of hollow women” (216).

G&G suggest that “Woolf used what was essentially a fantasy about a utopian linguistic structure–a ‘woman’s sentence’–to define (and perhaps disguise) her desire to revise not woman’s language but woman’s relation to language…. The utopian concept of woman’s grammatical sentence is thus for Woolf…a veil that conceals the more practical idea of woman’s legal sentence” (231). Also ambiguity of the phrase–who is being sentenced, and who is sentencing? “woman, who has been sentenced by man, will now sentence man; and woman, who has been sentenced to confinement and dispossession, will now sentence herself to freedom and five hundred pounds a year” (231).

In Joyce, women can’t talk about their own bodies, and babble rather than construct logical sentences (232).

“For Joyce, woman’s scattered logos is a scatologos, a Swiftian language that issues from the many obscene mouths of female body” (232).

“Eliot transcribes female language in order to transcend it, thus justifying Joyce’s claim that the Waste Land ended the ‘idea of poetry for ladies'” (236).

Where male writers seem to define ‘woman talk’ as a contaminated subset of the general category ‘language,’ women writers tend to assume that men’s language is language. Hence the female linguistic project is in many ways more urgent, more radical, and – as we shall see – more contradictory than the male one, for the women’s revisionary imperative frequently involves a desperate effort to renovate the entire process of verbal symbolization, a process that, they feel, has historically subordinated women” (236).

witchcraft: 241

“materna lingua” vs. the “patrius sermo” – men try to conquer and obscure materna lingua by imposing regulation of patrius sermo over it. (258). (Walter Ong) This is the difference between “jouissance” and “puissance”

Volume II

Ezra Pound explains in his translator’s postscript to Remy de Gourmont’s Natural Philosophy of Love (1931) that “the brain itself is only a sort of great clot of genital fluid… [and] went on to conceptualize originality as “the phallus or spermatozoid charging, head-on, the female chaos,’ adding in a confessional aside, ‘Even oneself has felt it, driving any new idea into the great passive vulva of London.’ Indeed, to the extent that he believed that the ‘mind is an up-spurt of sperm,’ which is the ‘form creator,’ Pound linked modernity with masculinity: “without any digression on feminism…one offers woman as the accumulation of her hereditary aptitudes… but to man, given what we have of history, the inventions, the new gestures, the extravagance, the wild shots, the new bathing of the cerebral tissues” (xi). (AD: !!!!!!! in comparison to H.D.’s jellyfish concept of vision and creativity, this is shocking)

“We are accustomed to a Yeatsian mysticism that locates history’s turning points in the bodies of such mythic heroines as Leda, Helen, and Mary, but it is nevertheless surprising to find that this major modernist introduces and defines the canon of the new with an evocation of female priority and primacy that, at least covertly, figures history itself a feminine.

We will argue here, however, that male writers from Pater to Wilde to Yeats, along with many of their descendants, linked a new perception of what they saw as the archaic power of the feminine with the reactive urgency of the modern aesthetic they were themselves defining because… women were in some sense… the cause of modernism” (5).

Olive Schreiner and mysticism (69)

in Gilman’s Herland , “there is no She, but there are many Hers,” (73). (re: H.D. and HERmoine and the novel She that constructs women in patriarchal terms)

Herland is an “experimental opportunity to restore ‘bisexuality.’ What Gilman seeks to call into question is the idea that there is or should be a single definition of what constitutes the female. There is no Kor or core in Herland. Historically such a core definition has fixated on eroticism, and therefore Gilman gives us women with no sexual desire at all” (74).

“Gilman would replace the parasite-siren with the fruitful mother” (74).

“…motherhood completely transformed, divorced from heterosexuality, the private family, and economic dependence… Motherhood therefore becomes a paradigm of service so that childbearing and nursing are models for labor. Similarly, what Gilman saw as all the evils of a private home…are avoided not by destroying the idea of home but by extending it so the race is viewed as a family and the world as its home. Redefinitions of work, of the home, and of motherhood itself confuse the male visitors who had initially insisted that in any ‘civilized’ country there ‘must be men’… Eventually they are forced to renounce not only this assumption but the definition of ‘civilization’ that makes it possible” (75).

“Because the all-female Herlanders define the human as female, mother earth is no longer an antagonist. The implications of the mother as landscape, the landscape as other, suggests the author of Herland, are quite different for the two sexes” (75).

“…the naming of ‘the thing not named’ probably became less possible precisely because the new language could be, and often was, used as a weapon against autonomous women” (217). (lesbian double-talk)

“The residence of lesbian modernists in foreign countries thus symbolized their alienation from all countries, their realization that, as lesbians, they had been banished from or had had to withdraw from the ground of their origins, the supposedly native land that is heterosexuality” (219). (AD: re: Woolf on women having no country of their own, being a race of their own.)

“…lesbianism itself was imagined as a perpetual, ontological expatriation” (219).

“H. D. uses Sappho’s verse to deal with the relationship between poetic ambition and heterosexual desire… she implicitly demonstrated that lesbianism furnished her with a refuge from the pain of heterosexuality and with the courage necessary to articulate that pain” (231).

“While it is certainly true that H. D. writes obsessively about her desire for the mastery of such men as Ezra Pound, Richard Aldington, and D. H. Lawrence, her poetry was motivated less by their presence than by their absence… For H. D., then, inspiration and abandonment were inextricably intertwined” (233).


Amy Lowell and Sappho: “…despite her attraction to Sappho, Lowell also implies that the gulf between the ancient tenth muse and the modern woman poet may not be negotiable: Lowell does not actually talk with Sappho; she wishes that she could” (235).

Gertrude Stein asks “what does it mean to write ‘as,’ ‘for,’ and ‘with’ one another?” (238).

“Unmaking is a form of composition that confers masculinity even more inexorably than making does” (247).

“If writing guarantees masculinity, what is written is female: ‘She is my wife. That is what a paragraph is'” (247).

“Wilfred Owen’s ‘Greater Love’ bitterly parodies a conventional erotic lyric,” personifying Love as a young girl and telling her with scathing hostility that her red lips are not so red as “the stained stones kissed by the English dead” (280).

The Great War made men feel “increasingly abandoned by the civilization of which they had ostensibly been heirs” (263).

Women became the threatened heirs, since they were at home, unscathed, and working as men worked.

While men were “now unreal ghosts, wounded invalid, and maybe in-valid, their sisters were triumphant survivors and apparently destined inheritors” (285).

Does the mother at the end of Jacob’s Room inherit what Jacob lost in the war?

Adrienne Rich: “there is no no man’s land,” which is to say there is still no Herland


A History of Modern Poetry, David Perkins

“The poetry of this period [the 1890s] forms the immediate background and matrix of th[e Modernist] work, so much that unless one keeps the later nineteenth century in mind, one cannot fully understand how and why modern poetry took the directions it did” (3).

Modernist poets in America had the special advantage that “they were coming into a scene of traditional poetry that was also weak,” which accounts for the “boldness, elan and rapid spread of the Modernist movement” (3).

On the other hand, British poetry had a strong late 1800s avant-garde against which the Georgians reacted, against whom the Modernists reacted.

“Picasso’s statement ‘I am not interested in beauty,’ comes from a state of mind that sharply differentiates Modernism from the Romantic tradition” (5). Poetry is not meant as Keats said to “soothe the cares, and lift the thoughts of man” (5).

Modernist poets mocked both aestheticism and its ideas about Beauty, but “shared the aesthete’s opinion that the first duty of the poet is to his art” (7).

Modernist poetry was like Marianne Moore’s “hedgehog,” “whoever was put off by it was not wanted anyway,” and it was an “antipopular” more than  unpopular mode (7).

“Here is a fundamental difference in situation between English and American poetry in the modern period…” while London was the cultural center of English poetry, America did not have the same type of “literary center,” and “the better poets tended to form styles on their own” (14).

William Sharp wrote poems under the pseudonym of Fiona MacLeod. “It was for the sake of this mysterious poet of the Hebrides that Yeats named the movement Celtic rather than Irish” (29). (AD: while poets like George Eliot take male pseudonyms to seem reputable writing in a logocentric tradition, Celtic poets take female pseudonyms to seem to have reputable access to the “feminine” spirit)

The Victorian spirit tended to “assume the rational character of the human mind and its capability not only to find out truth but also to govern emotion and behavior. With this basic faith in human nature there was naturally a tendency to optimism: intellectual, moral, and social progress had been and would be taking place” (31).

The avant-garde gained its identity through a negation of this: anti-Victorian rather than post-Victorian (31)

Symbolism (of the 90s) expressed “a religious feeling or hope, and, though the distinction between symbolism and mysticism was well understood, the two modes of quasi-religious experience were often presented in the same writer, so that in practice ‘symbolic’ and ‘mystical’ tended to become interchangeable epithets. Impressionism, on the other hand, presupposed skepticism and relativism. Nothing can be known in itself; one has only the impression of the particular observer from his particular relation to the object” (33). (aD: and impressionism was the forerunner of Modernism and imagism)

In Modernist works, “nature could not suggest a process of composition, for organic form and emotional spontaneity were distrusted and abjured. Above all, nature could supply no criterion of the beautiful, and art was the opposite of nature–formal, conventional, traditional, artificial and studied” (36).

“For Yeats, symbols may be more than traditional. They may be supernatural. They express or, perhaps, they summon a reality beneath or beyond mortal life…. the symbol is charged with meanings deeper, wider, and more precise than anyone can say… though unanalyzable, the symbol is not vague” (49).

Poets like Kipling wrote a “thoroughly accessible, deliberately popular poetry” (62). One reason why Kipling’s readers admired him was that he admired them. There was spiritual rapport” (66).

For Pound, poetry should not be played-at as an amateur hobby, but should be a craft, a profession. “one studies it, he said, in several languages; one labors at technique; one weighs and ponders in conscious self-criticism” (89).

The English poets of the first world war “began as Georgians, and their poetry gradually changed as they underwent the appalling conditions and experiences of combat in the trenches” (142).

T. S. Eliot said Georgian poetry “is inbred… it has developed a technique and a set of emotions all of its own” (207). Most popular Georgian was Rupert Brooke.

Georgians loved to express themselves though “images and scenes of landscape and of the natural or rural world” (215). Clinging to tradition or looking for beauty despite grimness of modern reality?

Robert Frost’s poetry resembles Georgian poetry; he “belongs essentially to the Romantic tradition, but as a critique” (228).

Poets were making an effort to write in a less “poetic” language

“The relatively direct voicing of mystical feelings poses an utmost challenge to poetry, simply because of the weight and delicacy of the feelings to be expressed. For at least the last two hundred years most poetry of this kind is crudely insensitive, sometimes unbelievably so. Usually the trouble lies, I believe, in the poet’s experience as well as in his language. There are more poets writing about mystical experience than having it, and there is considerable eagerness, in our post-Romantic literary culture, to mistake any queer, often self-induced state of mind for mystical communion” (256).

The folk movement in Irish literature positioned the life and thought, traditions, sensibility and imagination of the Irish peasantry against the English colonizers (261).

Since Yeats, Lady Gregory, Synge did not belong to the peasantry their work is often “complicated by condescension” (262).

Georgian poetry seemed particularly “unprepared to confront the mechanized horror” of the war (267).

“The [Georgian] poets responded with shock and protest, not with the helpless moral anguish of, for example, The Waste Land. To the end of the war and afterward the Georgians retained essentially that prewar state of mind in which the worst horrors that people do and suffer are viewed as anomalies. The War’s deeper impact on literature came in the Modernist writing of the postwar years. But in this writing the impact, though it must have been profound, is practically invisible; it merged with many other intellectual and cultural influences…” (269).

“if the first twenty years of the century might be called the age of Yeats, the next two decades, from 1922 to the end of the Second World War, frame that of Eliot” (294).

“discontinuous structure” in Modernist Lit: 

“If we notice the orientation in much modern literature to the arts of painting and sculpture, we can describe discontinuous structure as an outcome of the attempt to create ‘spatial form’ in poetry. The poem, in other words, is not to be regarded as an utterance–or imitation of an utterance–taking place through time. Instead, all the parts of the poem are conceived to be present at the same moment, coexisting as if in space. There is no transition fro one unit of meaning to the next, but between the discrete units of meaning there are multiple interrelations. Perceiving these, the reader obtains a complex total impression. Above all, discontinuous form was sometimes felt to be mimetic of the ultimate character of reality itself…” (309).

“Discontinuous structure promotes effects and states of mind, such as surprise, wit, nimble intellection, and irony, which differ characteristically form those achieved through continuous transition…” (309).

Using free verse, poets could no longer “give first priority to stuffing stanzaic boxes” and call a poem finished once this had been done (310).

Whitman’s “yawp” was respected all over the world, but we can’t stop there, says Pound (325)

Imagism “became a relatively accessible way to be in on the ‘new’ and the ‘modern'” (330).

Imagism was conceived when Ezra Pound “informed two young poets, H.D. and Richard Aldington, that they were Imagistes” (330).

Imagist Doctrine, as laid out in March 1913 Poetry by Ezra Pound:

  1. Direct treatment of the “thing,” whether subjective or objective.
  2. To use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation.
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

Other rules from “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste,” include: “use no superfluous word, no adjective, that does not reveal something; go in fear of abstractions; don’t be ‘viewy’; don’t chop your stuff into separate iambs” (334). This was eventually watered down to “simplicity and directness of speech; subtlety and beauty of rhythms; individualistic freedom of idea; clearness and vividness of presentation; and concentration” by Amy Lowell in Tendencies in Modern American Poetry (336)

Amy Lowell wrote in what she called “polyphonic prose,” a “way of writing, she explained, that uses cadence, assonance, alliteration, rhyme, echo effects, and even ‘perhaps true metre for a few minutes,’ but handles them in a more varying and flexible way than is possible in traditional verse” (344).

“By the end of the 1920s the most significant single feature in the situation of younger poets was, from their point of view, that they were coming after Eliot” (419).

Pound called a quality in Laforgue “logopoeia,” which means “a play in the shading of the words themselves… it employs words not only for their direct meaning, but it takes count in a special way of habits of usage, of the context we expect to find with the word” (471). He finds this in Eliot, Marianne Moore, Pope

“Pound juxtaposes successive passages, lines, or parts of lines As the years passed, he increasingly tended to describe these structures of concrete, heterogeneous materials as ‘ideograms'” (487).

Eliot said “instead of narrative method we may now use the mythical method. It is, I seriously believe, a step toward making the modern world possible in art” (511).

“…the premises and methods of the New Critics were much influenced by the poetry and critical writings of Eliot… Eventually this approach to literature began to seem ‘academic,’ to separate literature from life. Rebelling against this, young writers after world War II looked about for alternative premises and styles. They found [William Carlos] Williams” (551).

Marianne Moore’s technical or stylistic innovations: “syllabic verse on a new principle, light rhyme, inorganic stanza forms, and miscellaneous quotation.”

Syllabic verse: line is measured by counting not the number of accents but the number of syllables. (no way of knowing meter until same number of syllables counted in lines in each stanza… focus on prose rhythm)

Hélène Cixous, “In October 1991…”

Cixous, Helene. Stigmata. 

“…as a woman, if I am a woman–and I believe that I can say I’m a woman only because, from time to time, I have experiences that belong to that universe–the idea comes to me that perhaps the two great intimate and strange experiences of life that have to do with childbirth (I purposely use an uninterpretable word), would be: childbirth itself and then: dischildbirth [désenfantement]. It just so happens that we can be dischilded. It’s the experience of mourning. I believe that in mourning, no matter who the person we’ve lost, our grandfather, our old mentor, our friend, we always lose the child” (43).

“At times, woman and mother go together. In my case, I tend to think that way. I tend to maternalize woman. To feel that a woman is all the more woman as she is mother… I prefer to speak of myself, because it’s less dangerous than generalizing: if I’m mistaken, I’m mistaken only about myself” (43).

“I sometimes think that, ‘fundamentally,’ in a human being, what makes the difference, his or her difference, is the mother. Who the mother was, how she left her mark. At times I tell myself that we ought to set down the invisible meridian not between men and women, but between vengeance and patience, between the insatiable and the nourisher.

I am inclined to use ‘mother’ as a metaphor, yet at the same time it is not a metaphor. This is the secret and decisive figure that one feels living and writing in those who write… Those who have the mother in them meet the other with circum-spection. Or else with circumfession. The mother is a quality” (45).

[going to school] “I finished crying and I would go in. Other times, I wouldn’t finish crying. I cried for my mother. At times I could get over my mother, at times not. And it didn’t depend on me. It was beyond all control. It was an all-powerful force that was unleashed like a magic ray…” (46).

She “can’t talk about her” mother, but can say that she “was a young girl” and “has always been a young boy” (46.) Can’t talk about the mother but can talk about what the mother has done to her. Mother is another.

“Thus, my first memory brings together the imagined death of my mother and school. And since then, I have never ceased crying, going to school, learning, crying, exchanging. Pouring out and taking in. Never ceased forgetting, getting over the loss of my mother’s body. Or on the contrary: not getting over it. Inventing it. Picturing to myself the horror of that loss. All the while asking myself who’s crying” (46).

“Curiously, I know that it’s not my mother whom I lost; it’s my father who died and whom I didn’t weep for, my father whom I loved…” (47).

T. S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”

“We cannot refer to ‘the tradition’ or to ‘a tradition’; at most, we employ the adjective in saying that the poetry of so-and-so is ‘traditional’ or even ‘too traditional.’ … it is vaguely approbative.”

“[Tradition] cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour. It involves, in the first place, the historical sense, which we may call nearly indispensable to anyone who would continue to be a poet beyond his twenty-fifth year; and the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional.”

“… [the poet] will be aware also that he must inevitably be judged by the standards of the past.”

“The mind of the mature poet differs from that of the immature one not precisely in any valuation of ‘personality,’ not being necessarily more interesting, or having ‘more to say,’ but rather by being a more finely perfected medium in which special, or very varied, feelings are at liberty to enter into new combinations.”

“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.”

How might Eliot’s ideas about the objective correlative relate to “writing with the body”? Can the body be an objective correlative?

Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

Introduction by Vara Neverow

“…it is a classic example of high modernism and is usually considered Woolf’s first truly experimental long work” (xxxvii).

“As Woolf writes in a diary entry, having completed the manuscript of Jacob’s Room: ‘There’s no doubt in my mind that I have found out how to begin (at 40) to say something in my own voice” (xxxviii).

“Woolf envisioned Jacob’s Room as something radically different from the contemporary literary template, a new form for a new novel” (xxxviii).

“the reader’s encounters with Jacob himself are transitory, and his absences foreshadow his inevitable death. Even the title itself refers not to Jacob, the protagonist, but to his room” (li).

one might view the narrator “as a composite of the mythic Greek Fates” (lii).

Novel opens with Betty Flanders writing, “there was nothing for it but to leave,” and her eyes slowly filling with tears (3). She’s looking for Jacob and asks “where is that tiresome little boy?” (3).

“JA––COB! JA–COB!” Archer shouts, fragmenting his name

“Sobbing, but absent-mindedly, he ran farther and farther away until he held the skull in his arms” (6). He is lost, and so he runs toward a symbol of death, literal death, a memento mori. Mother demands he drop it. Corpses are banal, though; they are everywhere

Lullabying her children to sleep, Betty Flanders says “shut your eyes and see the old mother bird with a worm in her book. Now turn and shut your eyes…” (9). (AD: banality of violence)

“The child’s bucket was half-full of rain-water; and the opal-shelled crab slowly circled round the bottom, trying with its weakly legs to climb the steep side; trying again and falling back, and trying again and again” (11). (AD: modernism’s objective correlative)

Mr. Flanders dies vaguely and absurdly, because he “had gone out duck-shooting and refused to change his boots” (13). The narrator asks, “Had he, then, been nothing? An unanswerable question…” (13).

“…if you looked out at dawn you could always see two badgers. Sometimes they knocked each other over like two boys fighting, she said” (22). (AD: inverse also true: grown men fighting are ubiquitous and animalistic)

Mrs. Jarvis is smart and trapped in a marriage where she has little intellectual freedom. “If someone could give me… if I could give some one…” but she does not know what she wants to give, nor who could give it her” (25).

Causality seems random and confused. Captain Barfoot decides to run for council, and “Jacob Flanders, therefore, went up to Cambridge…” (27).

In the railway carriage, a woman is nervous about Jacob and he doesn’t even notice that she is there. “Nevertheless, it is a fact that men are dangerous…. he didn’t notice her” (28).

“Nobody sees any one has he is, let alone an elderly lady sitting opposite a strange young man in a railway carriage. They see a whole–they see all sorts of things–they see themselves…As this was Cambridge, as she was staying there for the weekend, as she saw nothing but young men all day long, in streets and round tables, this sight of her fellow-traveller was completely lost in her mind, as the crooked pin dropped by a child into the wishing-well twirls in the water and disappears for ever” (29). (People we come into contact with disappear like bodies in war, they die to us)

women are dogs 31

“The stroke of the clock even was muffled; as if intoned by somebody reverent from a pulpit; as if generations of learned men heard the last hour go rolling through their ranks and issued it, already smooth and time-worn, with their blessing, for the use of the living.

Was it to receive this gift from the past that the young man come to the window and stood there, looking out across the court? It was Jacob” (44). (the blessing/inheritance that Jacob receives from the history of mankind, from his male lineage, is war and death by war.)

“Loveliness is infernally sad,” and this sadness “is brewed by the earth itself…. To escape is vain” (48).

“Edward’s death was a tragedy,” said Miss Eliot decidedly” (60). (no indication of who Edward is… this diminishes the tragedy and makes it banal.)

sex makes words more difficult (73-4)

“The problem is insoluble. The body is harnessed to a brain. Beauty goes hand in hand with stupidity” (83).

Chapter seven opens with a discussion of the “paper flowers” brought to market by merchants of the East. “Their fortunes were watched by eyes intent and lovely. It is surely a great discovery that leads to the union of hearts and foundation of homes. The paper flowers did no less. IT must not be thought, though, that they ousted the flowers of nature” (85). The reminder of mortality and the mortality of beauty leads to love and homes. We need to remind ourselves of the insoluble problem of beauty dying. “…real flowers can never be dispensed with. If they could, human life would be a different affair altogether. For flowers fade;  yellow chrysanthemums are the worst; perfect over night; yellow and jaded next morning–not fit to be seen” (85). We “marvelled at their brief lives” (87).

Women like Mrs. Jarvis write letters since they cannot participate in literary letters (97).

“As for the beauty of women, it is like the light on the sea, never constant to a single wave. They all have it; they all lose it. Now she is dull and thick a bacon; now transparent as a hanging glass. The fixed faces are the dull ones. …beauty glowing, suddenly expressive, withdrawn the moment after. No one can count on it or seize it or have it wrapped in paper” (121).

“And for ever the beauty of young men seems to be set in smoke, however lustily they chase footballs, or drive cricket balls, dance, run, or stride along roads. Possibly they are soon to lose it. Possibly they look into the eyes of faraway heroes, and take their station among us half contemptuously, she thought (vibrating like a fiddle string, to be played on and snapped)” (123).

Mrs. Jarvis never pities the dead because while they are “at rest,” we “spend our days doing foolish unnecessary things without knowing why” (138). Betty Flanders is silent. Mrs. Jarvis “is not liked in the village.”

“the wild horse in us” (149)

“Though the opinion is unpopular it seems likely enough that bare places, fields too thick with stones to be ploughed, tossing sea-meadows halfway between England and America, suit us better than cities. There is something absolute in us which despises qualification” (152).(like graveyards or battlefields)


“With equal nonchalance a dozen young men in the prime of life descend with composed faces into the depths of the sea; and there impassively (though with perfect mastery of machinery) suffocate uncomplainingly together. Like blocks of tin soldiers the army covers the cornfield, moves up the hill-side, stops, reels slightly this way and that, and falls flat, save that, through field-glasses, it can be seen that one or two pieces still agitate up and down like fragments of broken match-stick.

These actions, together with the incessant commerce of banks, laboratories, chancellories, and houses of business, are the strokes which oar the world forward, they say. And they are dealt by men as smoothly sculptured as the impassive policeman at Ludgate Circus. But you will observe that far from being padded to rotundity is face is stiff from force of will, and lean from the effort of keeping it so… The buses punctually stop.

It is thus that we live, they say, driven by an unseizable force. They say that the novelists never catch it; that it goes hurtling through their nets and leaves them torn to ribbons. This, they say, is what we live by–this unseizable force” (164).

The Acropolis survives in Athens after Jacob’s departure; England survives his death–we are killed to defend monuments that outlive us (169)

Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas

Introduction by Jane Marcus

The response to Three Guineas at the time was “essentially violently mixed in pros and cons–no one was luke-warm” (xxxvi).

“one might say that the pound sign is the most important signifier in the book” (xliii).

“Q.D. Leavis called her savage review of Three Guineas ‘Caterpillars of the Commonwealth, Unite!'” (xlvii).

“Like the ellipses or three dots in A Room of One’s Own, signifying women’s absence from history, that send the curious reader to the library to look up her allusions, Woolf’s notes in Three Guineas provide a reading list for an alternative history that includes the domestic with the national and international” (lix).

Three Guineas

frame for the argument: letter. “One does not like to leave so remarkable a letter as yours–a letter perhaps unique in the history of human correspondence, since when before has an educated man asked a woman how in her opinion war can be prevented?–unanswered. Therefore let us make the attempt; even if it is doomed to failure” (5). (AD: of course the addressee is a fiction; no one did in fact ask woman, although someone should have.)

“Arthur’s Education Fund” into which families have paid at the expense of their daughters. Sisters made their contribution not only by foregoing education but by foregoing many simple small pleasures like better food and clothing, and travel. “The result is that though we look at the same things, we see them differently” (7).

“So magically does it change the landscape that the noble courts and quadrangles of Oxford and Cambridge often appear to educated men’s daughters like petticoats with holes in them, cold legs of mutton, and the boat train starting for abroad while the guard slams the door in their faces” (8).

“Marriage, the one great profession open to our class since the dawn of time until the year 1919” (9). (AD: women are a class.)

“For though many instincts are held more or less in common by both sexes, to fight has always been the man’s habit, not the woman’s… it is difficult to judge what we do not share” (9). (AD: war is your fault, men.)

“Obviously there is for you some glory, some necessity, some satisfaction in fighting which we have never felt or enjoyed” (9).

an airman wrote in a book that if permanent peace were achieved, there would be “no outlet for the manly qualities which fighting developed, and that human physique and human character would deteriorate” (10).

“Here, immediately, are three reasons which lead your sex to fight; war is a profession; a source of happiness and excitement; and it is also an outlet for many qualities, without which men would deteriorate” (10). (AD: to stop war, fix these attributes of masculinity.)

Even the church of England is of two minds (13)

Men can take up arms in defense of peace, but “at any rate that method is not open to us,” as women are barred from army and navy (15).

Women can exert “neither the pressure of force nor the pressure of money… We cannot preach sermons or negotiate treaties… thus all the weapons with which an educated man can enforce his opinions are either beyond our grasp or so nearly beyond it that even if we used them we could scarcely inflict one scratch” (16).

“Our class is the weakest of all the classes in the state. We have no weapon with which to enforce our will” (16).

The educated man’s daughter has been encouraged to exert her will by influencing men. Now, however, that she is becoming educated and monetized herself, she is able to exert “an influence from which the charm element has been removed” (21). She is no longer dependent on the feminine mystique to earn money.

Woolf notes that in many of the male rituals surrounding the church, the army, men dress up like women (23).

“Besides the prime function of covering the body, it has two other offices–that it creates beauty for the eye and that it attracts the admiration of your sex” (24). (AD: like peacock plumage. Sets it up like an animal mating ritual, but a homosocial one)

“If then we express the opinion that such distinctions make those who possess them ridiculous and learning contemptible, we should do something, indirectly, to discourage the feelings that lead to war” (27). (AD: unmasking masculinity and masculine rituals as ridiculous will help to staunch war-leanings.)

Woolf notes that the education of women must produce capitalists in order to be sustainable in our society, even though this is not very desirable and in fact may lead to war. (45).

Women also loved war because it gave the the chance to escape fathers and husbands and instead work in hospitals, productively (49).

Poverty has its advantages to the generous: “the right of potential givers to impose terms” (51). (AD: this is obviously related to the male desire to keep women impoverished.)

“How much peace will 42,000 pounds a year buy at the present moment when we are spending 300,000,00 annually upon arms?” (56). (AD: women cannot help you buy peace because capitalism is part of the problem. Peace needs to happen on other terms.)

“The sex distinction seems…possessed of a curious leaden quality, liable to keep any name to which it is fastened circling in the lower spheres” (59).

“Is the work of a mother, of a wife, of a daughter, worth nothing to the nation in solid cash?” (66).

“Husband and wife are not only one flesh; they are also one purse. The wife’s salary is half the husband’s income… The bachelor then is paid at the same rate as the unmarried woman?- it appears not…Your reply that the law leaves these private matters to be decided privately is less satisfactory, for it means that the wife’s half-share of the common income is not paid legally into her hands, but into her husband’s” (67).

Men spend this income on pleasures which she does not share (69)

“It sees that the person to whom the salary is actually paid is the person who has the actual right to decide how that salary shall be spent” (70).

“For we have to ask ourselves, here and now, do we wish to join that procession, or don’t we? On what terms shall we join that procession? Above all, where is it leading us, the procession of educated men?” (76).

“Let us never cease from thinking–what is this civilization in which we find ourselves? What are these ceremonies and why should we take part in them? What are these professions and why should we make money out of them?” (77).

If you enter this circle, you will have to spend your life in the same way that men before you did (85). You will likely become a slave to money and spend all your time on it.

“How can we enter the professions and yet remain civilized human beings; human beings, that is, who wish to prevent war?” (91). (AD: civilization then is the desire to prevent war; men are not necessarily inherently civilized)

women exist “between the lines” of men’s biographies (93)

The teachers of women are poverty, chastity, derision, and “freedom from unreal loyalties” (94).

“You must earn enough to be independent of nay other human being and to buy that modicum of health, leisure, knowledge and so on that is needed for the full development of body and mind. But no more. Not a penny more.

You must refuse to sell your brain for the sake of money” (97).

Freedom from loyalties to nationality, religion, school, family, sex. These try to “bribe you to captivity” (97)

We should transmute the old ideal of bodily chastity into one of mental chastity (move focus from women’s bodies to our inds) (99)

It appears Arthur’s education fund has been badly applied or misused.

“The word ‘society’ sets tolling in memory the dismal bells of a harsh music: shall not, shall not, shall not” (124).

“We believe that we can help you most effectively by refusing to join your society; by working for our common ends–justice and equality and liberty for all men and women–outside your society, not within” (125).

Woman must question “how much of England in fact belongs to her” – is she even a citizen? (127)

“as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world” (129).

Woman should press the state to pay mothers for motherhood (130-1).

“It seems to me that to be passive is to be active; those also serve who remain outside. By making their absence felt their presence becomes desirable” (141).

“One daughter longed to learn chemistry; the books at home only taught her alchemy” (163).


Virginia Woolf, Women and Writing

Introduction by Michele Barrett

Woolf may have been so heavily criticized during her own time because she dared to enter not only the world of literature but that of criticism as well (2).

F. R. Leavis complained in Scrutiny in 1942 that Woolf “seems to shut out all the ranges of experience accompanying those kinds of preoccupation, volitional and moral, with an external world which are not felt primarily as preoccupation with one’s consciosness of it” (29).

“Women and Fiction”

We know nothing of our mothers recorded in history but “the dates of their marriages and the number of children they bore” – their relations to men, in other words” (44).

It is significant that “of the four great women novelists… not one had a child, and two were unmarried” (45).

“Fiction was, as fiction still is, the easiest thing for a woman to write.. Nor is it difficult to find the reason. A novel is the least concentrated form of art. A novel can be taken up or put down more easily than a play or a poem” (46). (AD: vs. Audre Lorde’s assertion that poetry is the most economical form of creation)

“The desire to plead some personal cause or to make a character the mouthpiece of some personal discontent or grievance always has a distressing effect, as if the spot at which the reader’s attention is directed were suddenly two-fold instead of single” (47). (AD: “social art” is bad art.)

“Again and again one finds it in the work of the lesser women writers–in their choice of a subject, in their unnatural self-assertiveness, in their unnatural docility. Moreover, insincerity leaks in almost unconsciously. They adopt a view in deference to authority. The vision becomes too masculine or it becomes too feminine; it loses its perfect integrity and, with that, its most essential quality as a work of arT” (48). (aD: perfect integrity = bisexuality)

“…before a woman can write exactly as she wishes to write, she has many difficulties to face. To begin with, there is the technical difficulty–so simple, apparently; in reality, so baffling–that the very form of the sentence does not fit her. It is a sentence made by men; it is too loose, too heavy, too pompous for a woman’s use… this a woman must make for herself, altering and adapting the current sentence until she writes one that takes the natural shape of her thought without crushing or distorting it” (48).

“It is probably, however, that both in life and in art the values of a woman are not the values of a man” (49).

“If, then, one should try to sum up the character of women’s fiction at the present moment, one would say that it is courageous; it is sincere; it keeps closely to what women feel. It is not bitter. It does not insist upon its femininity. But at the same time, a woman’s book is not written as a man would write it” (50). (AD: these seem like meta-syntactical rather than sentence-level differences.)

“We may expect that the office of gadfly to the state, which has been so far a male prerogative, will now be discharged by women also… but there is another ore interesting to those who prefer the butterfly to the gadfly–that is to say the artist to the reformer. The greater impersonality of women’s lives will encourage the poetic spirit, and it is i poetry that women’s fiction is still the weakest. It will lead them to be less absorbed in facts and no longer content to record with astonishing acuteness the minute details which fall under their own observation” (51). (AD: turn to bisexual writing = turn outward from the self. Oddly woman barred from poetic spirit because she engages logos too strongly)

“sophisticated arts” are criticism, essays, history; soon woman can engage these too (52).

“Professions for Women”

“The cheapness of writing paper is, of course, the reason why women have succeeded a writers before they have succeeded in the other professions” (58).

“I discovered that if I were going to review books I should need to do battle with a certain phantom. And the phantom was a woman, and when I came to know her better I called her after the heroine of a famous poem, The Angel in the House… It was she who bothered me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed her… in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others. Above all– I need not say it– she was pure” 59).

She slips behind Woolf as she writes and whispers to her that she should flatter and use the “arts and wiles of her sex,” never letting anyone “guess that you have a mind of your own. Above all, be pure” (59).

“I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self-defence. Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing” (59).

“I took up the inkpot and flung it at her… It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality… the struggle was severe; it took much time that had better have been spent upon learning Greek grammar; or in roaming the world in search of adventures. But it was a real experience; it was an experience that was found to befall all women writers at that time. Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer” (60).

“…now that she had rid herself of falsehood, that young woman had only to be herself. Ah, but what is ‘herself’? I mean, what is a woman? I assure you, I do not know.I do not believe that you know. I do not believe that anybody can know until she has expressed herself in all the arts and professions open to human skill” (60).

“I want you to imagine me writing a novel in a state of trance. I want you to figure to yourselves a girl sitting with a pen in her hand, which for minutes, and indeed for hours, she never dips into the inkpot. The image that comes to my mind when I think of this girl is the image of a fisherman lying sunk in dreams on the verge of a deep lake with a rod held out over the water” (61). (AD: vs. HD’s jellyfish)

“She was indeed in a state o the most acute and difficult distress. To speak without figure she had thought of something, something about the body, about the passions which it was unfitting for her as a woman to say. Men, her reason told her, would be shocked” (61).

“The first–killing the Angel in the House–I think I solved. She died. But the second, telling the truth about my own experiences as a body, I do not think I solved. I doubt that any woman has solved it yet” (62).

“Men and Women”

Of female characters represented by men, From Ophelia to Dora and Helen: “Some are plainly men in disguise; others represent what men would like to be, or are conscious of not being; or again they embody that dissatisfaction and despair which afflict most people when they reflect upon the sorry condition of the human race. To cast out and incorporate in a person of the opposite sex all that we miss in ourselves and desire in the universe and detest in humanity is a deep and universal instinct on the part both of men and of women. But though it affords relief, it does not lead to understanding. Rochester is as great a travesty of the truth about men as Cordelia is of the truth about women” (65). (AD: This also presupposes an essential tension between the sexes (which itself presupposes two distinct sexes.))

Bathsheba in Hardy’s Far from the madding crowd says, “I have the feelings of a woman but I have only the language of men” (67).


No woman “ever loved Byron; they bowed to convention… ran mad to order” (73). Byron is intolerable because he is “condescending, ineffably vain… compound of bully and lap-dog, now hectoring, now swimming in vapours of sentimental twaddle, tedious, egotistical, melodramatic, the character of Byron is the least attractive in the history of letters. But no wonder that every man was in love with him… to enjoy Don Juan and the letters to the full, obviously one must be a man; or, if of the other sex, disguise it” (73).

“…the men have been supposed to remain men, the women women when they write. They have exerted the influence of their sex directly and normally. But there is a class which keeps itself aloof from any such contamination. Milton is their leader; with him are Landor, Sappho, Sir Thomas Browne, Marvell. Feminists or anti-feminists, passionate or cold–whatever the romances or adventures of their private lives not a whiff of that mist attaches itself to their writing. It is pure, uncontaminated, sexless as the angels are said to be sexless” (75). (AD: Bisexual writing. Is the neuter gendered, though?)

“Dorothy Richardson”

“She has invented, or, if she has not invented, developed and applied to her own uses, a sentence which we might call the psychological sentence of the feminine gender. It is of a more elastic fibre than the old, capable of stretching to the extreme, of suspending the frailest particles, of enveloping the vaguest shapes. Other writers of the opposite sex have used sentences of this description and stretched them to the extreme. But there is a difference. Miss Richardson has fashioned her sentence consciously, in order that it may descend to the depths and investigate the crannies… It is a woman’s sentence, but only in the sense that it is used to describe a woman’s mind by a writer who is neither proud nor afraid of anything that she may discover in the psychology of her sex” (191). (AD: feminine writing)

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. 1924, 2010. Houghton Mifflin.

“The title women and fiction might mean, and you may have meant it to mean, women and what they are like; or it might mean women and the fiction that is written about them; or it might mean that somehow all three are inextricably mixed together and you want me to consider them in that light. But when I began to consider the subject in this las way, which seemed the most interesting, I soon saw that it had one fatal drawback. I should never be able to come to a conclusion” (195). (AD: conclusions are linear, phallic; questions about women are more diffuse. Re: Cixous, Irigaray)

“…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved… women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems” (196). (AD: recalls Irigaray’s invocation of Freud calling women a “problem”– women are not a problem to women except insofar as they are men’s problem and this affects them in the real world)

“…when a subject is highly controversial–and any question about sex is that–one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold. One can only give one’s audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker. Fiction here is likely to contain more truth than fact” (196). (AD: non-logos truth, diffuse truth)

“Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to seek out this truth and to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping. If not, you will of course throw the whole of it into the wastepaper basket and forget all about it” (196). (AD: lecture format is non-logo-centric :interested in diffusion of truths rather than a linear progression of facts that leads to a conclusion. This is a radical reading method–can we do this with Shelley for example if we don’t think it’s worth keeping?)

“The river reflected whatever it chose of sky and bridge and burning tree… It swayed, minute after minute, hither and thither among the reflections and the weeds, letting the water lift it and sink it, until–you know the little tug–the sudden conglomeration of an idea at the end of one’s line: and then the cautious hauling of it in, and the careful laying of it out?” (197). (AD: contrast to H.D.’s Jelly-fish vision)

“…however small it was, it had, nevertheless, the mysterious property of its kind–put back into the mind, it became at once very exciting, and important; and as it darted and sank, and flashed hither and thither, set up such a wash and tumult of ideas that it was impossible to sit still… Instantly a man’s figure rose to intercept me” (197-8).

“Instinct rather than reason came to my help; he was a Beadle; I was a woman. This was the turf; there was the path. Only the Fellows and Scholars are allowed here; the gravel is the place for me….though turf is better walking than gravel, no very great harm was done.. protection of their turf, which has been rolled for 300 years in succession, they had sent my little fish into hiding” (198). (AD: for Woolf, vision is chasing a fish or fishing rather than the mind itself turning into a jellyfish-womb that births thoughts itself)

“…then one would have to decide what is style and what is meaning, a question which–but here I was actually at the door which leads into the library itself. I must have opened it, for instantly there issued, like a guardian angel barring the way with a flutter of black gown instead of white wings, a deprecating, silvery, kindly gentleman, who regretted in a low voice as he waved me back that ladies are only admitted to the library if accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction. That a famous library has been cursed by a woman is a matter of complete indifference to a famous library… never will I ask for that hospitality again” (200).

“But the outside of these magnificent buildings is often as beautiful as the inside. Moreover, it was amusing enough to watch the congregation…” (200). (AD: she takes what she can get for inspiration. If you don’t let me into your library I will watch you instead, and the observations I make will not be particularly flattering, though they will be accurate. I will use my powers of observation and analysis one way or another.)

“Once, presumably, this quadrangle with its smooth lawns, its massive buildings, and the chapel itself was marsh too, where the grasses waved and the swine rootled” (201). (AD: is this grass and swine rootling a matrixial space on which man built institutions to cover it up and contain it?)

“It is part of the novelist’s convention not to mention soup and salmon and ducklings, as if soup and salmon and ducklings were of no importance whatsoever, as if nobody ever smoked a cigar or drank a glass of wine. Here, however, I shall take the liberty to defy that convention and to tell you that the lunch on this occasion began with…” (202).

“…if things had been a little different from what they were, one would not have seen, presumably, a cat without a tail. The sight of that abrupt and truncated animal padding softly across the quadrangle changed by some fluke of the subconscious intelligence the emotional light for me. It was as if someone had left fall a shade… as I watched the Manx cat pause in the middle of the lawn as if it too questioned the universe, something seemed lacking, something seemed different…” (203). (AD: the cat, with its “Truncated” tail, seems like the woman as a  “Truncated” man in Irigaray. This throws the institution and the universe into question. The question of woman and what she lacks throws everything into question.

“There was something so ludicrous in thinking of people humming such things even under their breath at luncheon parties before the war that I burst out laughing, and had to explain my laughter by pointing at the Manx cat, who did look a little absurd, poor beast, without a tail, in The middle of the lawn. Was he really born so, or had he lost his tail in an accident? The tailless cat, though some are said to exist in the Isle of Man, is rarer than one thinks. It is a queer animal, quaint rather than beautiful. It is strange what a difference a tail makes…” (205). (AD: Tennyson = ludicrous (this is brave). ALSO, a “tail” is phallic and it is indeed strange what a difference it makes. Was woman born castrated or is it an accident of philosophy that she became so? (essentialism v social construction) or is it not an accident at all?)

“In a sort of jealousy, I suppose, for our own age, silly and absurd though these comparisons are, I went on to wonder if honestly one could name two living poets now as great as Tennyson and Christina Rossetti were then. Obviously it is impossible, I thought, looking into those foaming waters, to compare them” (206). (AD: she dismisses the modern poets.)

“The very reason why the poetry excites one to such abandonment, such rapture, is that it celebrates some feeling that one used to have (at luncheon parties before the war perhaps), so that one responds easily familiarly, without troubling to check the feeling, or to compare it with any that one has now. But the living poets express a feeling that is actually being made and torn out of us at the moment. One does not recognize it in the first place; often for the reason one fears it; one watches it with keenness and compares it jealously and suspiciously with the old feeling that one knew. Hence the difficulty that one cannot remember more than two consecutive lines of any good modern poet” (206). (AD: perhaps the problem isn’t that modern poetry isn’t able to construe modern life but that it does in fact construe it, and it’s too hard to see because so much less beautiful, and poetry is about beauty.)

“Fiction must stick to facts, and the truer the facts the better the fiction–so we are told” (208).

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. The lamp in the spine does not light on beef and prunes” (210).

“All that lies beneath the colleges down there, I said; but this college, where we are now sitting, what lies beneath its gallant red brick and the wild unkempt grasses of the garden? What force is behind the plain china off which we dined…” (211). (AD: in part a feminine force because woman prepares the food that goes on the china)

“At the thought of all those women working year after year and finding it hard to get two thousand pounds together, and as much as they could do to get thirty thousand pounds, we burst out in scorn at the reprehensible poverty of our sex. What had our mothers been doing then that they had now ealth to leave us? Powdering their noses?” (212).

“If only Mrs. Seton and her mother and her mother before her had learnt the great art of making money and had left their money, like their fathers and grandfathers before them, to found fellowships and lectureships and prizes and scholarships appropriated to the use of their own sex, we might have tined very tolerably up here alone…” (213).

“Making a fortune and bearing thirteen children–no human being could stand it. Consider the facts… Every penny I earn, they may have said, will be taken from me and disposed of according to my husband’s wisdom… so that to earn money, even if I could earn money, is not a matter that interests me very greatly. I had better leave it to my husband” (215).

“what effect poverty has on the mind and what effect wealth has on the mind” (215).

“If truth is not to be found on the shelves of the British Museum, where, I asked myself, picking up a notebook and pencil, is truth?” (218).

“Have you any notion how many books are written about women in the course of one year? Have you any notion how many are written by men? Are you aware that you are, perhaps, the most discussed animal in the universe?…How shall I ever find the grains of truth embedded in all this mass of paper, I asked myself…” (219). (AD: re: Irigaray’s discussion of Freud’s discussion of women. She will not find herself in the mass of paper not only because she is not writable by men but because she is not paper. She is not a man’s object.)

“Women do not write books about men– a fact that I could not help welcoming with relief… Why are women, judging from this catalogue, so much more interesting to men than men are to women?” (219).

“If, unfortunately, one has had no training in a university, the question far from being shepherded to its pen flies like a frightened flock hither and thither, helter-skelter, pursued by a whole pack of hounds” (220). (AD: maybe we should run with it, or just be it, instead of trying to master it.)

“Wherever one looked men thought about women and thought differently. It was impossible to make head or tail of it all, I decided, glancing with envy at the reader next door who was making the neatest abstracts, headed often with an A or a B or a C, while my own notebook rioted with the wildest scribble of contradictory jottings. It was distressing, it was bewildering, it was humiliating. Truth had run through my fingers. Every drop had escaped” (222). (AD: feminine writing, diffusion rather than logocentric telos-oriented research)

“I had unconsciously, in my listlessness, in my desperation, been drawing a picture where I should, like my neighbour, have been writing a conclusion” (223). (AD: this is the only training we have.)

“They had been written in the red light of emotion and not in the white light of truth. Therefore they must be returned to the central desk and restored each to his own cell in the enormous honeycomb. All that I had retrieved from that morning’s work had been the one fact of anger” (225). (AD: logos is always inflected by pathos, no matter how objective it says that it is.)

“The most transient visitor to this planet, I thought, who picked up this paper could not fail to be aware, even from this scattered testimony, that England is under the rule of a patriarchy… his was the power and the money and the influence” (225).

“Yet it seemed absurd, I thought, turning over the evening paper, that a man with all this power should be angry. Or is anger, I wondered, somehow, the familiar, the attendant sprite on power” (226).

“Life for both sexes–and I looked at them, shouldering their way along the pavement–is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion as we are, it calls for confidence in oneself. Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradle. And how can we generate this imponderable quality, which is yet so invaluable, most quickly? By thinking that other people are inferior to oneself… Hence the enormous importance to a patriarch who has to conquer, who has to rule, of feeling that great numbers of people, half the human race indeed, are by nature inferior to himself… [feminism] was a protest against some infringement of his power to believe in himself” (227).

“…if she begins to tell the truth, the figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness for life is diminished. How is he to go on giving judgment, civilising natives, making laws, writing books, dressing up and speechifying at banquets, unless he can see himself at breakfast and at dinner at least twice the size he really is” (228).

“Society gives me chicken and coffee, bed and lodging, in return for a certain number of pieces of paper which were left me by an aunt, for no other reason than that I share her name” (229).

“Therefore not merely do effort and labour cease, but also hatred and bitterness. I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me” (230).

“[The patriarchs] had money and power, but only at the cost of harbouring in their breasts an eagle, a vulture, for ever tearing the liver out and plucking at the lungs–the instinct for possession, the rage for acquisition which drives them to desire other people’s fields and goods perpetually; to make frontiers and flags; battleships and poison gas; to offer up their lives and their children’s lives” (230).

“…as I realised these drawbacks, by by degrees fear and bitterness modified themselves into pity and toleration; and then in a year or two, pity and toleration went, and the greatest release of all came, which is freedom to think of things in themselves. That building, for example, do I like it or not? Is that picture beautiful or not? Is that in my opinion a good book or a bad? Indeed my aunt’s legacy unveiled the sky to me, and substituted for the large and imposing figure of a gentleman, which Milton recommended for my perpetual adoration, a view of the open sky” (231).

“It was disappointing not to have brought back in the evening some important statement, some authentic fact” (233).

“For it is a perennial puzzle why no woman wrote a word of that extraordinary literature when every other man, it seemed, was capable of song or sonnet. What were the conditions in which women lived, I asked myself; for fiction, imaginative work that is, is not dropped like a pebble upon the ground, as science may be; fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners” (233).

“these webs are not spun in mid-air by incorporeal creatures, but are the work of suffering human beings, and are attached to grossly material things, like health and money and the houses we live in” (234).

“It was certainly an odd monster that one made up by reading the historians first and the poets afterwards–a worm winged like an eagle; the spirit of life and beauty in a kitchen chopping up suet. But these monsters, however amusing to the imagination, have no existence in fact” (236).

“…suggest to the students of those famous colleges that they should re-write history, thought I own that it often seems a little queer as it is, unreal, lop-sided; but why should they not add a supplement to history? (237). (AD: diving into the wreck)

“Let me imagine, since facts are so hard to come by, what would have happened had Shakespeare had a wonderfully gifted sister, called Judith, let’s say… Perhaps she scribbled some pages up in an apple loft on the sly, but was careful to hide them or set fire to them… How could she disobey him? How could she break his heart? The force of her own gift alone drive her to it?” (238-9).

“yet a genius amongst women must have existed…but certainly it never got itself on to paper. When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman. It was…a woman who made the ballads and folk songs, crooning them to her children…” (241).

The woman given the gift of poetry “was an unhappy woman, a woman at strife against herself” (242).

The world’s “notorious indifference” toward works of art is even stronger toward women (244).

“It was a thousand pities that the woman who could write like that, whose mind was turned to nature and reflection, should have been forced to anger and bitterness. But how could she have helped herself?” (252).

Aphra Behn is a foremother, even if she is deprecated by mothers and fathers of those who want to write (256)

Why are all the works by women novels, if “the original impulse was to poetry,” and “the ‘supreme head of song’ was a poetess?” (258).

Novels are more interested in feeling and relations than poetry. Women are trained in observation.

“Literature is open to everybody. I refuse to allow you, Beadle though you are, to turn me off the grass. Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind” (268).

“they had no tradition behind them, or one so short and partial that it was of little help. For we think back through our mothers if we are women” (268).

Only the novel was “young and soft” enough for woman to shape into the writing a woman needs to produce (269)

There are no marks by which we can measure women (277)

Women’s “creative power differs greatly from the creative power of men” (279).

bisexual writing:

“…it is natural for the sexes to co-operate. One has a profound, if irrational, instinct in favour of the theory that the union of man and woman makes for the greatest satisfaction, the most complete happiness. But the sight of the two people getting into the taxi and the satisfaction it gave me made me also ask whether there are two sexes in the mind corresponding to the two sexes in the body, and whether they also require to be united in order to get complete satisfaction and happiness… The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two live in harmony together, spiritually co-operating. If one is a man, still the woman part of the brain must have effect; and a woman also must have intercourse with the man in her. Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilised and uses all its faculties” (290).

“virility has now become self-conscious–men, that is to say, are now writing only with the male side of their brains” (293)

“Poetry ought to have a mother a well as a father” (295).

“…it is fatal for any one who writes to think of their sex. It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be  woman-manly or man-womanly. It is fatal for a woman to lay the least stress on any grievance; to plead even with justice any cause; in any way to speak consciously as a woman. And fatal is no figure of speech; for anything written with that conscious bias is doomed to death. It ceases to be fertilised” (296).

“I do not believe that gifts, whether or mind or character, can be weight like sugar and butter” (297)

“Intellectual freedom depends on material things. Poetry depends on intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time. Women have had less intellectual freedom than the sons of Athenian slaves. Women, then, have not had a dog’s chance of writing poetry” (300).

“When I rummage in my own mind I find no noble sentiments about being companions and equals and influencing the world to higher ends. I find myself saying briefly and prosaically that it is much more important to be oneself than anything else. Do not dream of influencing other people…”(303).

Langdon Davies says that when children cease to be desirable women will cease to be necessary 303



Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman

Irigaray, Luce. Speculum of the Other Woman. 1974.

Opens with “Woman, Science’s Unknown,” by quoting Freud addressing a group about the problem of femininity. Women are ourselves the problem. Spoken by and to women, this takes on a different valence.

“The enigma that is woman will therefore constitute the target, the object, the stake of a masculine discourse, of a debate among men, which would not consult her, would not concern her. Which, ultimately, she is not supposed to know anything about” (13).

“One can only agree in passing that it is impossible exhaustively to represent what woman might be, give that a certain economy of representation–inadequately perceived by psychoanalysis, at least in the ‘scientific discourse’ that it speaks–functions through a tribute to woman that is never paid or even assessed. The whole problematic of Being has been elaborated thanks to that loan. It is thus, in all exactitude, unrealizable to describe the being of woman” (21).

“…this is an organized system whose meaning is regulated by paradigms and units of value that are in turn determined by male subjects. Therefore, the feminine must be deciphered as inter-dict: within the signs or between them, between the realized meanings, between the lines…and as a function of the (re)productive necessities of an intentionally phallic currency…” (22).

“the feminine will be allowed and even obliged to return in such oppositions as: be/become, have/ not have sex organ, phallic/ non-phallic, penis/vagina… plus/ minus, clearly representable / dark continent, logos / silence or idle chatter, desire for mother/ desire to be the mother, etc. All these are interpretive modalities of the female function rigorously postulated by the pursuit of a certain game for which she will always find herself signed up without having begin to play. Set between–at least–two, or two half, men” (22).

“The little girl is (only) a little boy” (25) – she is “A disadvantaged little man… A little man who would have no other desire than to be, or remain, a man” (26).

“…the desire for the auto… the homo… the male, dominates the representational economy. ‘Sexual difference’ is a derivation of the problematics of sameness, it is, now and forever, determined within the project, the projection, the sphere of representation, of the same. The ‘differentiation’ into two sexes derives from the a priori assumption of the same, since the little man that the little girl is, must become a man minus certain attributes whose paradigm is morphological…A man minus the possibility of (re)presenting oneself as a man = a normal woman” (27).

“The pleasure gained from touching, caressing, parting the lips and vulva simply does not exist for Freud” (29).

“That is the point at which the ‘change to femininity’ has to occur, with the vagina becoming the indispensible instrument of male pleasure” (30).

“In the course of time, therefore, a girl has to change her erotogenic zone and her object–both of which a boy retains…” the girl is “biologically destined” for a feminine state according to Freud (31).

Love is really homo-sexual: it is what the “phallus feels for the phallus” (32).

“But of course the paths marked out for the two sexes are not the same, and cannot obey the same law, whatever Freud would like. At best they may obey Law itself, the law of the same, which requires that the little girl abandon her relation to the origin and her primal fantasy so that henceforth she can be inscribed into those of men which will become the ‘origin’ of her desire. In other words, woman’s only relation to origin is one dictated by man’s” (33).

“And it would certainly be very interesting to raise the question of the ‘phallus’ and its power in these terms: it would not be the privileged signifier of the penis or even of power and sexual pleasure were it not to be interpreted as an appropriation of the relation to origin and of the desire for and as origin” (33).

“…she already experiences a tropism that is both centripetal and centrifugal, and that her sexual organ of reference is not simply the clitoris” (35).

Freud is interested in “trapping sex in a logos, a logic…” and this “Idea” of sex “shapes Freudian ‘discourse'” (36-7).

“…with only one sex being desirable, it becomes a matter of demonstrating how the little girl comes to devalue her own sex by devaluing her mother’s” (40).

“…in the beginning was the end of her story, and that from now on she will have one dictated to her: by the man-father. Woman would thus find no possible way to represent or tell the story of the economy of her libido” (43).

“Now the little girl, the woman, supposedly has nothing you can see. She exposes, exhibits the possibility of a nothing to see. Or at any rate she shows nothing that is penis-shaped or could substitute for a penis. This is the odd, the uncanny thing, as far as the eye can see, this nothing around which lingers in horror, now and forever, an overcathexis of the eye, of appropriation by the gaze, and of the phallomorphic sexual metaphors, its reassuring accomplices” (47).

“In her having nothing penile, in seeing that she has No Thing. Nothing like man. That is to say, no sex/organ that can be seen in a form capable of founding its reality, reproducing its truth. Nothing to be seen is equivalent to having no thing. No being and no truth” (48).

“Anatony is ‘Destiny’… In the beginning… the little girl was (only) a little boy. In other words THERE NEVER IS (OR WILL BE) A LITTLE GIRL” (48).

Woman is “a hole in men’s signifying economy” (50).

“If woman had desires other than ‘penis-envy,’ this would call into question the unity, the uniqueness, the simplicity of the mirror charged with sending man’s image back to him–albeit inverted. Call into question its flatness. The specularization, and speculation, for the purpose of (his) desire could no longer be two-dimensional. Or again: the ‘penis-envy’ attributed to woman soothes the anguish man feels…” (51).

“Woman’s fetishization of the male organ must indeed be an indispensible support of its price on the sexual market” (53).

“….if this ego is to be valuable, some ‘mirror’ is needed to reassure it and re-insure it of its value… Woman will therefore be this sameness” (54).

“Better than mother, then, is the working out of the idea of the mother, of the maternal ideal. Better to transform the real ‘natural’ mother into an ideal of the maternal function which no one can ever take away from you” (81).

la mystérique: the mystic-hysteric

Structure of the book:

“The blind spot of an old dream of symmetry”


takes on Freud, Plato, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Mystics, Kant, Hegel

“Plato’s Hystera”


Luce Irigaray, “When Our Lips Speak Together”

Irigaray, Luce. “When Our Lips Speak Together.” Signs 6.1 (Autumn 1980), 69-79.

“If we continue to speak the same language to each other, we will reproduce the same story. Begin the same stories all over again. Don’t you feel it? Listen: men and women around us all sound the same. Same arguments, same quarrels, same scenes. Same attractions and separations. Same difficulties, the impossibility of reaching each other. Same … same… always the same” (69).

“We have fled into proper names, we have been violated by them. Not yours, not mine. We don’t have names. We change them as men exchange us, as they use us. It’s frivolous to be so changeable so long as we are a medium of exchange” (69).

“Try to be attentive to  yourself. To me. Don’t be distracted by norms or habits” (70).

“Let them have oneness, with its prerogatives, its domination, its solipsisms: like the sun. Let them have their strange division by couples, in which the other is the image of the one, but an image only. For them, being drawn to the other means a move toward one’s mirage: a mirror that is (barely) alive. Glacial, mute, the mirror is all the more faithful. Our vital energies spent in this wearisome labor of doubling and miming. We have been destined to reproduce–that sameness in which, for centuries, we have been the other” (71).

“The unity, truth, and propriety of words comes from their lack of lips, their forgetting of lips. Words are mute, when they have been uttered once and for all, neatly tied up so that their sense–their blood–can’t escape. Like the children of men. But not ours. Besides, do we need or desire a child? Here and now, in our closeness? Men and women have children to embody their closeness and their distance. But we?” (72).

“Open your lips, but do not open them simply. I do not open them simply. We–you/I–are never open nor closed. Because we never separate simply, a single word can’t be pronounced, produced by, emitted from our mouths. From your/my lips, several songs, several ways of saying echo each other. For one is never separable from the other. You/I are always several at the same time. How could one dominate the other? Impose her voice, her tone, her meaning? They are not distinct, which does not mean that they are blurred. You don’t understand a thing? No more than they understand you” (73).

“They neither taught us nor allowed us to say our multiplicity. That would have been improper speech. Of course, we were allowed–we had to?–display one truth even as we sensed but muffled, stifled another. Truth’s other side– it’s complement? its remainder?–stayed hidden. Secret. Inside and outside, we were not supposed to be the same. That doesn’t suit their desires. Veiling and unveiling, isn’t that what concerns them, interests them? Always repeating the same operation–each time, on each woman” (74).

Between us, there is no rupture between virginal and nonvirginal. No event that makes us women” (74).

“You have come back, divided: ‘we’ are no more. You are split into red and white, black and white. How can we find each other again? Touch each other? We are cut into pieces, finished: our pleasure is trapped in their system, where ‘virgin’ means one as yet unmarked by them, for them. Not yet a woman in their terms. Not yet imprinted with their sex, their language. Not yet penetrated or possessed by them. Still inhabiting that candor which is an awaiting, a northing without them, a void without them. A virgin is but the future for their exchanges, their commerce, and their transports. A kind of reserve for their explorations, consummations, and exploitations–the future coming o their desires. But not ours” (74).

“If you/I are reluctant to speak, isn’t it because we are afraid of not speaking well? But what is ‘well’ or ‘badly’? What model could we use to speak ‘well’? What system of mastery subordination could persecute us there and break out spirits? Why aspire to the heights of a worthier discourse? Erection doesn’t interest us: we’re fine in the low-lands. We have so many spaces to share. Because we are always open, the horizon will never be circumscribed. Stretching out, never ceasing to unfold ourselves, we must invent so many different voices to speak all of ‘us,’ including our cracks and faults, that forever won’t be enough time. We will never travel all the way round our periphery: we have so many dimensions. If you wish to speak ‘well’ you constrict yourself, become narrower as you rise” (75).

“Don’t fret about the ‘right’ word. There is none. No truth between our lips. Everything has the right to be. Everything is worth exchanging, without privileges or refusals. Exchange? Everything can be exchanged when nothing is bought. Between us, there are no owners and no purchases, no determinable objects and no prices. Our bodies are enriched by our mutual pleasure. Our abundance is inexhaustible: it knows neither want nor plenty. When we give ourselves ‘all,’ without holding back or hoarding, our exchanges have no terms. How to say this? The language we know is so limited…” (76).

“If we don’t invent a language, if we don’t find our body’s language, its gestures will be too few to accompany our story. When we become tired of the same ones, we’ll keep our desires secret, unrealized. Asleep again, dissatisfied, we will be turned over to the words of men–who have claimed to ‘know’ for a long time” (76).

“You? I? That’s still saying too much. It cuts too sharply between us: ‘all’.” (79).

Hélène Cixous, “The Laugh of the Medusa”

Cixous, Hélène. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Signs 1.4 (Summer, 1976): 875-893. Trans Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen. University of Chicago Press. 

first sentence: “I shall speak about woman’s writing: about what it will do. Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies–for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put herself into the text–as into the world and into history–by her own movement” (875).

“I write this as a woman, toward women. When I say ‘woman,’ I’m speaking of woman in her inevitable struggle against conventional man; and of a universal woman subject who must bring women to their senses and to their meaning in history” 875-6).

“…what strikes me is the infinite richness of their individual constitutions: you can’t talk about female sexuality, uniform, homogeneous, classifiable into codes–any more than you can talk about one unconscious resembling another. Women’s imaginary is inexhaustible, like music, painting, writing: their stream of phantasms is incredible” (876).

“Who, feeling a funny desire stirring inside her (to sing, to write, to dare to speak, in short, to bring out something new), hasn’t thought she was sick? well, her shameful sickness is that she resists death, that she makes trouble” (876).

“…writing is at once too high, too great for you, it’s reserved for the great–that is for ‘great men’; and it’s ‘silly.’ Besides, you’ve written a little, but in secret. And it wasn’t good, because it was in secret, and because you punished yourself for writing, because you didn’t go all the way; or because you wrote, irresistibly, as when we would masturbate in secret, not to go further, but to attenuate the tension a bit, just enough to take the edge off. And then as soon as we come, we go and make ourselves feel guilty–so as to be forgive; or to forget, to bury it until the next time” (877).

“I write woman: woman must write woman. And man, man. So only an oblique consideration will be found here of man; it’s up to him to say where his masculinity and femininity are at: this will concern us once men have opened their eyes and seen themselves clearly” (877).

“Men still have everything to say about their sexuality, and everything to write. For what they have said so far, for the most part, stems from the opposition activity/passivity, from the power relation between a fantasized obligatory virility meant to invade, to colonize, and the consequential phantasm of woman as a ‘dark continent’ to penetrate and to ‘pacify'” (877, footnote 1).

“Your continent is dark. Dark is dangerous. You can’t see anything in the dark, you’re afraid. Don’t move, you might fall. Most of all, don’t go into the forest. And so we have internalized this horror of the dark.

Men have committed the greatest crime against women. Insidiously, violently, they have led them to hate women, to be their own enemies, to mobilize their immense strength against themselves, to be the executants of their virile needs. They have made for women an antinarcissism!” (878).

Women who write “Aren’t afraid of lacking” (878).

“I maintain unequivocally that there is such a thing as marked writing; that, until now, far more extensively and repressively than is ever suspected or admitted, writing has been run by a libidinal and cultural–hence political, typically masculine–economy…” (879).

“…writing is precisely the very possibility of change” (879).

“Nearly the entire history of writing is confounded with the history of reason, of which it is at once the effect, the support, and one of the privileged alibis. It has been one with the phallocentric tradition. It is indeed that same self-admiring, self-stimulating, self-congratulatory phallocentrism” (879).

“There have been poets who would go to any lengths to slip something by at odds with tradition– men capable of loving love and hence capable of loving others and of wanting them, of imagining the woman who would hold out against oppression and constitute herself as a superb, equal, hence ‘impossible’ subject, untenable in a real social framework” (879).

“But only the poets–not the novelists, allies of representationalism. Because poetry involves gaining strength through the unconscious and because the unconscious, that other limitless country, is the place where the repressed manage to survive: women, or as Hoffmann would say, fairies” (880). (AD: Re: Cixous’s focus on Joyce as poet in Exile)

“To write. An act which will not only ‘realize’ the decensored relation of woman to her sexuality, to her womanly being, giving her access to her native strength; it will give her back her goods, her pleasures, her organs, her immense bodily territories which have been kept under seal; it will tear her away from the superegoized structure in which she has always occupied the place reserved for the guilty (guilty of everything, guilty at every turn: for having desires, for not having any; for being frigid, for being ‘too hot’… for having children and for not having any…”

“We must kill the false woman who is preventing the live one from breathing. Inscribe the breath of the whole woman” (880). (AD: Or, as Woolf says, throw the inkpot at her before you kill the Angel in the House)

“It is by writing, from and toward women, and by taking up the challenge of speech which has been governed by the phallus, that women will confirm women in a place other than that which is reserved in and by the symbolic, that is, in a place other than silence. Women should break out of the snare of silence. They shouldn’t be conned into accepting a domain which is the margin or the harem” (881).

“Listen to a woman speak at a public gathering (if she hasn’t painfully lost her wind). She doesn’t ‘speak,’ she throws her trembling body forward; she lets go of herself, she flies; all of her passes into her voice, and it’s with her body that she vitally supports the ‘logic’ of her speech. Her flesh speaks true… Her speech, even when ‘theoretical’ or political, is never simple or linear or ‘objectified,’ generalized: she draws her story into history” (881).

“Even if phallic mystification has generally contaminated good relationships, a woman is never far from ‘mother’ (I mean outside her role functions: the ‘mother’ as nonname and as source of goods). There is always within her at least a little of that good mother’s milk. She writes in white ink.

…There always remains in woman that force which produces/is produced by the other–in particular, the other woman. In her, matrix, cradler; herself giver as her mother and child; she is her own sister-daughter…. Everything will be changed once woman gives woman to the other woman. There is hidden and always ready in woman the source; the locus for the other. The mother, too, is a metaphor. It is necessary and sufficient that the best of herself be given to woman by another woman…” (881).

“Text: my body” (882).

“In women there is always more or less of the mother who makes everything all right, who nourishes, and who stands up against separation; a force that will not be cut off but will knock the wind out of the codes. We will rethink womankind beginning with every form and every period of her body” (882).

“Woman un-thinks the unifying, regulating history that homogenizes and channels forces, herding contradictions into a single battlefield. In woman, personal history blends together with the history of all women, as well as national and world history” (882).

“The new history is coming; it’s not a dream, though it does extend beyond men’s imagination, and for good reason” (883).

“It is impossible to define a feminine practice of writing, and this is an impossibility that will remain, for this practice can never be theorized, enclosed, coded–which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. But it will always surpass the discourse that regulates the phallocentric system; it does and will take place in areas other than those subordinated to philosophico-theoretical domination. It will be conceived of only by subjects who are breakers of automatisms, by peripheral figures that no authority can ever subjugate” (883).

Men sometimes say their writing is “bisexual, hence neuter,” or “the classic conception of bisexuality, which, squashed under the emblem of castration fear and along with the fantasy of a ‘total’ being (though composed of two halves), would do away with the difference experienced as an operation incurring loss, as the mark of dreaded sectility” (884). (AD: re: H.D.’s logos-womb combination)

“To this self-effacing, merger-type bisexuality, which would conjure away castration (the writer who puts up his sign: ‘bisexual written here, come and see,’ when the odds are good that it’s neither one nor the other), I oppose the other bisexuality on which every subject not enclosed in the false theater of phallocentric representationalism has founded his/her erotic universe. Bisexuality: that is, each one’s location in self of the presence–variously manifest and insistent according to each person, male or female–of both sexes, nonexclusion either of the difference or of one sex, and, from this self-permission, multiplication and the effects of the inscription of desire, over all parts of my body and the other body” (884).

“In a certain way, ‘woman is bisexual’; man–it’s a secret to no one–being poised to keep glorious phallic monosexuality in view” (884).

We have no womanly reason to pledge allegiance to the negative. The feminine (as the poets suspected) affirms: “…And yes,’ says Molly, carrying Ulysses off beyond any book and toward the new writing; ‘I said yes, I will Yes.'”

The Dark Continent is neither dark nor unexplorable. – It is still unexplored only because we’ve been made to believe that it was too dark to be explorable. And because they want to make us believe that what interests us is the white continent, with its monuments to Lack. And we believed. They riveted us between two horrifying mythsL between the Medusa and the abyss. That would be enough to set half the world laughing, except that it’s still going on” (885).

“Wouldn’t the worst be, isn’t the worst, in truth, that women aren’t castrated, that they have only to stop listening to the Sirens (for the Sirens were men) for history to change its meaning? You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she’s not deadly. She’s beautiful and she’s laughing” (885).

“I’ll give you your body and you’ll give me mine. But who are the men who give women the body that women blindly yield to them? Why so few texts?” (885).

“Such is the strength of women that, sweeping away syntax, breaking that famous thread (just a tiny little thread, they say) which acts for men as a surrogate umbilical cord, assuring them…” (886).

“…new women, after whom no intersubjective relation will ever be the same. You, Dora, you the indomitable, the poetic body, you are the true ‘mistress’ of the Signifier” (886).

“Now, I-woman am going to blow up the Law: an explosion henceforth possible and ineluctable; let it be done, right now, in language” (887).

“Nor is the point to appropriate their instruments, their concepts, their places, or to begrudge them their position of mastery. Just because there’s a risk of identification doesn’t mean that we’ll succumb. Let’s leave it to the worries, to masculine anxiety and its obsession with how to dominate the way thins work– knowing ‘how it works’ in order to ‘make it work.’ For us the point is not to take possession in order to internalize or manipulate, but rather to dash through and to ‘fly’.” (887). (AD: re: double meaning of the word  VOLER)

Unlike man, who holds so dearly to his title and his titles, his pouches of value, his cap, crown, and everything connected with his head, woman couldn’t care less about the fear of decapitation (or castration), adventuring, without the masculine temerity, into anonymity, which she can merge with without annihilating herself: because she’s a giver” (888).

“If there is a ‘propriety of woman,’ it is paradoxically her capacity to depropriate unselfishly: body without end, without appendage, without principal ‘parts.’ If she is a whole, it’s a whole composed of parts that are wholes, not simple partial objects but a moving, limitlessly changing ensemble, a cosmos tirelessly traversed by Eros, an immense astral space not organized around any one sun that’s any more of a star than the others” (889).

“Her libido is cosmic, just as her unconscious is worldwide. Her writing can only keep going, without ever inscribing or discerning contours, daring to make these vertiginous crossings of the other” (889).

“Her language does not contain, it carries; it does not hold back, it makes possible” (889).

“Begetting a child doesn’t mean that the woman or the man must fall ineluctably into patterns or much recharge the circuit of reproduction. …Either you want a kid or you don’t– that’s your business. Let nobody threaten you; in satisfying your desire, let not the fear of becoming the accomplice to a sociality succeed the old-time fear of being ‘taken'” (890).

“Let us demater-paternalize rather than deny woman, in an effort to avoid the co-optation of procreation, a thrilling era of the body. Let us defeishize. Let’s get away from the dialectic which has it that the only good father is a dead one, or that the child is the death of his parents. The child is the other, but the other without vilence, bypassing loss, struggle” (890).

“Oral drive, anal drive, vocal drive–all these drives are our strengths, and among them is the gestation drive–just like the desire to write: a desire to live self from within, a desire for the swollen belly, for language, for blood” (891).

“…when pregnant, the woman not only doubles her market value, but – what’s more important – takes on intrinsic value as a woman in her own eyes and, undeniably, acquires body and sex” (891).

“beware, my friend, of the signifier that would take you back to the authority of a signified! Beware of diagnoses that would reduce your generative powers” (892).

“In one another we will never be lacking” (893).

James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake

Joyce, James. Finnegan’s Wake

summary: “difficult vitality”

Introduction by John Bishop:

“There is no agreement as to what Finnegan’s Wake is about, whether or not it is ‘about’ anything, or even whether it is, in any ordinary sense of the word, ‘readable'” (vii).

“…the work which Joyce considered his greatest, and on which he rested his reputation…” (vii).

“…as his materials coalesced and a book took gradual shape, it evolved under the name of work in progress…” (vii).

“Its admirers see in it a comprehensive summa of twentieth-century culture and letters; its detractors, an arrogant compilation of arcane materials eccentrically patched together for the amusement of a literary elite” (viii).

“…any reader can enter Finnegan’s Wake and find something to absorb him–as long as he or she doesn’t expect to find it all in one place or, complementarily, understand everything else that appears around it” (ix).

“If, however, one surrenders the need to be master of everything–or even most things–in this strange and magnificent book, it will pour forth lots of rewards. As it says in the Irish American ballad from which Joyce derived his title, after all, ‘There’s lots of fun at Finnegan’s wake” (ix). (AD: see Cixous on ‘mastery’)

“…the book is not narrative-driven (Joyce pointed out that ‘the book really has no beginning or end… It ends in the middle of a sentence and begins in the middle of the same sentence’) it is theoretically possible to start reading Finnegan’s Wake anywhere and still derive pleasure and reward from it. Perhaps the only way not to enjoy Finnegans Wake is to expect that one has to plod through it word by word making sense of everything in linear order” (x).

“Though no one knows precisely how many languages Joyce worked into Finnegans Wake (the estimate is somewhere between sixty and seventy), finding them and puzzling over them is part of the book’s fun” (xi).

“It also even happens commonly enough that readers with specialistic kinds of expertise will discover in Finnegans Wake elaborate treatments of matters of which Joyce could not possibly have been aware… There is nothing in the least wrong with this infinitely accommodating and pluralistic openness to meaning: part of the glory of Finnegans Wake, it demonstrates in yet another way how catholically the Wake invites the participation of all readers in common, and it also surely reflects the kind of preordained discovery that no doubt goes on in any act of reading and interpretation” (xii).

“…it even encourages the expansion of our understanding of what exactly it means–or can mean–to read” (xii).

” ‘Reading’ turns out to be as pluralistically malleable a procedure in Finnegans Wake as are interpretation and the discovery of meaning” (xiii).

“…many readers have compellingly argued that the best and most valuable way to read Finnegans Wake–perhaps the only way–is in a group, collectively, where the individualized expertises of all participants can be made to enliven and illuminate the text, and where the text in turn can illuminate for the benefit for everyone else the peculiar talents and idiosyncrasies of each participant… the common reader looking for some guidance in getting through the book is more or less at the mercy of anyone who wants to explain it” (xiii).

Richard Ellman’s biography James Joyce: Joyce said “Having written Ulysses about the day, I wanted to write this book about the night” (xiv).

“…as Freud and other students of the dream have noted, ‘at bottom, dreams are nothing other than a particular form of thinking, made possible by the conditions of the state of sleep” (xv).

“…thinking about Finnegans Wake as a study of ‘the night mind of man’ will help to explain and justify Joyce’s decision to write the book in a stream of fluid and multiply signifying neologisms, since his interest in ‘reconstructing the nocturnal life’ would have required him to evoke things happening on several places at once, and since in all but the most mechanistic accounts of dream formation, dreams are ‘overdetermined’: the images of which they are particled together, that is, mean at least ‘two thinks at a time'” (xvi). (AD: the ‘night life of man” sounds a lot like the dark continent of woman and feminine rhetoric (re: Freud and Cixous)

Finnegans Wake asks its reader to undergo a wholesale mental adjustment: to ‘suit the aesthetic of the dream,’ the book does away with characters, sequential plotting, and other narrative conventions. As Joyce puts it, ‘there are, so to say, no individual people in the book–it is as in a dream, the style gliding and unreal as is the way with dreams” (xvi).

“A patriarch and the head of a family… Less a character, properly speaking, than a psychic state…” (xvii).

“…some readers have striven to derive a ‘plot’…” (xviii). Instead, the structure is one of ‘deepening embedment (Book I) and resurrection (Books II-IV). The book follows the course of a downward-plunging parabola, in this view, descending from the fall into sleep at its beginning into a darkest center and then reascending toward dawn, light, and reawakening as it nears its end” (xix).

“his recumbent body swims into and out of view throughout the chapter” (xx).

“…if the maintenance by day of a solid patriarchal male identity necessitates the repression of outlawed, feminine, and childish qualities, those qualities precisely–and aspects therefore of HCE’s unconscious–are what come to the fore in the next sequence of four chapters in Finnegans Wake” (xxi).

the valence of the word “wake” can be funereal as well as resurrective

“…even the briefest contact with the Wake tends to put one into reverie gear and to induce internally the process of bewildering self-loss, semantic recuperation, and eye-opening reawakening that is mapped out over the book as a whole” (xxv).


JAMES JOYCE: DEFINITION OF EPIPHANY An excerpt originally published in James Joyce’s Stephen Hero, edited by Theodore Spencer (New York: New Directions Press, 1944). Reprinted here from a new edition, eds. John J. Slocum and Herbert Cahoon (New York: New Directions Press, 1959), by permission of The Society of Authors as the literary representative of the Estate of James Joyce, the executors of the James Joyce Estate, the editor, and Jonathan Cape Ltd.

He [Stephen Hero] was passing through Eccles’ St one evening, one misty evening, with all these thoughts dancing the dance of unrest in his brain when a trivial incident set him composing some ardent verses which he entitled a “Vilanelle of the Temptress.” A young lady was standing on the steps of one of those brown brick houses which seem the very incarnation of Irish paralysis. A young gentleman was leaning on the rusty railings of the area. Stephen as he passed on his quest heard the following fragment of colloquy out of which he received an impression keen enough to afflict his sensitiveness very severely.

The Young Lady-(drawling discreetly) … 0, yes … I was … at the … cha … pel …

The Young Gentleman- (inaudibly) … I … (again inaudibly) … I …

The Young Lady-(softly) … 0 … but you’re … ve … ry … wick … ed .

This trivialit*y made him think of collecting many such moments together in a book of epiphanies. By an epiphany he meant ‘ a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself. He believed that it was for the man of letters to record these epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments. He told Cranly that the clock of the Ballast Office was capable of an epiphany. Cranly questioned the inscrutable dial of the Ballast Office with his no less inscrutable countenance:

-Yes, said Stephen. I will pass it time after time, allude to it, refer to it, catch a glimpse of it. It is only an item in the catalogue of Dublin’s street furniture. Then all at once I see it and I know at once what it is: epiphany.


-Imagine my glimpses at that clock as the gropings of a spiritual eye which seeks to adjust its vision to an exact focus. The moment the focus is reached the object is epiphanised. It is just in this epiphany that I find the third, the supreme quality of beauty.

-Yes? said Cranly absently.

-No esthetic theory, pursued Stephen relentlessly, is of any value which investigates with the aid of the lantern of tradition. What we symbolise in black the Chinaman may symbolise in yellow: each has his own tradition. Greek beauty laughs at Coptic beauty and the American Indian derides them both. It is almost impossible to reconcile all tradition whereas it is by no means impossible to find the justification of every form of beauty which has ever been adored on the earth by an examination into the mechanism of esthetic apprehension whether it be dressed in red, white, yellow or black. We have no reason for thinking that the Chinaman has a different system of digestion from that which we have though our diets are quite dissimilar. The apprehensive faculty must be scrutinised in action.

-Yes …

-You know what Aquinas says: The three things requisite for beauty are, integrity, a wholeness, symmetry and radiance. Some day I will expand that sentence into a treatise. Consider the performance of your own mind when confronted with any object, hypothetically beautiful. Your mind to apprehend that object divides the entire universe into two parts, the object, and the void which is not the object. To apprehend it you must lift it away from everything else: and then you perceive that it is one integral thing, that is a thing. You recognise its integrity. Isn’t that so?

-And then?

-That is the first quality of beauty: it is declared in a simple sudden synthesis of the faculty which apprehends. What then? Analysis then. The mind considers the object in whole and in part, in relation to itself and to other objects, examines the balance of its parts, contemplates the form of the object, traverses every cranny of the structure. So the mind receives the impression of the symmetry of the object. The mind recognises that the object is in the strict sense of the word, a thing, a definitely constituted entity. You see?

-Let us turn back, said Cranly.

They had reached the corner of Grafton St and as the footpath was overcrowded they turned back northwards. Cranly had an inclination to watch the antics of a drunkard who had been ejected from a bar in Suffolk St but Stephen took his arm summarily and led him away.

-Now for the third quality. For a long time I couldn’t make out what Aquinas meant. He uses a figurative word (a very unusual thing for him) but I have solved it. Claritas is quidditas. After the analysis which discovers the second quality the mind makes the only logically possible synthesis and discovers the third quality. This is the moment which I call epiphany. First we recognise that the object is one integral thing, then we recognise that it is an organised composite stru ‘ cture, a thing in fact: finally, when the relation of the parts is exquisite, when the parts are adjusted to the special point, we recognise that it is that thing which it is. Its soul, its whatness, leaps to us from the vestment of its appearance. The soul of the commonest object, the structure of which is so adjusted, seems to us radiant. The object achieves its epiphany.

Having finished his argument Stephen walked on in silence. He felt Cranly’s hostility and he accused himself of having cheapened the eternal images of beauty. For the first time, too, he felt slightly awkward in his friend’s company and to restore a mood of flippant familiarity he glanced up at the clock of the Ballast Office and smiled:

-It has not epiphanised yet, he said.

Hélène Cixous, The Exile of James Joyce

Cixous, Hélène. The Exile of James Joyce. 

“In real life, James became accustomed to insecurity, and probably profited from it in the form of experience to be used artistically; the difficulty of everyday life led him to the building of imaginary replacements” (4). Joyce existed in a “sort of no-man’s-class” (4). (AD: women find inspiration here, also.)

“He becomes attached to himself and gives himself a world from which no father can disinherit him. He sets up a permanent place in a universe over which history has no power, the universe of art and culture. Indeed, it would not be wrong to suppose that even Joyce’s metaphors are responses to the unpleasant nature of real images. Necessity makes him walk, and he is to create a character who dreams of flying. The complete lack of actual space belonging to him is doubtless at the origin of the need for infinite space manifested in the character of the artist” (4). (AD: these are feminine experiences: disinheritance from the Father, embodying Nature’s unpleasant, the complete lack of space belonging to one. Feminine experience breeds feminine writing?)

– also, “as the eldest, it must be he who bears the crushing burden of family responsibility for his father” (7). (AD: this is also a traditionally feminine activity; managing the domestic for the Father)

According to Cixous, family for Joyce means 1) a succession of births and deaths that he must watch and 2) quarreling between men and women (5).

“The family as a unity does not exist in Joyce’s work until Finnegan’s Wake; in Portrait and Ulysses, it appears as a rather cahotic arrangement centred around the father and constantly threatened with collapse” (9). (AD: This seems like a bit of a stretch: nothing is exactly a “unity” in the Wake; it is more coherent at best)

“This decentralization of the family [in Portrait and Ulysses] and this move toward the creation of archetypes (Adam and Eve) constitute the first step toward Finnegan’s Wake” (13).

This is part of Joyce’s “progress toward the universal mean,” or men and women who are no longer individuals but represent “the suppression of all possibility of difference, either by virtue or by vice, by any accidental good luck or misfortune” (13).

Finnegan’s Wake is, according to Cixous, an “archetypal world” (14).

“His vision of the world concerns an un-historicised human race, and his ethical views correspond curiously with the morality of a man trained and influenced by theologians. The city disgusts him, but there are still the people; if he dislikes the people, there i still Man” (16).

Joyce creates “micro-histories” in his novels in order to escape from the actual, disappointing history happening around him (17).

“Joyce finds his place in movement, in a perpetual ‘progress’ which seeks no end because the only end is death and every halt an image of death. The ‘progress,’ in the sense of projection towards the future, is practice, is work (17). (AD: this style may be matrixial insofar as it is un-concentrated (as Cixous later says, polycentral) movement, but may still be phallic insofar as it seems to enact a linear progression forward)

Finnegan as an ark to contain all human myths and types; the world, in its blind lust to seek its own destruction, could wipe itself out, for Finnegan’s Wake had saved its symbols, its notations, and its cultural patterns” (18). (AD: when you smoosh all of them together, though, it becomes illegible to individual myths/types (“polycentral”))

“…the slaughter of ‘literature,’ like a ritual memory…the passage from political murder to sexual aggression” (164).

“The young Joyce’s relations with the language were already charged with sinister overtones, and this may explain the importance he attributes at beginning of his autobiographical meditation to a capture of the world by means of words; this is why the epiphany it exerted an irresistible attraction on the young artist. Phrases petrify into objects, so that he who perceives them can possess and make use of them” (165). (AD: Cixous emphasizes Joyce’s desire to objectify and possess and master words even as he enacts feminine linguistic schema.)

“Far from enmeshing himself in the obscure retreats of sentimentality and being satisfied with the contemplation of a safely protected inner world, he was always in touch, open to the outside world, taking sides and supporting causes” (167). (AD: sounds like Irigaray and ‘radical openness’)

“…his critical essays prior to 1904 are superbly constructed and already pregnant with the aesthetic theories of the mature Joyce” (171). (AD: Cixous constructs his writing as able to access the feminine insofar as it can be pregnant)

“Joyce used to say of himself, quite justly, that he had no imagination, but simply a good memory and the gift of observation, and for him the ‘ineffable’ was the enemy, because Joyce wished to be a writer who said everything” (171). (ADFinnegan’s Wake then is not an ineffable expression, but a deliberate exercise in the effable.)

Strong focus on Joyce as poet rather than novelist–something special about poetry, écriture féminine, (in)effability

– “Poetry is founded on metaphor and its correspondences, and the novel on narrative that follows the order of spatial and temporal contiguities” (633). (AD: Joyce’s work does the former rather than the latter. Wake is a poem.)

“When the emotion has passed, the theoretical man takes up the dreams, and once for all places poetry, the superior form of lyric art, outside, and away from, actuality:

Poetry, even when apparently most fantastic, is always a revolt against artifice, a revolt, in a sense, against actuality. It speaks of what seems fantastic and unreal to those who have lost the simple intuitions which are the tests of reality; and, as it is often found at war with its age, so it makes no account of history…History of the denial of reality, for they are two names for one thing, may be said to be that which deceives the whole world” (173). (AD: poetry and history are at odds; Joyce chooses poetry perhaps not necessarily out of inherent belief in poetry but out of distaste with history. The second paragraph is Joyce’s words, the first Cixous’s.)

Joyce feels that an “impatience” lies at the “origin of the work of art. Art (that is, ‘every method which concerns itself with present things to transform and fashion them in such a way that a quick intelligence may overtake them and reach the profound meaning that is not yet expressed’) must not do any violence to this impatience… [this formulation] is close to the formulation of the ‘epiphany'” (174).

For Joyce, “literature” is interested only in history and historical events while “art” is interested in human nature (175).

Joyce was “treated as a madman or a heretic” (177).

“His horror of the hypocrisy of the flesh, which formed part of his intense need for honesty to himself, was certainly excessive, because it constituted a reply to the excessive denaturing of the human which took place in Ireland…” (180).

“But it was necessary for Ireland to be still the ungrateful old woman who kills her children, for otherwise Joyce might have felt obliged to fight for her cause” (265).

The idea of the “antiportrait”(264)

illegible characters make us question their being entirely.

“He has long considered his fellow-citizens as ‘beingless beings’; and the problem of how a living man could be non-existent, like a dead man, had preoccupied him…” (277).

“Parnell is only a name now, and behind that name there is death; but it is not so simple as that, for it is not merely a matter of Parnell’s being dead and buried, for his name also is dead; and the death of that name has caused the boy Stephen also to ‘wander out of existence.’ In earlier days, at the mere mention of Parnell’s name, Ireland was in turmoil, in action; the name was magic, calling the soul of Ireland to its awakening… He discovers that the Word itself may be mortal, may be reduced to a mere sound, closed, self-contained, and with no more significance than its literal meaning. God is not he who is, but he who speaks, whose word is the infinite space of all men’s dreams” (279).

(in Portrait) “To say, in such a void, ‘I am Stephen Dedalus,’ is simply to register the fact that one has moved one’s tongue and exhaled, that one has experienced the metaphysical anguish of non-existence, and that one knows that no one has listened” (280).

“Joyce was able to establish that the relationship between word and reality, between sound and sense, depended as much on the hearer as on the speaker. The symbol, i.e., the fullness of sense that comes after the actual noise, is fragile, and it is not sufficient merely to speak; in order to exist one must also be received, listened to, understood…

On the sexual level, which in Joyce’s thought must always be present in all metaphysical meditation, the fragility of the symbol and of the fullness of meaning signifies that the man to whom woman does not respond is a mere nothing, scarcely extant at all…. On the aesthetic level, this thinking makes Joyce will all his speaking to be intelligible, since he is so acutely conscious of the need to be read and well, correctly, read. It eventually brings him to the attempt to save his work from death through inaudibility, gradually reducing the distance between the word and its appeal to the senses, and trying, particularly in Finnegan’s Wake, to create a full kind of writing–a language that would be immediately understood and meaningful” (281). (AD: Is Wake then actually meaningful/intelligible? If so, this must be a different kind of intelligence/intelligibility than what we are used to. This is what Joyce thinks will save him in posterity, though.)

“the sympathy Joyce feels for the freely-thinking man dominates his idea of exile–which is simply a necessary condition for the exercise of free thought” (356).

In Portrait, Dedalus attempts to impose order on the universe and delineate his space within it through written words:

“Stephen Dedalus

Class of Elements

Congowes Wood College


County Kildare



The World

The Universe” (361)

“Everyday language has to be seen as artistic substance. Joyce attempts to renew the power of everyday words, in order that the ordinary may be both its banal self and revelatory of something other than its outward appearance; the outer surface has in fact become so worn that it is virtually invisible. This renewal can only be achieved by means of comparison and modification, by the introduction of an element or form that catches the attention. Thus, the banal when placed in a literary context takes on the full force of its vulgarity and plainness…” (600).

“in Finnegan’s Wake, the words themselves contain the meaning carried by an ordinary sentence, while the linear construction of the latter is burst asunder and replaced by a kind of verbal galaxy” (606). (AD: matrixial rather than phallic construction of both argument and text)

“The dream [in Portrait], transcribed without comment, is in fact one of Joyce’s own. The unconscious is allowed to speak, or rather the unconscious produces wordless images; this is a recognition by Joyce of the existence of non-verbal zones, but also an absolute negation of the original definition of ‘epiphany’ as the claritas of an object or emotion” (617).

“Joyce does not hesitate to move from the almost therapeutic rationalism of Aristotle to the mystic experience of the Romantic poet; he finds himself at the other limit of language, on the boundaries of the ineffable, close to that absent but guessed-at word that so charmed the symbolists, and the epiphany comes forth from an ordered mediaeval universe in which everything has its place, meaning, and function, whose imaginary representation could be made into a three-dimensional model. …the artist ‘sees’ the object in such a way that his action is one of possession rather than recognition, and this is at once followed by the extinction of the static light and by a feeling of despair and dispossession” (618).

The epiphany makes its revelation in a language without words; any words that are heard are those the subject attributes to the object. Curiously enough, people stop, as though concretely to carry out that stasis which emotionally corresponds to their recognition of the phenomenon. And the artist’s work is to comprehend the extent and the significance of the scene, to reproduce the sad eloquence of silence and howls. It is as though the dog or the object were expressing the very souls of the passers-by; in their act of recognition there is tacitly a surprised admission of the fact that it is the world that expresses man, and not man who makes the world by his word” (620).

Joyce’s “occult parallel world” and Thoth 631

“This vision in the dark behind closed eyelids is not an isolated one; it fits into a vast network of correspondences which spreads its ramifications out to Finnegan’s Wake, forming a meaningful whole of baroque richness of detail” (659).

“In spite of the establishment of a symbolism which implies the existence of a double reality, language remains an intermediary between subject and object in Portrait, and the ‘other side’ is only project through the subject and then at once given fixed form in prose” (662).

“Language establishes the continuity between the two worlds until Stephen feels himself exiled from the one by excess ugliness and from the other by excess of loneliness. At this point he passes into the third world, that of words, where the streets are sentences and the palace are poems, and the poor quarter are disconnected speeches. This is where what Stephen calls the ‘soul’ resides” (664).

Ulysses is written in a language which is attempting to live by its own phonetic substance and at the same time is written partly in the sickly language of classical literature, which strives to repeat and transmit the same ancient messages of the human mind… After the diagnosis of Ulysses, the only thing to do is to set out again. And Joyce moves on to the world of dream and of the infinity of possibles, playing with an unlimited language which is the only space where one is not required to leave: the only ‘place’ which is truly his own. Here the artist is an outlaw beyond every law, including those of grammar, and he can move around freely, indefinitely, without needing to fear that at the mouth of the labyrinth reality may be lying in wait for him. Finnegan’s Wake is, in short, the final statement of the artist as heretic, and the admission with if one wishes not to be subject to the control of theology, there is only one solution–not to come out, not to be born, to refuse to answer ‘present,’ to refuse to represent the world in the traditional terms which are already dictated by the Divine… ‘Realism,’ from this point of view, is nothing but art obeying the orders of Creation, reciting or quoting from the work of an Other who holds all the copyrights” (672). (AD: accepting logos and logical methods of narrative construction means accepting the Institutions of which logos forms the base. Feminine writing is subversive.)

Ulysses as polyvocality, multiplicity 674

“There is an intellectual order hidden within and beyond the apparent chaos of details” (678). (AD: is the intellectual “order” here necessarily logos-driven, or can there be a feminine “order”?)

“The manner of writing, what Joyce calls the ‘technique,’ depends not on the moment of creation but on the object of the work; writing is intended to be a comprehension of reality, and the form of what is written is a language which resembles the reality, not the writer” (688).


“If we admit that the author of Ulysses … has created his characters and then refined himself out of existence and that his story is built up in a ‘natural’ fashion, according to its own laws, with no point of view indicated for the reader’s guidance, then if the book is to remain a book rather than a filmed documentary we must choose before we read some centre of reference, some character plot, place, or time, which will give a relative meaning to the vast amount of material confronting us. If the hypothesis of the disappearance of the author is set aside, most readres would agree on a number of points–for instance, that Ulysses does not relate one story, and that it has no ‘unity.’ But it has a limited polycentrality, rather than an unlimited formless multiplicity” (696).

“Joyce also tries to replace the imagery common to Western thought, with its implications of a beginning and an end, a here and a there, a past and a present, a self and an other, by a world without history, a continuous world of osmosis. Space is then no longer defined by personal landmarks, and one’s surroundings are not a line separating the known and visible from a beyond which is different and strange. …This is not chaos, but the polycentrality that has replaced egocentricity or theocentricity” (701). (AD: smacks of Irigaray’s diffusion)

“the idea of hierarchy is destroyed by the apparently equal status of all the fragments, just as the establishment of a generalised time present in which future and past are mingled destroys the ideas of development and becoming; and there is no system of values because the pattern of correspondences does not proceed from ‘below’ to ‘above,’ and because its terms are all reversible” (722).

“The world is no longer that space ruled by hierarchy in which the animal functions are inferior to the operations of reason, but rather an horizon made up of chains of insignificant factors” (728).

Finnegan’s Wake, which is not a finite book but an example of this writing that withholds the last word, that is intended to last forever, mouthing a breath that never ceases to be…” (735).

H.D., Notes on Thought and Vision

Doolittle, Hilda. Notes on Thought and Vision.

First sentence: “Three states or manifestations of life: body, mind, over-mind. Aim of men and women of highest development is equilibrium, balance, growth of the three at once” (17).

“All reasoning, norma,, sane and balanced men and women need and seek at certain times of their lives, certain definite physical relationships. …To shun, deny and belittle such experiences is to bury one’s talent carefully in a napkin” (17).

“That over-mind seems a cap, like water, transparent, fluid yet with definite body, contained in a definite space. It is like a closed sea-plant, jellyfish or anemone.  Into that over-mind, thoughts pass and are visible like fish swimming under clear water” (19).

“I first realised this state of consciousness in my head. I visualise it just as well, now, centered in the love-region of the body or placed with a foetus in the body” (19).

“Is it easier for a woman to attain this state of consciousness than for a man? For me, it was before the birth of my child that the jelly-fish consciousness seemed to come definitely into the field or realm of the intellect or brain. Are these jelly-fish states of consciousness interchangeable? Should we be able to think with the womb and feel with the brain? …Vision is of two kinds–vision of the womb and vision of the brain. In vision of the brain, the region of consciousness is above and about the head; when the centre of consciousness shifts and the jelly-fish is in the body…we have vision of the womb or love-vision” (20).

“The majority of dream and of ordinary vision os vision of the womb. The brain and the womb are both centres of consciousness, equally important” (21).

“The love-brain and over-brain are both capable of thought. This thought is vision.

All men have possibilities of developing this vision” (23).

“Memory is the mother, begetter of all drama, idea, music, science or song” (23).

“My sign-posts are not yours, but if I blaze my own train, it may help to give you confidence and urge you to get out of the murky, dead, old, thousand-times explored old world, the dead world of overworked emotions and thoughts. But the world of the great creative artists is never dead” (24).

First you must read and enjoy with  your body, and then try your intellect. Then your over-ind (30-1).

“Yet to understand dung chemically and spiritually and with the earth sense, one must first understand the texture, spiritual and chemical and earth, of the rose that grows from it… If you can not be seduced by beauty, you cannot learn the wisdom of ugliness” (32). (AD: re: the Moderns who are obsessed with ugliness and the disjointedness of the world)

“To accept life–but that is dangerous.

It is also dangerous not to accept life.

To every man and woman in the world it is given at some time or another, in some form or another, to make the choice.

Every man and woman is free to accept or deny life–to accept or reject this questionable gift–this thistle” (39). (re: personal symbology of thistle & serpent)

“This thistle–life, love, martyrdom–leads in the end–must lead in the logical course of events to death, paradise, peace.

That world of death–that is, death to the stings of life, which is the highest life– may be symbolised by the serpent.

The world of vision has been symbolised in all ages by various priestly cults in all countries by the serpent.

In my personal language or vision, I call this serpent a jelly-fish” (40). (there’s the key!)

H.D. v. young scholar: while her vision moves upward (sub-conscious mind, conscious mind, over conscious mind), his moves downward (conscious mind, sub-conscious mind, universal mind)

“The body, I suppose, like a lump of coal, fulfills its highest function when it is being consumed… We cannot have the heat without the lump of coal. Perhaps so we cannot have the spirit without body, the body of nature, or the body of individual men and women” (47-8).

“These jelly-fish, I think, are the ‘seeds cast into the ground.’ But as it takes a man and a woman to create another life, so it takes these two forms of seed, one in the head and one in the body to make a new spiritual birth. I think that is why I saw them as jelly-fish. They are really two flecks of protoplasm and when we are ‘born again,’ we begin not as a child but as the very first germs that grow into a child” (50).

“Probably we pass through all forms of life and that is very interesting. But so far I have passed through these two, I am in my spiritual body a jelly-fish and a pearl. We can probably use this pearl, as a crystal ball is used, for concentrating and directing pictures from the world of vision” (50).

“It is necessary to work, to strive toward the understanding of the over-mind. But once a man becomes conscious of this jelly-fish above his head, this pearl within his skull, this seed cast into the ground, his chief concern automatically becomes his body. Once we become concretely aware of this pearl, this seed, our centre of consciousness shifts. Our concern is with the body” (50-1).

“I image it has often been said that the body is like an oyster and the soul or spirit, a pearl. But today I saw for myself that the jelly-fish over my head had become concentrated… I understood exactly what the Galilean meant by the kingdom of heaven, being a pearl of great price.

Then in the same relation, the body was not a very rare or lovely thing. The body seemed an elementary, unbeautiful and transitory form of life. Yet here again, I saw that the body had its use. The oyster makes the pearl in fact. So the body, with all its emotions and fears and pain in time casts off the spirit, a concentrated essence, not itself, but made, in a sense, created by itself” (51).


Richard Aldington, Death of a Hero

In a letter to Halcott Glover, he writes: “This book is not the work of a professional novelist. It is, apparently, not a novel at all. Certain conventions of form and method in the novel have been erected, I gather, into immutable laws, and are looked upon with quite superstitious reverence. They are entirely disregarded here. To me the excuse for the novel is that one can do any damn thing one pleases” (vii).

“I suppose this is a jazz novel” (viii).

Opener: “The casualty lists went on appearing for a long time after the Armistice–last spasms of Europe’s severed arteries. Of course, nobody  much bothered to read the lists. Why should they? The living must protect themselves from the dead, especially the intrusive dead… a good deal of forgetting had to be done” (3).

“Religious convictions are such an easy excuse for being nasty” (5).

Winterbourne’s cheating mother with her lover:

“They’ve killed hi,m, those vile, filthy foreigners. My baby son.”

Sam Browne, still mystified, read the telegram. He then stood to attention, saluted (although not wearing a cap) and said solemnly:

“A clean sportin’ death, an Englishman’s death” (6).

“So much for George’s father and George’s death. The ‘reactions’ (as they are called) of Mrs. Winterbourne were different. She found it rather exciting and stimulating at first, especially erotically stimulating” (9). .. “The effect of George’s death on her temperament was, strangely enough, almost wholly erotic. The war did that to lots of women. All the dying and wounds and mud and bloodiness–at a safe distance–gave them a great kick, and excited them to an almost unbearable pitch of amorousness. Of course, in that eternity of 1914-18 they must have come to feel that men alone were mortal, and they immortals; wherefore they tried to behave like houris with all available sheiks – hence the lure of ‘war work’ with its unbounded opportunities. And then there was the deep primitive psychological instinct–men to kill and be killed; women to produce more men to continue the process” (11).

“Elizabeth and Fanny were not grotesques. They adjusted themselves to the war with marvelous precision and speed, just as they afterwards adapted themselves to the post-war. They both had that rather hard efficiency of the war and post-war female, veiling the ancient predatory and possessive instincts of the sex under a skillful smoke-barrage of Freudian and Havelock Ellis theories. To hear them talk theoretically was most impressive. They were terribly at ease upon the Zion of sex, abounding in inhibitions, dream symbolism, complexes, sadism, repressions, masochism, Lesbianism, sodomy, etc.Such wise young women, you thought; no sentimental nonsense about them. No silly emotional slip-slop messes would ever come their way. They knew all about the physical problem, and how to settle it. There was the physical relationship and the emotional relationship and the intellectual relationship; and they knew how to manage all three, as easily as a pilot with twenty years; experience brings a handy ship to anchor in the Pool of London. They knew that freedom, complete freedom, was the only solution. The man had his lovers, and the woman had hers. But where there was a ‘proper relationship’ nothing could break it. Jealousy? It was impossible that so primitive a passion could inhibit those enlightened and rather flat bosoms. Female wiles and underhand tricks? Insulting to make such a suggestion. No, men. Men must be ‘free’ and women must be ‘free'” (17)

But then when something goes wrong with Elizabeth’s period and she thinks she’s going to have a baby, she freaks out and makes George marry her. Fertility breeds conservativism in women (18).

“Then there was a blazing row, Elizabeth at George, and then Fanny at George, and then–epic contest–Elizabeth at Fanny. Poor old George got so fed up he went off and joined the infantry” (19). Neither of them even want him. Female fertility drives man to war. Man is the battleground of the female ego. “they only fought for Geroge in a desultory way as a symbol, more to spite each other…” (20).

“Friendships between soldiers during the war were a real and beautiful and unique relationship which has now entirely vanished, at least from Western Europe. Let me at once disabuse the eager-eyed Sodomites among my readers by stating emphatically once and for all that there was nothing sodomitical in these friendships” (23).

“The last batallion buglers blew that soul-shattering, heart-rending Last Post, with its inexorable chains of rapid sobbing notes and drawn-out piercing wails. I admit I did a lot of swallowing those few minutes. You can say what you will against the Army, but they treat you like a gentleman when you’re dead…” (27). (AD: re: Woolf on the pomp of the Army. When you are dead, the Army uses you as an inspirational symbol. Like women do.)

“The death of a hero! What mockery, what bloody cant. What sickening putrid cant. George’s death is a symbol to me of the whole sickening bloody waste of it, the damnable stupid waste and torture of it…George and his death became a symbol to me, and remain a symbol. Somehow or other we have to make these dead acceptable, we have to atone for them, we have to appease them” (28).

“What can we do?…It has got to be something in us. Somehow, we must atone to the dead, the dead, murdered, violently-dead soldiers. The reproach is not from them, but in ourselves. Most of us don’t know it, but it is there, and it poisons us. It is the poison that makes us heartless and hopeless and lifeless–us the war generation and the new generation, too. The whole world is blood-guilty, cursed like Orestes, and mad, and destroying itself, as if pursued by an endless legion of Eumenides. Somehow we must atone, somehow we must free ourselves from the curse–the blood guiltiness… That is why I am writing the life of George Winterbourne, a unit, one human body murdered, but to me a symbol” (29).

George’s creativity stunted in boyhood (by  his mother – not manly enough. Beat out of him also at the institution/the school)

The head of the school “invariably quoted” Rudyard Kipling, “you’ll be a man, my son. It is so important to know how to kill. Indeed, unless you know how to kill you cannot possibly be a Man, still less a Gentleman” (77). This “made a corpse of him” but it is not too high a price to pay to become a “manly gentleman” (77)

“They set out to produce a ‘type of thoroughly manly fellow,’ a ‘type’ which unhesitatingly accepted the prejudices, the ‘code’ put before it, docilely conformed to a set of rules” (81).

“his country did not need his brains, but his blood” (111). (AD: George is less important than his country. People are less important than institutions.)

lovers are like monkeys p 119

“Pre-war London was comparatively sober. Numbers of women did not even drink at all, and cocktails and communal copulation had not then been developed to their present state of intensity” (122).

“Poor Mrs. Shobbe! Her life must have been very unhappy. Her well-off Victorian parents…had given her a good education of travel and accomplishments, and had systematically and gently crushed her. It was chiefly the mother, of course, that abominable mother-daughter “love” which is compact of bullying, jealousy, parasitism and baffled sexuality. With what ghastly pertinacity does a disappointed wife ‘take it out’ on her daughter! Not consciously, of course, but the unconscious cruelty and oppression of human beings seem the most dreadful. To escape, she had married…” (130).

“Oh yes, you’ll get it, as long as that subtle female instinct warns them there is potency in your loins…” (135).


“Most animals hate their mature young” (139) and humans are no different. “The State exploits the love of a man for a woman and his tenderness toward her children–even she may not know whether they’re his or not. And so she’s taught to say: ‘Be careful, step warily, don’t offend any one, remember your first duty is to provide for me and the children…’ with the result that the poor man very soon becomes a member of the infinite army of respectable commuters…” (139).

Nature worship p 145

love is “rather primitive and humiliating” (147)

“Infinite subtlety of females! One must admit they need it” (153).

“Let us abandon these abstruse and arid speculations. …The point is, did George and Elizabeth (consider them for the moment, please, rather as types than individuals) come better prepared to the erotic life than their predecessors, were they more intelligent about it, did they make a bigger mess of things? … Liberty versus Restraint. Wise Promiscuity versus Monogamy” (158). (AD: it appears not, since it drove George to die in the war and drove his women to hate each other.)

Fathers, mothers, babies, conservatism 161

“fewer and better babies” 162

“Maybe we can learn something from the adulteries of others… They had seen in their own homes the dreadful unhappiness and suffering caused by Victorian, and indeed Edwardian, ignorance and domestic dennery and swarming infants, and they reacted violently against it. So far, good . But they failed to see that in the way they went about it, they were merely setting up another tyrrany–the tyrrany of Free Love” (167).

“Alas! With human nature what it is, the love-lives of most people will always alternate between brief periods of happiness and long periods of suffering…we can only look on and sigh at the ruined live; and reflect that men and women might be to each other the great consolation, while in fact they do little but torment each other…” (168).

And yet without lovers “how dreary the world would be” (169).

“Your whole adult life depends on how you deal with the two primitive foes, Hunger and Death” (171). For the “primitive, the proletarian, the common man and woman solution is merely one of quantity” (171).

rape, sex, money p 172-3

“They used their intelligence, they actually used their intelligence before embarking o n a joint sexual experience. That’s the great break in the generations. Trying to use some intelligence in life, instead of blindly following instincts and the collective imbecility of the ages as embodied in social and legal codes” (174).

elizabeth’s pride in deflowering 177

there’s logic in Free Love but George doesn’t really like the idea of Elizabeth actually doing it (179) Theory blinds us to reality, and we stick to theory rather than to what we want out of some sort of painful attempt to supersede ourselves

“And suppose he did deliberately get himself killed, ought we, ought I, to attach any blame to Elizabeth and Fanny? I don’t think so. There were plenty of other things to disgust him with life” (197).

Fertility leads to dementia 199

207 monologue “What right have I to live” when so many others have died? Absurdity of war and guilt on those it leaves. “What right have we to live? And the women?” Even though women worked, they don’t really have a right to live and should feel more guilty about being the one left behind.

“If there is a war,” said George, “it will be a sort of impersonal, natural calamity, like a plague or an earth-quake. But I should think that in their own interests all the governments will combine to avert it…” (224).

227 commoners shouting WE WANT WAR

sexual life is important and we don’t talk about it in the context of the War 229

“Good-bye, Bert. Good-bye, Harry. Good-bye, Tom. Good-bye, Jack. Good-bye” (246). (AD: re: Ophelia)

“I don’t believe the wretched governments really wanted it–they were shoved on by great forces they’re too timid and too unintelligent to control. It’s the superstition of more babies and more bread, more bread and more babies… this is fundamentally a population war–bread and babies, babies and bread. It’s all oddly mixed up with the sexual problem we were battling…” (252). Incredible monologue about “breeding” and the Army breeding.

“Come back whole, or not at all. But how these men love life, how blindly they cling to their poor existences! You wouldn’t think they have much to live for” (260).

Winterbourne happy amongst men who are men, soldiers who are men fighting (263)

the war animal vs the sexual animal (275)

“To be out of the piercing cold wind in the shelter of walls of earth was an immediate relief. Overhead shone the beautiful ironic stars” (282). (AD: beauty can only be absurd in this climate. War is the opposite of the creation of beauty)

“He saw that intellectually he was slowly slipping backwards…He saw that even if he escaped the War he would be hopelessly handicapped in comparison with those who had not served and the new generation which would be on his heels. It was rather bitter” (301).

He incites the goddess to avoid prostitutes/animal sex (307)

“It was too violent a thing to get accustomed to” (310).

“He shaded his eyes more carefully and saw they were ranks and ranks of wooden crosses. Those he could see had painted on them R. I. P.; then underneath was a blank space for the name…Excellent forethought, he reflected as he filled his bucket and his water-bottle; how well this War is organized!” (325).

The war turns Winterbourne from a sensitive child unable to wring a bird’s neck into a man who plays at trying to shoot rats in the barracks and laughs when they explode (339).

“Winterbourne began to feel as if he had made a pact with the Devil, so that other men were always being killed instead” (354).

“A chorus of girls in red pre-war military tunics sang a song about how all the girls love Tommy, kicking up their trousered legs in unison…” (368-9). Women / fertility used as bait to get men to fight wars.

It was an accident of his last name starting with W that he gets put in the battallion he dies in (384). Absurd.

“Something seemed to break in Winterbourne’s head. HE felt he was going mad, and sprang to his feet. The line of bullets smashed across his chest like a savage steel whip. The universe exploded darkly into oblivion” (392).



H. D., End to Torment


“H.D.’s last letters to Pound are signed ‘Dryad,’ the name he had given her when they were young” (vii).

“Pound contrived the school of ‘imagiste’ poetry at least partly to describe the specific qualities of H. D.’s early poems and to help get those poems into print (vii).

“This publication is a project sponsored by the Center for the Study of Ezra Pound and his Contemporaries, in the Beinecke Library of Yale University” (xii). (AD: so it is Pound rather than H.D.-centric)

relationship represented in mythical terms 17

she conceptualizes similarity bw their works 32

“Am I stealing, have I stolen? Is my own magpie nest a manger?” (47).


H. D., The Gift

Introduction written by Perdita Schaeffer, “Unless a Bomb Falls…”

“H. D. needed structure, total privacy, and the strictest schedule. Notebooks laid out in neat piles, pencils sharpened the night before. Everything ready, set to go–unless a bomb fell o the building… the times were ‘disintegrating’–one of her key words” (x).

“Mama–my grandmother–had a talent for painting. She was musical too; she sang in the choir. A fortune-teller predicted that she would have a child who was exceptionally gifted. She withdrew from the competition. She never painted or sang again.

The gifted child was, of course, Hilda. Little Hilda, who had no inkling of it for many years to come. The book is written entirely from a child’s point of view” (xii-xiii).

“The Gift provided escape” (xiv).

Epigraph at the beginning of the text: The brain comes into play, yes, but it is only the tool… the telephone is not the person speaking over it. The dark room is not the photograph. Death and its Mystery, Camille Flammarion (AD: is the telephone the gift? It invades her, it has some sort of autonomy over her)

First sentence: “There was a girl who was burnt to death at the seminary, as they called the old school where our grandfather was principal” (1). (AD: invokes history of witchcraft; smart girls being burnt because they don’t quite fit in with what the grandfathers demand)

“the girl who was burnt to death, was burnt to death in a crinoline. The Christmas tree was lighted at the end of one of the long halls and the girl’s ruffles or ribbons caught fire and she was in a great hoop” (1). (AD: literally killed by her feminine signifiers. Christ tree kills future witch)

“I was the inheritor….I inherited Fanny [who had died and caused some sorts of laughing hysteria] from Mama, from Mamalie, if you will, but I inherited Fanny. Was I indeed, Frances come back? Then I would be Papalie’s own child, for Papalie’s name was Francis; I would be like Mama; in a sense I would be Mama, I would have important sisters, and brothers only as seemly ballast. Why was it always a girl who had died? Why did Alice die and not Alfred? Why did Edith die and not Gilbert? I did not cry because Fanny died, but because I had inherited Fanny. Mama cried (although I had seldom seen her cry) because Fanny died, so Mama had cried. I did not cry. The crying was frozen in me, but it was my own, it was my own crying. There was Alice–my own half-sister, Edith–my own sister, and I was the third of this trio, these three Fates, or maybe Fanny was the third. The gift was there, but the expression of the gift was somewhere else.

It lay buried in the ground” (4).

[Papalie] “He was a minister, he read things out of the Bible, he said I am the light of the world…” (9).

“There were the others before these, who went back to the beginning of America and before America, but…. we were none of us ‘gifted,’ they would say… They didn’t think any of us were marked with that strange thing they called a gift, the thing Uncle Fred had had from the beginning, the thing Papalie (they said) wasn’t sure about, so Uncle Fred was put in a drugstore” (11).

“Mama gave all her music to Uncle Fred, that is what she did. That is why we hadn’t the gift, because it was Mama who started being the musician, and then she said she taught Uncle Fred; she gave it away…she should have waited and given the gift to us. But there were other gifts, it seemed” (12).

“The dog is now a myth, for that reason he appears in dreams, unmistakably and in the most satisfactory manner…

Mythology is actuality, as we now know. The dog…is of course none other than our old friend Ammon-Ra, whose avenue of horned sphinxes runs along the sand from the old landing-stage of the Nile barges to the wide portals of the temple at Karnak. He is Ammon or her is Amen, forever and ever. I want you know he is as ordinary as the cheap lithograph that used to hang in nursery bedrooms” (25). (AD: we can become myth, and myth can become us. There is overlap between the world of myth and mythical ideals & the world of reality and particular instances.)

“We may actually be reminded of our own or a friend’s dog, or we may know that we have seen, in the flesh, the Lion of Saint Mark’s or the Lion of Saint Jerome, or we may recognize our indisputable inheritance, Ammon, Amen from time immemorial, later Aries, our gold-fleece Ram” (26). (AD: golden fleece, searching and searching. Myth to quotidian in next sentence: “Our Ram, however, had not gold fleece…”)

“Men worshipped crocodiles in the days when men’s minds were not more developed than the minds of this row of children.

Papalie is leading them out of Egypt but they do not know that” (27). (Ad: how different is the child-man of the past from the religious now? Men, not women worshipped crocodiles)

“it would be impossible, even if you wanted to, to shut out the ‘thing’ that the fallen pine needles on the table conjured up; there was the moment when it began to happen, when indeed it had happened” (30). (AD: use of vague words like “it,” “that,” “thing”)

“The ‘thing’ was that we were creating. We were ‘making’…As we pressed the tin mold of the lion or the lady into the soft dough, we were like God in the first picture in the Doré Bible who, out of chaos, created Leo or Virgo to shine forever in the heavens. ‘We’ were like that, though we did not know it. Our perception recognized it, though our minds did not define it. God had made a Child, and we children in return now made God; we created Him as He had created us, we created Him as children will, out of odds and ends; like magpies, we built Him a nest of stray bits of silver thread, shredded blue or rose or yellow colored paper; we knew our power. We knew that God could not resist the fragrance of a burning beeswax candle!” (31).

[re: the wild ‘lady’ in the portrait p 38] “There was a picture of Pandora and her box in the Tanglewood Tales that Miss Helen read us, Friday after-noons if we were good, instead of lessons. Pandora let all evil things out of the box, but there was one good thing left; Miss Helen explained it was a myth. The good thing left was hope.

Everything would turn evil in the box but there was hope left, after everything evil had flown out” (39).

She has her father’s hands; physical parity with father. “They said, ‘She is quiet like her father.’ They said, ‘It’s funny the children aren’t gifted with such a brilliant father.’ What was this gift?” (42). (AD: syntactically, the father is part of the non-gift and the disapointment)

mercy has to die when a little girl p 42

Papa’s work is “very important” but nobody understands it. “Some day, I would ask Papa. I did not want to know really. What it was, was that he was separate, he was not really part of this table with the glass balls, with the tinsel paper, with the work-basket, with the paste pot, with the old gilt fir cones that Mama said we could paint over with some new gilt that she would get when she went in to shop in Philadelphia” (43). (aD: absent from domestic home sphere, this is all children register of him. Her father turns the magic of stars into capital, into the patriarch’s right to work and come home to quiet, into a salary, into something the children are barred from)

Mythology embedded in her even without books that her mother gives away: “That was the book, it had gone anyway now; Grimm was the children’s Bible… It was the same kind of thing, it was real. It went on happening, it did not stop” (48).

A serpent crawls into Mama and Papa’s bed and then children come… p 56

“Is it only a boy who may rub the wishing-lamp? I try it on the lamp on the stand in the parlor, but my wish does not happen, so maybe it is only a boy who may have the wish” (57).

The snake springs at her…. feels really traumatic and sexual and oral p 57, 59

“Helen, Hellas, Helle, Helios…” (58) (AD: linguistic alchemy)

witch in the nightmare: “Look at its face if you dare, it is meant to drive you crazy. It is meant to drive you mad so that you fall down in a fit like someone in the Bible and see a light from heaven. It is terrible to be a virgin because a virgin has a baby with God” (60).

“The lamp shining over our heads is the pillar-of-fire, and the snow is the pillar-of-cloud and never, in-time or out-of-time, can such children be lost, for their inheritance is so great. Gilbert must go to France, for Gilbert must inherit the pistol from Papa who was in our Civil War. Harold will inherit the mills and steel and numbers too… Hilda has inherited too much but she cannot let it go. There is the lamppost and the pillar-of-fire, and there is the cloud-by-day, the mystery, and Papa far ahead, a dark shape in the snow” (66). (AD: Harold inherits capitalism; Gilbert death; Hilda the Gift. Mills – pistol – too much. Feminine inheritance is never monetary, physical, practical; she makes her own work. If she didn’t inherit the gift she would have inherited nothing instead of too much. Anything is too much if you are meant for nothing.)

Mamalie had to trick her husband into leaving the secret with her, for the inheritance to be passed on (like Jacob and Esau) (79).

“I am in the word, I am gnadenhuetten the way Mamalie says it, though I do not know what it means… the word is like a beehive, but there are no bees in it now. I am the last bee in the bee hive, this is the game I play. The other bees have gone, that is why it is so quiet. Can one bee keep a beehive alive; I mean, can one person who knows that wunden eiland is a beehive, keep wunden eiland for the other bees when they come back? …but wunden eiland is not a thing you learn, it’s not a thing that anyone can teach you, it just happens” (83).

“Now Mamalie told this story which I did not altogether understand but pieced together afterwards–I mean long afterwards, of course, because the ‘thing’ that was to happen, that was in a sense to join me in emotional understanding, in intuition anyway, to the band of chosen initiates at Wunden Eiland, had not yet happened.

The ‘thing’ that was to happened, happened soon afterwards…I cannot date the time of the thing that happened, that happened to me personally, because I forgot it. I mean it was walled over and I was buried with it. I, the child was incarcerated as a nun might be, who for some sin–which I did not then understand–is walled up alive in her own cell or in some anteroom to a cathedral” (85). (AD: gift comes from a repressed trauma – connected to her father’s injury and perhaps also a sexual trauma; wound of female genitalia)

“Ritual of the Wounds. Christian, who was no mean scholar, glimpsed here a hint in Hebrew or followed a Greek text to its original, and so pieced out the story of the meeting…” (86). (AD: intelligence initiates the gift but then you have to work for it)

“I am sure it is not [Mamalie’s] fault, whatever it is. Maybe she was afraid they would burn her for a witch (like they did at Salem, Massachussetts) if she told them that she could sing Indian songs, though she didn’t know any Indian languages, and that she and her Christian had found out the secret of wunden eiland which, the church had said, was a scandal and a blot.

Maybe it was all shadows and pictures in Mamalie’s mind, maybe there never was a parchment, maybe there never was such a meting at wunden eiland, maybe there never was a wunden eiland ” (89). (AD: either way, it still matters and is still an inheritance, because it takes tangible reality to HD through the inheritance)

“Oh, Mamalie, there is such a lot I want to know…there is Anna von Pahlen, my dear, dear Anna who was Morning Star like the Princess with the nine brothers in the story that was lost, and she had lilies too, like I had a lily, only it was the short stem like a white cup, like a goblet, not like the branch of lilies the Madonna has on Easter cards or Jesus has on Easter cards when He comes out of the tomb” (99).

“Mamalie, don’t go away. Because the thing that will happen, will happen to me this winter…Mamalie wait, there is so much I want to ask you” (99). (AD: women need women foremothers; are often abandoned to figure it out ourselves because if we talk about it we are burned as witches)

Section titled WHAT IT WAS : “it” is inexctricably tied not as much with the ontology of “is” but of “was” ness

“What it was, was not appreciable at the moment. What happened did not take long to happen” (101). (ad: in a poem, we could parse out different units of meaning here: what it was was not, was not appreciable)

“That is not just what I mean, but that is what I mean” (106). (AD: the gift = getting as close as possible to meaning? What she means as a human as well as her words meaning)

gifted child foretold even before marriage: gifted fertility predates male contribution to childbirth (specialized fertility predates man and marriage)

section called “MORNING STAR” fast forward to London with Bryher

“I had learned a trick, lying on my bed, through the closed door, not ten feet away from my right elbow… there would come that moment when I had left myself lying secure and it did not matter what happened to the frozen image of myself lying on the bed, because there was a stronger image of myself; at least I did not see myself, but I was myself, whether with attributes of pure abstraction or of days and in places that had been the surroundings of my childhood…now all the accumulated wealth of being and impression would go down with the ship that was rising and falling” (133). (AD: the gift is traumatic dissociation? Dissociation that unravels self into history?)

alchemy where she transforms into different people and historical situations while remmebering her grandmother p 134-5

“I could visualize the very worst terrors, I could see myself caught in the fall of bricks, and I would be pinned down under a great beam, helpless… I was sick of fanatic courage, my own and that of those about me. We had had too much. The mind, the body is not built to endure so much. We had endured too much. I was tired of it” (136-7).

“It’s not just this raid,” I said, “it’s remembering all the others” (138). (AD: trauma recalls trauma which recalls trauma… her inheritance means that she recalls her own traumas as well as those of her foremothers)

“It had been worthwhile to prove to oneself that one’s mind and body could endure the very worst that life had to offer–to endure–to be able to face this worst of all trials, to be driven down and down to the uttermost depth of subconscious terror and to be able to rise again” (138).




H. D., HERmoine

Doolittle, Hilda. HERmoine. New York: New Directions, 1981.

[Copyright 1981 Perdita Schaeffer]

Introduction by Perdita Schaeffer: “Pandora’s Box”

“It’s all over now, I tell myself… but the past will not leave me alone. It pulls me back and under. It surrounds me. The more remote it may be, the closer the encirclement” (vii).

” ‘Your mother is working.’ In her room, behind a locked door. Funny kind of work; endless silence, followed by a barrage of typing. I wanted to be in that room. I resented being hauled away. I didn’t know what I know now: that small children and literary endeavor do not mix” (viii).

“I had two mothers. My real mother, H.D., who lived on an exceedingly rarefied plane. And her surrogate, Bryher, who took care of reality” (viii).

“Eugenia Gart, Hermoine’s mother. My mother’s mother, not yet my grandmother. The tale is set in an era before I was born. I also met ‘Ezra and the Pound,’ as the impetuous suitor, George Lowndes. And the ‘dangerous’ Frances Gregg, alias Fayne Rabb–the counterpoint of the love story. Not an easy book. IT shifts and jumps, and repeats itself. The voice is frequently overwrought–just like the author’s in real life. Yet there is a strange hypnotic force. I’m caught up in the momentum” (xi).

“Names, people; split dimensions…Hermoine of Greek mythology, daughter of Menelaeus and Helen. Also, most significantly to me, Shakespeare’s misunderstood heroine of The WInter’s Tale, mother of Perdita” (xi).

“I recognize one certainty in my future. I’ll never escape the past” (xi).

First sentence: “Her Gart went round in circles” (3). (AD: The ontology of “Her” is femininity, possession. She calls herself a shortened first name rather than the patronym.)

“I am Her,” she said to herself; she repeated, “Her, Her, Her.” …She cried in her dementia, ‘I am Her, Her, Her.” Her Gart had no word for her dementia, it was predictable by star, by star-sign, by year. But Her Gart was then no prophet” (3).

“She could not see the way out of marsh and bog. She said, ‘I am Hermoine Gart precisely.’ She said ‘I am Hermoine Gart,’ but Her Gart was not that. She was nebulous, gazing into branches of liriodendron, into network of oak and deflowered dogwood… The green that, each spring, renewed her sort of ecstasy, this year had let Her down. She knew that this year was peculiarly blighted. She could not predict the future but she could statistically accept the present. Her mind had been too early sharpened (3). (AD: is “Her” abstracted out into a pronoun for women generally? Is she an exact instance of an archetype?)


Her- me (Italian) – ne (negation)

Her- my – ne (negation)

“Hermoine Gart could not then know that her precise reflection, her entire failure to conform to expectations was perhaps some subtle form of courage” (4).

“She found that ‘I am Her Gart’ didn’t let her hold on. Her fingers slipped off; she was no longer anything. Gart, Gart, Gart and the Gart theorum of mathematical biological intention dropped out Hermoine. She was not Gart, she was not Hermoine, she was not any more Her Gart, what was she?” (4).

“I am Her Gart, my name is Her Gart…Nothing held her, she was nothing holding to this thing: I am Hermoine Gart, a failure” (4). (ADam = name ; ontology = nomination)

“She said, ‘I’m too pretty. I’m not pretty enough.’ She dragged things down to the banality, ‘People don’t want to marry me. People want to marry me I don’t want to marry people.’ She concluded, ‘One has to do something'” (5).

Names are in people, people are in names. Sylvania. I was born here. People ought to think before they call a place Sylvania… I am part of Sylvania… Trees are in people. People are in trees … Pennsylvania had her. She would never get away from Pennsylvania” (5). (AD: naming fertility causes fertility. People, names, nature, fertility all bound up with each other. Concentrating on the Sylvania she forgets Penn, the other name, the colonizer of the Sylvania. His name is also in the trees and in the being of the state. Colonization has something important to do with patronyms and therefore with ontology.)

“She felt herself go out, out into this water substance. Water was transparent, not translucent like this celluloid treestuff. She wanted to see through reaches of sea-wall, push on through transparencies. She wanted to get away, yet to be merged eventually with the thing she so loathed. She did not struggle toward escape of the essential” (7). (AD: sounds like her jellyfish theories in Notes on Thought and Vision).

“Tree walls were visible, were to be extended to know reach of universe. Trees, no matter how elusive, in  the end, walled one in. Trees were suffocation. ‘Claustrophobia’ was a word that Her Gart had not yet assimilated” (7). (AD: trees in people vs. sea in jellyfish. ‘assimilating words’ in order to become part of them and make them part of you.)

“She was not of the world, she was not in the world, unhappily she was not out of the world. She wanted to be out, get out but even as her mind filmed over with grey-gelatinous substance of some sort of nonthinking, of some sort of nonbeing or of nonentity, she felt psychic claw unsheathe somewhere, she felt herself clutch toward something that had no name yet. She clung to small trivial vestiges, not knowing why she so clung. Like a psychic magpie she gathered little unearthed treasures, things she did not want, yet clung to” (8).

“She realized in some atavistic cranny of her numbed brain that she would be herself and at peace if she had that great hound. Jock, breathing in her face, was an ungracious substitute… her instinct was to beat him off as he was not her dog but she saw instantly the inanity of her idea” (10). (AD: mystic ideal vs. actual substance – desire to destroy non-ideal physical counterpoint)

“Her took the short way” (11). (AD: “Her” disrupts the sentence. Her does not fit into linguistic structures; Her looks and sounds just off. Also emphasizes that language is not “Hers.”)

“Her mathematics and her biology hadn’t given her what she dreamed of” (12).

“Demigods were far off…but gods were watching. She had the temerity to boast some sort of odd mind, the sort of thing that, in Philadelphia, could not see cones of light set within cones, as of darkness” (12).

“Her did not realize that the watching-near God had slammed a gate so that she should attain a wider vision. In Philadelphia people did not realize that life went on in varying dimension, here a starfish and there a point of fibrous peony stalk with a snail clinging underneath it… There was a sort of ‘composition’ of elements that her mind, fused to the breaking point, now apprehended… she could put no name to the things she apprehended, felt vaguely that her mother should have insisted on her going on with music… it had not occurred to Her to try and put the thing in writing” (13).

“Words that had not (in Philadelphia) been invented, beat about them: Oedipus complex, inferiority complex, claustrophobia. Words beat and sizzled and a word bent backward like a saw in a sawmill reversed, turned inward, to work horrible destruction. The word ‘father’ as M innie spoke it, reversed itself inward, tore at the inner lining of the thing called Her Gart” (15). (AD: part of the gift is assimilating rather than weaponizing words)

pg 21 they discuss a stillborn child 

“The mind of Her Gart was a patchwork of indefinable association” (24).

“Things make people, people make things… Words beat and formed unformulated syllables. Her didn’t understand Gart and Bertrand and Carl and the acid, acid Minnie that ate into them… call it life so imply. I’m not at home in Gart. I’m not at home out of Gart” (25).

“I am out of the Temple Shakespeare. I am out of The Winter’s Tale. … Lilies of all kinds… I am out of this book… I am the word AUM. Hermoine dropped the volume. This frightened her. God is in a word. God is in a word. God is in HER. She said, ‘HER, HER, HER. I am Her, I am Hermione…I am the word AUM. This frightened her…She tried to forget the word AUM, said ‘UM, EM, HEM,’ clearing her throat, wondered if she had offended something, clearing her throat trying to forget the word… I am the word… the word was with God… I am the word… HER” (32). (AD: Alchemically God becomes female because she is a word that is God and she is female.)

“Hermoine Gart hugged HER to Hermoine Gart. I am HER. The thing was necessary. It was necessary to hug this thing to herself. It was a weight holding her down, keeping her down. Her own name was ballast to her light-headedness” (33). (AD: dissociation between Hermoine, Her, Gart, HER (God-name).)

“There are of course bits of colour to be thrown down like counters in a banking house, or chips across a poker table. All your life you will retain one or two bits of colour with which all your life will be violently or delicately tinted. You will have an infinitesimal grain of purple dye or a flat counter to hoard or to risk in one reckless spend-thrift moment. There are gamblers of the spirit as there are gamblers of the mind, passions of the psyche as well as passions of the body” (52).

[talking with Nellie]

“Your mind seems to have a definite octopus quality. Do you assimilate anything?’ ‘Assimilate?’ her Gart came to as from an anesthetic… Her words now were a gambler’s heritage, heady things, they would win for her, they would lose for her. Now as she realized that these very words must stand forever, her counters win or lose…” (62). (AD: is the gift of the jellyfish to not assimilate? Or is the octopus distinct from the jellyfish? Does Nellie get uncomfortably close to but not quite reach the jellyfish metaphor? Does the magpie assimilate or simply associate? Does the magpie-jellyfish create an assimilated cohesion or simply express the confusion of naming?)

“She wanted George as a child wants a doll, whose other dolls are broken. She wanted George as a little girl wants to put her hair up or to wear long skirts. She wanted George with some uncorrelated sector of Her Gart, she wanted George to correlate for her, life here, there. She wanted George to define and to make definable a mirage, a reflection of some lost incarnation, a wood maniac, a tree demon, a neuropathic dendrophil” (62). (AD: she wants a man, a heteronormative relationship with a man, in order to help her assimilate/ create cohesion?)

“George was the only young man who had ever kissed Her. George was the only person who had called her a ‘Greek goddess.’ George, to be exact, had said ruminatively on more than occasion, ‘You never manage to look decently like other people. You look like a Greek goddess or a coal scuttle.’ …There was that about George, he wanted to incarnate Her, knew enough to know that this was not Her.” (64).

“George was out of the Famous Painters’ Volume… George was made. He tricked up the George that was there all the time, in harlequin words, harlequin language. Was George made? Was there a George at all? ‘Is there a George at all?’

‘You’re nothing, George. I mean precisely nothing'” (69).

“Tree on tree on tree. TREE. I am the Tree of Life. Tree. I am a tree planted by the rivers of water. I am… I am… Her exactly.

Her caught Her to herself, swirled dynamically on flat heels and was off down the trickle of earth-colour that was the path cutting earth-colour through green pullucid water” (70). (AD: linguistic alchemy. Physical trees to the sign/signifier TREE to the Tree of Life (garden of Eden; man/woman) to the Psalms, to ontology, to her own being.)

“Hermoine let octopus-Hermoine reach out and up and with a thousand eyes regard space and distance and draw octopus arm back, only to replunge octopus-arm up and up into illimitable distance” (71). (AD: The saying she is like an octopus makes her like an octopus, creates Octopus-Hermoine. The many eyes and many reaching elements part of the Gift.)

“I am in the word TREE. I am TREE exactly… George could never love a tree properly” (73).

“Her mind, could she have so formulated thought, would have conceded: I have tasted words, I have seen them. Never had her hands reached out in darkness and felt the texture of pure marble, never had her forehead bent forward and, as against a stone altar, felt safety, I am now saved. Her mind could not then so specifically have seen it, could not have said, ‘Now I will reveal myself in words, words may now supercede a scheme of mathematical-biological definition. Words may be my heritage and with words I will prove conic sections a falsity and the very stars that wheel and frame concentric pattern as mere very-stars, gems put there, a gift, a diadem, a crown, a chair, a cart or a mere lady. A lady will be set back in the sky. It will be no longer Arcturus and Vega but stray star-spume, star sprinkling from a wild river, it will be myth; mythopoeic mind (mine) will disprove science and biological-mathematical definition.

She did not think this for her mind was too astonished to perceive how she could turn, perceive as a mirror the whole of the fantasy of the world reversed and in that mirror a wide room opening” (76).

“I am a tree. TREE is my new name out of the Revelations. He shall have a new name… written on his forehead. The mark of the beast. I have the mark of the beast” (82). (AD: Being re-named marks you as Satan, as the beast from the end times. Satan marks her nature, fertile, female. What does it mean to be marked by Satan?)

“George doesn’t know what trees are… Herself, branch wilted, repeated this, ‘George doesn’t know what I am.'” (84).

Mother prattles about having a baby in unrelated circumstance: 89

[George] “never tells me what to say. I never say anyhow what anyone ever tells me to say” (95).

George/Ezra calls her “hamadryad” 107

“I am Hermoine Gart and will be Hermoine Lowndes…. it wasn’t right. People are in things, things are in people. I can’t be called Lowndes” (112). (AD: objection to the patronym because she understands fully that naming is ontology and the owner of the names is the owner of the person)

“Some plants, some small water creatures give a sort of jellyfish sort of birth by breaking apart, by separating themselves from themselves.’ George’s kisses stopped her. ‘Oh God, hamadryad, forget all that rot'” (118).

“Undine was not her name, would never be her name, for Undine (or was it the Little Mermaid?) sold her sea-inheritance and Her would never, never sell this inheritance, this sea-inheritance of amoeba little jellyfish sort of living creature separating from another creature… sold her glory for feet…I will not sell my glory” (120). (AD: the jelly-fish way of thinking predicated on acts of separation (things from names, women from men). How does this work with assimilation and linking together?)

“well-bred” 122

discussion of maternity 145

all these children are terrible and tragic 157-8

“Things are not agacant now I know her. I know her. Her. I am Her. She is Her. Knowing her, I know Her. She is some amplification of myself like amoeba giving birth, by breaking of, to amoeba. I am a sort of mother, a sort of sister to Her” (158, about Fayne)

witchcraft 165

George says “your melic chorosos aren’t half so bad as simply rather rotten” (167).

“I am not playing false to George, not false to Fayne. I am playing false to Her, to Her precisely. Her became an external objectified self, a thin vibrant and intensely sincere young sort of unsexed warrior. The Hermoine that sat there, thought patronizingly of that Her as from an endless distance” (187).

George tells her “don’t always talk such nonsense.” She says “it wasn’t what she said. It was the way she said it” (193).

“I should give away Her but I keep Her out of some outworn sense of old association. Paints worn thin with holes in the middle. I don’t want Her. I am tired of Her…” (195).

“You had only to address it by its name and it would do anything. Remove mountains” (200).

When Hermoine is ill, the physical illness makes her subconscious speech explode into the exterior, and she talks without cease (~210).

George says she is “heartless” (219). “Heartless means without a hear.t Less a heart. Hermoine. Less-a-heart. What is Hermione less-a-heart? Hermoine heartless is this thing. Tossed like a winter branch on a snow bed. I am Hermoine stripped of blossoms… you are essentially feminine, said George Lowndes, dance and dance for you make me feel like a devil.

I was not what George wanted. He wanted fire to answer his fire…” (219).

[the forests] “were virginal for one purpose, for one Creator. Last summer the Creator had been white lightning brandished against blackness. Now the creator was Her’s feet, narrow black crayon across the winter whiteness” (223).

“this will be y marriage. The thought sustained her” (234). (this = her trousseau, so she can go work)









Willa Cather, My Àntonia

Cather, Willa. My Àntonia. Norton. 1918, 2015.

Sharon O’Brien, Introduction

“Was Jim Burden necessary as a male narrator because Cather, as a lesbian writer,w as prevented by her culture from having a female narrator express an enduring preoccupation with another woman? Was Jim a mask for a lesbian consciousness? Or did he signify a patriarchal gaze, imposing a reductive vision on Àntonia by ultimately viewing her as a fertile Earth Mother?” (xix).


Cather sets up in the Introduction that she, the writer, is retelling to us the story found in a manuscript by a childhood friend, Jim Burden, who is the narrator of the manuscript that we read. We find out that Jim’s wife “is handsome, energetic, executive, but to me seems impressionable and temperamentally incapable of enthusiasm. Her husband’s quiet tastes irritate her, I think, and she finds it worth while to play the patroness to a group of young poets and painters of advanced ideas and mediocre ability. She has her own fortune and lives her own life. For some reason, she wishes to remain Mrs. James Burden” (7). (AD: This woman is, in other words, fundamentally unfeminine. Why are we given this information about Mrs. Burden? Perhaps to drive us to see Jim as unfulfilled by womanhood in ways that drive him to idealize and think about Antonia as an earth mother.)

Book I

“There was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made. No, there was nothing but land–slightly undulating, I knew, because often our wheels ground against the brake… Between that earth and that sky I felt erased, blotted out. I did not say my prayers that night: here, I felt, what would be would be” (12). (AD: the country is tautology, it is tradition, it is what is, it is conservative in that it is an ideal that stays stagnant. Antonia, and her maternity, is part of this and constitutes it.)

[Fuchs the farmhand… sounds like “Fuck”] “He got out his ‘chaps’ and silver spurs to show them to Jake and me, and his best cowboy boots, with tops stitched in bold design– roses, and true-lover’s knots, and undraped female figures. These, he solemnly explained, were angels” (14). (AD: reproductive woman is religion (but not God: not that powerful.) nature/beauty/flower, love, and nude women.)

“Queer little red bugs came out and moved in slaw squadrons around me. Their backs were polished vermillion, with black spots. I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep” (17). (AD: conservative roles, being part of a great, symbolic family, are happiness, but also lead one to torpor/sleep/death)

Antonia’s father pleads “te-e-ach, te-e-ach my Antonia!”(21). The Father is the first to call her “my,” claiming her in order to give her away.

He begins to call her Tony, which strips her of her european identity and rebrands her as his by renaming her. (25).

“Much as I liked Àntonia, I hated a superior tone that she sometimes took with me. She was four years older than I, to be sure, and had seen more of the world; but I was a boy and she was a girl, and I resented her protecting manner. Before the autumn was over she began to treat me more like an equal and defer to me in other things than reading lessons. This change came about from an adventure we had together” (29). (he kills a big snake)

“He had twelve rattles, but they were broken off before they began to taper, so I insisted that he must once have had twenty-four. I explained to Àntonia how this meant that he was twenty-four years old, that he must have been there when white men first came, left on from buffalo and Indian times. As I turned him over I began to feel proud of him, to have a kind of respect for his age and size. He seemed like the ancient, eldest Evil” (31). (AD: 24 is reproductive age; the ancient, eldest Evil is in fact the snake and this scene re-peats and re-imagines the Garden scene. Rather, it portrays the popular imagination’s image of Christ’s descendants stomping the head of the Devil that woman invoked, and asserting both his godlikeness and his power and her submissive passivity to that power. However:)

“So in reality it was a mock adventure; the game was fixed for me by chance, as it probably as for many a dragon-slayer. I had been adequately armed by Russian Peter; the snake was old and lazy; and I had Àntonia beside me, to appreciate and admire… I had killed a big snake–I was now a big fellow” (32). (AD: It is entirely by chance, in fact, that it is Jim and not Tony who kills the snake – we know she is strong and equally capable. The fact of this scene, however, asserts the gender dynamic that both must accept for the rest of their lives. It is by chance, but it is written in stone.)

“For Antonia and me, the story of the wedding party was never at an end. We did not tell Pavel’s secret to any one, but guarded it jealously–as if the wolves of the Ukraine had gathered that night long ago, and the wedding party been sacrificed, to give us a painful and particular pleasure” (37). (AD: The two Russian men are chased from Russia because, when chased by a pack of wolves at a friend’s wedding, they throw the bride to the wolves to lessen the weight of the sled because the dogs are tired. This haunts them wherever they go. Unconsummated feminine fertility is sacrificed, and this is both socially unacceptable and deeply satisfying to the man who gets to control it. Also, the story is never at an end because woman is constantly being sacrificed to man. This is the dynamic created by man’s random killing of the snake.)

“Our lives centered around warmth and food and the return of the men and night-fall” (39).

Fuchs tells a story about how a pregnant woman on a ship with him delivered not one but three babies. “This event made Fuchs the object of undeserved notoreity, since he was traveling with her. The steerage stewardess was indignant with him, the doctor regarded him with suspicion… The husband, in Chicago, was working in a furniture factory for modest wages, and when he met his family at the station he was rather crushed by the size of it. He, too, seemed to consider Fuchs in some fashion to blame” (40-1). (Fertility out of control. Someone has to be to blame. Oddly, it’s the men and not the woman. Woman seen as so out of control of her own body and fertility that a man must have been the agent here.)

The tree in their yard “became the talking tree of the fairy tale; legends and stories nestled like birds in its branches. Grandmother said it reminded her of the Tree of Knowledge” (48). (This not only links the fable of his childhood with Antonia to the Biblical tale and the instantiation of gender roles, but the biblical tale to a “fairy tale.”)

Book II

“Before I knew Lena, I thought of her as something wild, that always lived on the prairie, because I had never seen her under a roof… [she] kept a miraculous whiteness which somehow made her seem more undressed than other girls who went scantily clad” (86).


“Maybe you lose a steer and learn not to make somethings with your eyes at married men,” Mrs. Shimerda told her hectoringly.

Lena only smiled her sleepy smile. ‘I never made anything to him with my eyes. I can’t help it if he hangs around, and I can’t order him off. It ain’t my prairie” (89). (AD: and space is not hers to claim or to push men off.)

Winter comes. “All those frivolities of summer, the light and shadow, the living mask of green that trembled over everything, they were lies, and this is what was underneath. This is the truth. It was as if we were being punished for loving the loveliness of summer” (91). (AD: Also mirrors both life stages and the progression of woman into Antonia’s type of haggard maternity)

The “Negro Music scene” p 98+ he “couples” with the instruments

“Physical exercise was thought rather inelegant for the daughters of well-to-do families…When one danced with them their bodies never moved inside their clothes; their muscles seemed to ask but one thing–not to be disturbed… The country girls were considered a menace to the social order. Their beauty shone out too boldly against a conventional background. But anxious mothers need have felt no alarm. They mistook the mettle of their sons. The respect for respectability was stronger than any desire in Black Hawk youth” (102-3).

The three Marys were “considered as dangerous as high explosives” (104).

Jim chastises Tony: “I thought you liked children. Tony, what’s come over you?”

“I don’t know, something has… A girl like me has got to take her good times when she can…” (106).

Mrs. Cutter is a shrewd, argumentative, unfeminine woman: “I have found Mrs. Cutters all over the world; sometimes founding new religions, sometimes being forcibly fed–easily recognizable, even when superficially tamed” (109).

“she was, oh, she was still my Antonia!…I knew where the real women were, though I was only a boy; and I would not be afraid of them, either!” (114).

“One dream I dreamed a great many times, and it was always the same. I was in a harvest-field full of shocks, and I was lying against one of them. Lena Lingard came across the stubble barefoot, in a short skirt, with a curved reaping-hook in her hand, and she was flushed like the dawn, with a kind of luminous rosiness all about her. She sat down beside me, turned to me with a soft sigh and said, ‘Now they are all gone, and I can kiss you as much as I like.’ I used to wish I could have this flattering dream about Antonia, but I never did” (114).

“As I sat down to my book at last, my old dream about Lena coming across the harvest field in her short skirt seemed to me like the memory of an actual experience. It floated before me on the page like a picture, and underneath it stood the mournful line: Optima dies… prima fugit.” (133).

“Lena was at least a woman, and I was a man” (135). (AD: “at least” – “at base”)

Lena rejects traditional womanhood and refuses to marry anyone, even Jim. She doesn’t want to be under anyone’s thumb or bear children. (142-3). This makes Jim uncomfortable, but her reasons make sense to the reader. “Lena gave her heart away when she felt like it, but she kept her head for her business and had got on in the world” (145).

Tiny also makes a lot of money creating a boarding house for itinerant workers and does not marry nor have children. She and Lena live together and complement each other with business acumen and wealth.

Meanwhile, Antonia runs off to be married to a man who promises to care for her and who subsequently dumps her. She returns home disgraced and pregnant, but still proud. Says her brother Ambrosch to Jim, “Antonia is a natural-born mother. I wish she could marry and raise a family, but I don’t know as there’s much chance now” (155).

Antonia “asked me whether I had learned to like big cities. ‘I’d always be miserable in a city. I’d die of lonesomeness. I like to be where I know every stack and tree, and where all the ground is friendly. I want to live and die here. Father Kelly says everybody’s put into this world for something, and I know what I’ve got to do. I’m going to see that my little girl has a better chance than ever I had… I told her I knew she would. ‘Do you know, Antonia, since I’ve been away, I think of you more often than of any one else in this part of the world. I’d have liked to have you for a sweetheart, or a wife, or my mother or my sister – anything that I woman can be to a man. The idea of you is a part of my mind; you influence my likes and dislikes, all my tastes, hundreds of times when I don’t realize it. You really are a part of me” (156). (AD: insofar as she represents generic womanhood, Eve domesticated.)

When Jim decides to visit Tony, he is told that she has ten or eleven nice children and “somehow it’s just right for Tony” (160).

When Jim tells her he has no children “she seemed embarrassed” (163). She had not “lost of fire of life” (163).

These are “Cuzak’s boys,” as the section title flippantly indicates, not Antonia’s. There are also, you know, female children, but Jim bonds with the boys.

Antonia says, “Ever since I’ve had children, I don’t like to kill anything. It makes me kind of faint to wring an old goose’s neck. Ain’t that strange, Jim?’

“I don’t know. The young Queen of Italy said the same thing once…”

“Then I’m sure she’s a good mother,” Antonia said warmly.” (166).

Antonia’s husband says “my woman is got such a warm heart. She always make it as good for me as she could. Now it ain’t so bad; I can begin to have some fun with my boys, already!” (176). Such as dancing at the fairs while Antonia stays at home with her children. Good thing she insisted on going to the fairs as a girl.

Final passage: “The feelings of that night were so near that I could reach out and touch them with my hand. I had the sense of coming home to myself, and of having found out what a little circle man’s experience is. For Antonia and for me, this had been the road of Destiny; had taken us to those early accidents of fortune which predetermined for us all that we can ever be. Now I understood that the same road was to bring us together again. Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past” (179). (AD: But it was the Adam and Eve scene, and theirs, that set them on this path. Their gender roles. Is this accidents or predetermined? He seems more blasé about this because he is able to do so from his masculine position of power.)

Gelfant, Blanche H. “The Forgotten Reaping-Hook: Sex in My Antonia.” American Literature 43.1 (1971): 60-82.

“[Jim] was afraid of growing up, afraid of women, afraid of the nexus of love and death. He could love only that which time had made safe and irrefragable – his memories. They revolve not, as he says, about the image of Antonia, but about himself as a child. When he finds love, it seems to him the safest kind–the narcissistic love of the man for himself as a boy” (370).

Desire and fear “contend with one another.” The image of Lena in the field is “a surreal image of Aurora and the Grim Reaper as one” (371).

Jim sets the image of Lena against pages of poetry that deal with cattle breeding, quoting the Georgics: “So, while the herd rejoices in its youth / Release the males and breed the cattle early,/ Supply one generation from another. / For mortal kind, the best day passes first” (373).

“At best, marriage has dubious value in Cather’s fiction. IT succeeds when it seems least like marriage, when it remains sexless, or when sex is only instrumental to procreation. Jim accepts Antonia’s marriage for its ‘special mission’ to bring forth children. Why doesn’t he take on this mission? He celebrates the myth of creation but fails to participate” (376).

“Antonia’s illegitimate pregnancy brutalizes her even more than heavy farmwork. Her punishment for sexual involvement–and for the breezy pleasures of courtship–is thoroughgoing masculinization. Wearing ‘a man’s long overcoat and boots, and a man’s felt hat,’ she does ‘the work of a man on the farm,’ plows, herds cattle. Years later, as Cuzak’s wife, her ‘inner glow’ must compensate for the loss of her youthful beauty, the loss, even, of her teeth. Jim describes her finally as ‘a stalwart, brown woman, flat-chested, her curly brown hair a little grizzled’–his every word denuding her of sensual appeal” (378).

Antonia “belongs” to the farm and the earth. “Though she marries, Cuzak is only the instrument of Antonia’s special mission. Through him she finds a self-fulfillment that excludes him. Through her, Jim hopes to be stored to himself” (383).

Rosowski, Susan J. “Pro/Creativity and a Kinship Aesthetic.” From Birthing a Nation: Gender, Creativity, and the West in American Literature (Lincoln:  University of Nebraska Press, 1999) 80-92. As in Norton Critical My Antonia.

Rosowski claims that “Willa Cather sent Adam packing and claimed paradise for women, restoring to them a psychosexual identification with nature and appropriating for them the promise of nature’s wildness. Rather than writing about a virgin land waiting to be despoiled, Cather conceived of the West as a female nature slumbering, awakening, and roaring its independence” (438). (AD: eh. I’m not sure about this.)

“By structuring her novel around images of birth, Cather evoked traditional mythologies of cosmogony and parturition, then revised those traditions as she created her birth of a nation” (438).

“Earth caves may suggest to Jim a frightening descent into a secret, sealed, womblike space closely associated with death, but Antonia presents another view: ‘I like for sleep there,’ she insists, ‘this is warm like the badger hole’. Her description echoes not only emergence myths generally…” (439).

“Tensions is inevitable when a fertility goddess from emergence myth is transplanted into Protestant Black Hawk, and Black Hawk responds by tightening its constrictions upon Antonia until, following her lover to Denver, she disappears from the text” (440).

“By Cather’s account, however, the Earth Mother tradition is no imprisonment to earth, no secret and sealed space. Instead the nurturing womb is liberated and celebrated, fertility goddess and Earth Mother restored into a birth myth for the New World” (441). (AD: except that Antonia cannot go to the dances or do what she wants to do; she is tied to her children and to the farm.)

Jim “distinguishes himself from that tradition” of Judeo-Christian classical logical rhetoric, recognizing that “he ‘should never lose himself in impersonal things,’ and he acknowledges an alternative idea of memory for which he uses language of conception, gestation, and quickening” (444).

“Rather than speaking only through a man, Lena speaks for herself, and rather than submitting to a relationship of dominance and possession, she invites equality in friendship. Jim’s expectations are the familiar ones of the male poet to ‘his’ Muse: he feels himself possessed, perceives the encounter as sexual, and assumes her dependency upon him. What Lena offers to him, however, is an alternative to such conventional notions of creativity. Her self-possession contrasts comically to Jim’s assumptions that because she lives alone, she is lovely; that by visiting her in her room, he will compromise her; and that because she is unattached to a man, she wishes to marry” (445-6).

“Jim goes to see a midwife for the re-visioning necessary to break the silence surrounding birth. Rhetoric and ritual signal that this is no ordinary visit… This scene is a ritual supplication of youth to age, quester to oracle” (446-7).

“In telling a woman’s version of procreativity, Cather’s midwife releases birth from teh secrecy that had enshrouded it, thereby setting in motion the powerful symbolic processes by which a birth story will become a national epic. By the Widow Steavens’s account, rather than suffering the punishment inherited from a fallen Eve, Antonia gave birth without confinement and apparently without pain (‘without calling to anybody, without a groan, she lay down on the bed and bore her child’) rather than affirming a male line, she gave birth to a daughter; and rather than suffering shame over her child, ‘she loved it from the first as dearly as if she’d had a ring on her finger” (447). (AD: but: this isn’t real birth. Instead it affirms a less messy type of procreation in which men aren’t bothered by the real screams of real women in pain that they have caused.)






Willa Cather, On Writing

Cather, Willa. On Writing. Knopf: 1920, 1962.

“The Room Beyond” by Stephen Tennant, intro to volume.

“Willa Cather’s greatness is never more in evidence than when she damns! It interests her only for the sake of truth. And her warm and compelling accents almost belie the censure of her words. She flashes such a strong and benignant glance over the gold-veined rocks of this sere mining country–where only gold is mined, at the price of all else–that it is difficult to realize fully how destructive her words are” (xvii).

Letter to the Editor of The Commonweal on Death Comes for the Archbishop:

“What I got from Father Machebeuf’s letters was the mood, the spirit in which they accepted the accidents and hardships of a desert country, the joyful energy that kept them going. To attempt to convey the hardihood of spirit one must use language a little stiff, a little formal, one must not be afraid of the old trite phraseology of the frontier. Some of those time-worn phrases I used as the note from the piano by which the violinist tunes his instrument. Not that there was much difficulty in keeping the pitch” (10).

“Knowledge that one hasn’t got first-hand is a dangerous thing for a writer, it comes too easily!” (11).

“I am amused that so many of the reviews of this book begin with the statement: ‘This book is hard to classify.’ Then why bother? Many more assert vehemently that it is not a novel. Myself, I prefer to call it a narrative. In this case I think that term is more appropriate. But a novel, it seems to me, is merely a work of imagination in which a writer tries to present the experiences and emotions of a group of people by the light of his own. That is what he really does, whether his method is ‘objective’ or ‘subjective.” (12-13).

Letter to Governor William Cross on Shadows on the Rock 

“Surely you’ll agree with me that our writers experiment too little, and produce their own special brand too readily” (17).

“Escapism” : A letter to The Commonweal 

“You were asking me what I thought about a new term in criticism: the Art of ‘Escape.’ Isn’t the phrase tautological? What has art ever been but escape? To be sure, this definition is for the moment used in a derogatory sense, implying an evasion of duty, something like the behaviour of a poltroon. When the world is in a bad way, we are told, it is the business of the composer and the poet to devote himself to propaganda and fan the flames of indignation.

But the world has a habit of being in a bad way from time to time, and art has never contributed anything to help matters–except escape. Hundreds of years ago, before European civilization had touched this continent, the Indian women in the old rock-perched pueblos of the Southwest were painting geometrical patterns on the jars in which they carried water up from the streams. Why did they take the trouble?…the potters experimented with form and colour to gratify something that had no concern with food and shelter. The major arts (poetry, painting, architecture, sculpture, music) have a pedigree all their own. They did not come into being as a means of increasing the game supply or promoting tribal security. They sprang from an unaccountable predilection of the one unaccountable thing in man” (18-19).

[what artists are told is that] “the one really important thing for every individual is his citizenship, his loyalty to a cause–which, of course, always means his loyalty to a party. the composer should be Citizen Beethoven, the painter Citizen Rembrandt, the poet Citizen Shelley, and they should step into line and speed their pen or brush in helping to solve the economic problems which confront society” (21).

“Nearly all the Escapists in the long past have managed their own budget and their social relations so unsuccessfully that I wouldn’t want them for my landlords, or my bankers, or my neighbors. They were valuable, like powerful stimulants, only when they were left out of the social and industrial routine which goes on every day all over the world. Industrial life has to work out its own problems.

Give the people a new word, and they think they have a new fact. The pretentious-sounding noun Escapist isn’t even new” (21).

“But doesn’t the new social restlessness spring from a desire to do away with the exceptional? And isn’t this desire partly the result of thwarted ambitions? Eighteen or twenty years ago there were graduated from our universities a company of unusually promising men, who were also extravagantly ambitious. The world was changing, and they meant to play a conspicuous part in this change…They were to bring about a renaissance within a decade or so. Failing in this, they made a career of destroying the past. The only new thing they offered us was contempt for the old” (24-5). (AD: She’s talking about the Modernists.)

“Is this a natural, unprejudiced way to study history? What does it lead to? Nothing very worthy. And what it comes from is less worthy still.

Some of these iconoclasts and tomb-breakers were undoubtedly sincere. They attacked the old popular heroes in a spirit of dreary hopelessness rather than with a disgust bred of the chagrin from disappointed ambitions. The false past must be destroyed, they said, before the new and the true can be born.

Not at all: spare yourselves that disagreeable duty. Give us a new work of genius of any kind, and if it is alive, and fired with some more vital feeling than contempt, you will see how automatically the old and false makes itself air before the new and true” (26). (AD: what would she say about someone like Eliot who, unlike Pound, attempts to preserve, or at least formulate a useful relationship to, the past in his work?)

“Religion and art spring from the same root and are close kin. Economics and art are strangers” (27).

“The literary radicals tell us there must be a new kind of poetry. There will be, whenever there is a new poet–a genuine one. The thesis that no one can ever write a noble sonnet on a noble theme without repeating Wordsworth, or a mysteriously lovely lyric without repeating Shelley, is an evasion. As well argue that because so many thumb-prints have already been taken, there must be a new method of identification” (28).

“So far, the effort to make a new kind of poetry, ‘pure poetry,’ which eschews (or renounces) the old themes as shop-worn, and confines itself to regarding the grey of a wet oyster shell against the sand of a wet beach through a drizzle of rain, has not produced anything very memorable: not even when the workmanship was good and when a beat in the measure was unexpectedly dropped here and there with what one of the poet’s admirers calls a ‘heart-breaking effect.’ Certainly the last thing such poetry should attempt is to do any heart-breaking” (28).

“As Mary Colum remarked in the Yale Review: ‘The people who talk about the art of escape simply know nothing about art at all.’ At all, I echo!” (29).

“The Novel Démeublé”

“The novel, for a long while, has been over-furnished. The property-man has been so busy on its pages, the importance of material objects and their vivid presentation has been so stressed, that we take it for granted whoever can observe, and can write the English language, can write a novel. Often the latter qualification is considered unnecessary.

In any discussion of the novel, one must make it clear whether one is talking about the novel as a form of amusement, or as a form of art; since they serve very different purposes and in very different ways. One does not wish the egg one eats for breakfast, or the morning paper, to be made of the stuff of immortality. The novel manufactured to entertain great multitudes of people must be considered exactly like a cheap soap or a cheap perfume, or cheap furniture. Fine quality is a distinct disadvantage in articles made for great numbers of people who do not want quality but quantity, who do not want a thing that ‘wears,’ but who want change,–a succession of new things that are quickly threadbare and can be lightly thrown away…. Amusement is one thing; enjoyment of art is another” (35-6).

“…the most trivial of writers often have a very good observation. Mérimée said in his remarkable essay on Gogol: ‘L’art de choisir parmi les innombrables traits que nous offre la nature est, après tout, bien plus difficile que celui de les observer avec attention et de les rendre avec exactitude” (37).

in Tolstoi and Balzac, the descriptive quality is both appropriate and excellent because “the clothes, the dishes, the haunting interiors of those old Moscow houses, are always so much a part of the emotions of the people that they are perfectly synthesized…” (39-40).

“If the novel is a form of imaginative art, it cannot be at the same time a vivid and brilliant form of journalism” (40).

“The novelist must learn to write, and then he must unlearn it; just as the modern painter learns to draw, and then learns when utterly to disregard his accomplishment, when to subordinate it to a higher and truer effect. In this directly only, it seems to me, can the novel develop into anything more varied and perfect than all the many novels that have gone before” (41). (AD: Modernism tries to overstep the learning section? Again, what do we do with Eliot’s ‘Tradition & Individual Talent’?)

“Whatever is felt upon the page without being specifically named there–that, one might say, is created. It is the inexplicable presence of the thing not named, of the overtone divined by the ear but not heard by it, the verbal mood, the emotional aura of the fact or the thing or the deed, that gives high quality to the novel or the drama, as well as to poetry itself” (42).

“A novel crowded with physical sensations is no less a catalogue than one crowded with furniture” (42).

“How wonderful it would be if we could throw all the furniture out of the window; and along with it, all the meaningless reiterations concerning physical sensations, all the tiresome old patterns, and leave the room as bare as the stage of a Greek theatre, or as that house into which the glory of Pentecost descended; leave the scene bare for the play of emotions, great and little–for the nursery tale, no less than the tragedy, is killed by tasteless amplitude” (43)

“The Best Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett” (Preface)

“The artist spends a lifetime in loving the things that haunt him, in having his mind ‘teased’ by them, in trying to get these conceptions down on paper exactly as they are to him and not in conventional poses supposed to reveal their character; trying this method and that, as a painter tries different lightings and different attitudes with his subject to catch the one that presents it more suggestively than any other. And at the end of a lifetime he emerges with much that is more or less happy experimenting, and comparatively little that is the very flower of himself and his genius” (51).

“My First Novels [There Were Two]”, written for The Colophon, 1931

(as a young writer) “at that time I found the new more exciting than the familiar” (91). (AD: like the Moderns, who she outstripped.)

“The ‘novel of the soil’ had not then come into fashion in this country. The drawing-room was considered the proper setting for a novel, and the only characters worth reading about were smart people or clever people” (93).

“As everyone knows, Nebraska is distinctly déclassé as a literary background; its very name throws the delicately atuned critic into a clammy shiver of embarrassment. Kansas is almost as unpromising…a New York critic voiced a very general opinion when he said: ‘I simply don’t care a damn what happens in Nebraska, no matter who writes about it” (94).

“Too much detail is apt, like any other form of extravagance, to become slightly vulgar; and it quite destroys in a book a very satisfying element analogous to what painters call ‘composition'” (97).

“On the Art of Fiction,” The Borzoi 1920

“Art, it seems to me, should simplify” (102).

“Any first-rate novel or story must have in it the strength of a dozen fairly good stories that have been sacrificed to it. A good workman can’t be a cheap workman; he can’t be stingy about wasting material, and he cannot compromise” (103).

“Katherine Mansfield,” in Not Under Forty 1936.

“It is this overtone, which is too fine for the printing press and comes through without it, that makes one know that this writer had something of the gift which is one of the rarest things in writing, and quite the most precious” (110-111).

” But I tell you, my lord fool, out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.

A fine attitude, youthful and fiery: out of all the difficulties of life and art we will snatch something” (113).

“Light on Adobe Walls,” an unpublished fragments

“Every artist knows that there is no such thing as ‘freedom’ in art. The first thing an artist does when he begins a new work is to lay down the barriers and limitations; he decides upon a certain composition, a certain key, a certain relation of creatures or objects to each other. He is never free, and the more splendid his imagination, the more intense his feeling, the father he goes from general truth and general emotion. Nobody can paint the sun, or sunlight. He can only paint the tricks that shadows play with it, or what it does to forms. He cannot even paint those relations of light and shade– he can only paint some emotion they give him, some man-made arrangement of them that happens to give him personal delight… At bottom all he can give you is the thrill of his own poor little nerve… Each man painted what he got out of light – what it did to him” (123-4). (Ad: this sounds like impressionism, if not full-blown modernism. Shift later in life? How does this relate to her disparagement of “too much description”? Does a focus on objects obscure the impossibility of representing those objects, in the same way that a Renaissance painting does vs. Monet?)


George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion

Shaw, George Bernard. Pygmalion. NYC: Norton. 1913, 1970, 2002.

Preface to Pygmalion (by G.B. Shaw)

“As will be seen later on, Pygmalion needs not a preface, but a sequel,which I have supplied in its due place.

The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it. They spell it so abominably that no man can teach himself what it sounds like. It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despite him… The reformer England needs today is an energetic phonetic enthusiast: that is why I have made such a one the her of a popular play” (286).

“I wish to boast that Pygmalion has been an extremely successful play all over Europe and North America as well as at home. It is so intensely and deliberately didactic, and its subject is esteemed so dry, that I delight in throwing it at the heads of the wiseacres who repeat the parrot cry that art should never be didactic. It goes to prove my contention that art should never be anything else.

Finally, and for the encouragement of people troubled with accents that cut them off from all high employment, I may add that the change wrought by Professor Higgins in the flower-girl is neither impossible nor uncommon. …many thousands of women have sloughed off their native dialects and acquired a new tongue. But the thing has to be done scientifically, or the last state of the aspirant may be worse than the first. An honest and natural slum dialect is more tolerable than the attempt of a phonetically untaught person to imitate the vulgar dialect of the golf club…” (288-9).

1.1 The Flower Girl [with feeble defiance]: “I’ve a right to be here if I like, same as you.

The Note Taker: “A woman who utters such depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere–no right to live. Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine git of articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and the Bible, and don’t sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon” (296).

1.2 Higgins [tempted, looking at her] It’s almost irresistible. She’s so deliciously low–so horribly dirty–”

Liza [protesting extremely] Ah-ah-ah-ow-ow-oo-oo!! I ain’t dirty: I washed my face and hands afore I come, I did.


Higgins [becoming excited as the idea grows on him]: What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn’t come everyday. I shall make a duchess of this draggletailed guttersnipe.

Liza [strongly deprecating this view of her]: ah-ah-ah-ow-ow-oo!

Higgins: [carried away] Yes: in six months – in three if she has a good ear and a quick tongue–Ill take her anywhere and pass her off as anything. We’ll start today: now! this moment! Take her away and clean her, Mrs. Pearce. Monkey Brand, if it won’t come off any other way. Is there a good fire in the kitchen? ……. Take all her clothes off and burn them” (303). (AD: emphasizing the animalistic nature of the poor and of this poor woman in particular by ah-ah-ow sounds and the “Monkey Brand” soap – as if she is a monkey they need to scrub into a woman before making her a duchess. Also, serious rape vibes in the cleaning scene, and burning of clothes.)


Mrs. Pearce: Well, the matter is, sir, that you can’t take a girl up like that as if you were picking up a pebble on the each.

Higgins: Why not?

Mrs. Pearce: Why not! But you don’t know anything about her. What about her parents? She may be married.

Liza: Garn!

Higgins: There! As the girl very properly says, Garn! Married indeed! Don’t you know that a woman of that class looks a worn out drudge of fifty a year after she’s married?

Liza: Whood marry me?

Higgins: [suddenly resorting to the most thrillingly beautiful low tones in his best elocutionary style] By George, Eliza, the streets will be strewn with the bodies of men shooting themselves for your sake before I’ve done with you (304). (AD: They will turn her from a drudge into a marriageable candidate. This is the highest honor they can do to a woman.)


Higgins: Very well, then, what on earth is all this fuss about? The girl doesn’t belong to anybody–is no use to anybody but me. [He goes to Mrs. Pearce and begins coaxing] You can adopt her, Mrs. Pearce: I’m sure a daughter would be a great amusement to you. Now don’t make any more fuss. Take her downstairs; and–

Mrs. Pearce: But what’s to become of her? Is she to be paid anything? Do be sensible, sir.

Higgins: Oh pay her whatever is necessary: put it down in the housekeeping book…

Pickering: Does it occur to you, Higgins, that the girl has some feelings?

Higgins: [looking critically at her] Oh no, I don’t think so. Not any feelings that we need bother about. [Cheerily] Have you, Eliza?

Liza: I got my feelings same as anyone else.

Higgins: [to Pickering, reflectively] You see the difficulty!

Pickering: Eh? What difficulty?

Higgins: To get her to talk grammar. The mere pronunciation is easy enough. (305)

(AD: What is Eliza’s use-value? To her father, later, it’s the $5 he gets out of Higgins to let him keep her. To Higgins, it’s as a linguistic experiment. To Mrs. Pearce, it’s as a daughter (?), or a companion and “amusement.”)


Higgins needs domesticating, too: Mrs. Pearse asks that, in order to civilize Eliza, he set a good example: “I ask you not to come down to breakfast in your dressing-gown, or at any rate not to use it as a napkin to the extent you do, sir. And if you would be so good as not to eat everything off the same plate, and to remember not to put the porridge saucepan out of your hand on the clean table-cloth, it would be a better example to the girl… (309).

Higgins (to his mother): Oh, I can’t be bothered with young women. My idea of a lovable woman is something as like you as possible. I shall never get into the way of seriously liking young women: some habits lie too deep to be changed… Besides, they’re all idiots. (319). (AD: he wants a woman like his mother, but also like himself (as like you as possible.)

(the respectable Clara picks up Eliza’s “new talk”)

Clara: It’s all a matter of habit. There’s no right or wrong in it. Nobody means anything by it. And it’s so quaint, and gives such a smart emphasis to things that are not in themselves very witty. I find the new small talk delightful and quite innocent. (325).


Mrs. Higgins: You silly boy, of course she’s not presentable. She’s a triumph of your art and of her dressmaker’s; but if you suppose for a moment that she doesn’t give herself away in every sentence she utters, you must be perfectly cracked about her.

Pickering: But don’t you think something might be done? I mean something to eliminate the sanguinary element from her conversation.

Mrs. Higgins: Not as long as she is in Henry’s hands.(326).


Higgins: As if I ever stop thinking about the girl and her confounded vowels and consonants. I’m worn out, thinking about her, and watching her lips and her teeth and her tongue, not to mention her soul, which is the quaintest of the lot.

Mrs. Higgins: You certainly are a pretty pair of babies, playing with your live doll.

Higgins: Playing! The hardest job I ever tackled: make no mistake about that, mother. But you have no idea how frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and change her into a quite different human being by creating a new speech for her . It’s filling up the deepest gulf that separates class from class and soul from soul. (327). (AD: the power of language is God’s power, which is the power to take one thing and turn it into the type of human he wants it to be. The power to shape language, to write (or over-write) language, is god-like. He creates a speech act much like God’s “let there be light” by forming Eliza as he does. The woman is in fact the speech act he creates.)

All the women around, from Mrs. Pearce to Mrs. Higgins, understand that Higgins and Pickering are playing with Eliza like a toy and not a human. Mrs. Higgins’s “Oh, men, men!!” (329) lets us know that the women recognize that this is a trait of men, and that the two are acting in their capacity as men in their creation of the speech-act of Eliza.)

After they’ve finished with her, they speak about but not to her even more than before – she’s actually turned from a real human woman into a statue in their eyes, and cannot hear or comprehend them. Of course, however, in reality she has been turned from the piece of stone of the lower classes into the beautiful woman of the upper classes they intended, and she rebels at their insensitiveness.

Pickering: There’s always something professional about doing a thing superlatively well. (331). (AD: Their work on her is “professional,” a thing to be “Done,” she is the “thing,” they rather than her did the “work.”)


She throws slippers at him when he can’t find them.

Liza: Nothing wrong – with you. I’ve won your bet for you, haven’t I? That’s enough for you. don’t matter, I suppose.

Higgins: You own my bet! You! Presumptuous insect! won it. What did you throw those slippers at me for?

Liza: Because i wanted to smash your face. I’d like to kill you, you selfish brute. Why didn’t you leave me where you picked me out of – in the gutter? You thank God it’s all over, and now you can throw me back again there, do you? (331).


Higgins: Well, don’t you thank God it’s all over? Now you are free and can do what you like.

Liza: [pulling herself together in desperation] What am I fit for? What have you left me fit for? Where am I to go? What am I to do? What’s to become of me?

Higgins: [Enlightened, but not at all impressed.’ Oh, that’s what’s worrying you, is it? [He thrusts his hands into his pockets and walks about in his usual manner…. as if condescending to a trivial subject out of pure kindness.] I shouldn’t bother about it if I were you. I should imagine you won’t have much difficulty in settling yourself somewhere or other, though I hadn’t quite realized that you were going away… You might marry, you know… You go to bed and have a good nice rest; and then get up and look at yourself in the glass; and you won’t feel so cheap.

[Eliza again looks at him, speechless, and does not stir. The look is quite lost on him: he eats his apple with a dreamy expression of happiness, as it is quite a good one.]

Higgins: [a genial afterthought, occurring to him] I daresay my mother could find some chap or other who would do very well.

Liza: We were above that at the corner of Tottenham Court Road.

Higgins: [waking up] What do you mean?

Liza: I sold flowers. I didn’t sell myself. Now you’ve made a lady of me I’m not fit to sell anything else. I wish you’d left me where you found me. 

Higgins: Tosh, Eliza. Don’t you insult human relations by dragging all this cant about buying and selling into it You needed marry the fellow if you don’t like him?

Liza: What else am I do to?

Higgins: Oh, lots of things…… (333). (AD: Liza realizes that the upper class of women have nothing to sell but themselves, and this realization brings horror. She asks the important question Edith Wharton’s Lily also asks: What am I fit for if not ornamentation now that I’ve been fashioned and trained in this way? Higgins seems very unconcerned. Also doesn’t seem to occur to him that his choice not to marry should also be available to Eliza.)

Doolittle comes to collect Eliza, though she is absent, and Higgins protests “She doesn’t belong to him. I paid him five pounds for her.” (339).


Liza thanks Pickering and slights Higgins: You see it was so very difficult for me with the example of Professor Higgins always before me. I was brought up to be just like him, unable to control myself, and using bad language on the slightest provocation. And I should never have known that ladies and gentlemen didn’t behave like that if you hadn’t been here…

Pickering: Oh, that’s only his way, you know. He doesn’t mean it.

Liza: Oh, I didn’t mean it either, when I was a flower girl. It was only my way. But you see I did it; and that’s what makes the difference after all. (343). (AD: meaning vs. doing in the context of the speech act: they are more related here than poststructuralism might have us believe. Higgins wants to separate meaning and doing when convenient for him, but Eliza holds him to the moral standard that makes meaning and doing equivalent. If you can make a person a speech act, that means that doing is meaning, and that meaning becomes a deed, or an object.)

Higgins: …I’m not going to have my masterpiece thrown away on Freddy. (349). (AD: in contrast to the Pygmalion myth, the creator does not end with sexual and romantic possession of the created object. Although Higgins protests “throwing away” his statue on an unworthy man, he is more than willing to bestow her on someone else. She is perhaps even more an object than Pygmalion’s statue, for she has exchange as well as use value. She comes out on top here, though, choosing her own inadequate mate.)

“…people in all directions have assumed, for no other reason than that she became the heroine of a romance, that she must have married the hero of it. This is unbearable, not only because her little drama, if acted on such a thoughtless assumption, must be spoiled, but because the true sequel is patent to anyone with a sense of human nature in general, and of feminine instinct in particular” (351).

“As our own instincts are not appealed to by her conclusion, let us see whether we cannot discover some reason in it. When Higgins excused his indifference to young women on the ground that they had an irresistible rival to his mother, he gave the clue to his inveterate old-bachelordom…” (352).

“Nevertheless, when we look round and see that hardly anyone is too ugly or disagreeable to find a wife or a husband if he or she wants one, whilst many old maids and bachelors are above the average in quality and culture, we cannot help suspecting that the disentanglement of sex from the associations with which it is so commonly confused, a disentanglement which persons of genius achieve by sheer intellectual analysis, is sometimes produced or aided by parental fascination” (352). (calling/prefiguring Freud)

“he had gone too far with his impetuous bullying, and you will see that Eliza’s instinct had good grounds for warning her not to marry her Pygmalion” (352). (AD: interesting that Shaw puts the agency in Eliza’s hands here rather than Higgins’s. He never asked, which did not make this dynamic explicit.)

“The weak may not be admired and hero-worshipped; but they are by no means disliked or shunned; and they never seem to have the least difficulty in marrying people who are too good for them. They may fail in emergencies; but life is not one long emergency: it is mostly a string of situations for which no exceptional strength is needed, and with which even rather weak people can cope if they have a stronger partner to help them out” (353).

“The very scrupulousness with which he told her that day that he had become used to having her there, and dependent on her for all sorts of little services, and that he should miss her if she went away (it would never have occurred to Freddy or the Colonel to say anything of the sort) deepens her inner certainty that she is ‘no more to him that slippers’; yet she has a sense, too, that his indifference is deeper than the infatuation of commoner souls. She is immensely interested in him. She has even secret mischievous moments in which she wishes she could get him alone, on a desert island, away from all ties and with nobody else in the world to consider, and just drag him off his pedestal and see him making love like any common man. We all have private imaginations of that sort. But when it comes to business, to the life that she really leads as distinguished from the life of dreams and fancies, she likes Freddy and she likes the Colonel; and she does not like Higgins and Mr. Doolittle. Galatea never does quite like Pygmalion: his relation to her is too godlike to be altogether agreeable” (360).

Who is Shaw in this? I suspect he is Higgins rather than Eliza. Text is Eliza, perhaps. Where does the public fit in, since this is a play? He’s the teacher, clearly, since the work is “didactic” explicitly. Are we Eliza?

Peters, Sally. “Shaw’s Life: A Feminist in Spite of Himself,” in The Cambridge Companion to George Bernard Shaw, ed. Christopher Innes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

As a child Shaw was “subjected to taunts because of a highly visible effeminacy” (403).

Shaw became very interested in Fabian socialism. “As the socialist group struggled to define itself and to reconcile its visionary and practical elements, Shaw contributed A Manifesto, Fabian Tract no. 2, which wittily declared that “Men no longer need special political privileges to protect them against Women, and that the sexes should henceforth enjoy equal political rights.’ Thanks to Shaw, the equal rights of women were firmly established as a Fabian principle from the outset. Meanwhile the pamphleteer was in his glory as he turned out tract after tract on socialism”  (406).

While Shaw evidenced “deep antipathies toward sex,” he “harbored no qualms in asserting a strong feminism. In order to emancipate herself, Shaw thought the Womanly Woman must repudiate ‘her womanliness, her duty to her husband, to her children, to society, to the law, and to everyone but herself'” (411).

“Shaw’s feminist comment that ‘a woman is really only a man in petticoats’ has often been noted. The ignored second half of his aphorism is just as striking. Writing that ‘a man is a woman without petticoats,’ he makes the petticoats the essential mark of gender (Platform and Pulpit). That is, he confers on woman the signifying power of gender…Similarly–and cryptically–in the preface to Saint Joan, Shaw writes that ‘it is not necessary to wear trousers and smoke big cigars to live a man’s life any more than it is necessary to wear petticoats to live a woman’s” (416).

“Always his vision of the stage was as the apex of human endeavor, a place of beauty and spirituality. Believing that the fates of artists, homosexuals, and women are intertwined, insisting that all great art is didactic, he valiantly worked for a society unblemished by the inequalities of class or gender” (420).


Reynolds, Jean. From Pygmalion’s Wordplay: The Postmodern Shaw (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999).

“In a 1908 letter to G. K. Chesterton, Shaw warned, ‘Don’t forget that the race is only struggling out of its dumbness, and that it is only in moments of inspiration that we get out a sentence. All the rest is padding” (420).

“The problem of language is evident throughout the play. As Eliza’s command of a ‘new speech’ grows, she is both empowered and alienated, admired and rejected” (421).

“Shaw’s flamboyant style displeased Victorians who believed that words are useful enough in their own place–as instruments in the pursuit of truth–but, like proper Victorian ladies, should never call attention to themselves. As a master craftsman, Shaw did not attempt to subordinate his skill to his message” (426).

“Imposter to Imposter,” Shaw told Henderson, “I prefer to mystic to the scientist–the man who at least has the decency to call his nonsense a mystery, to him who pretends that it is ascertained, weight, measured, analysed fact” (427).

“new speech” both empowers and displaces Eliza

Shaw was strongly influenced by Marx, especially Marx’s “attack on Western metaphysics, what Shaw called ‘idealism'” (437)

“Despite the scorn repeatedly heaped on Eliza and others of her class, they perform another vital function that goes beyond their menial services to the rich: They help classify British social structure. Eliza’s ‘Lisson Grove Lingo’ so clearly defines her social position that when she masters upper-class speech, guests at the embassy reception have no clue to her origin. And it is here, with Eliza’s ‘new speech,’ that British class ideology breaks down… Genteel speech, supposedly a natural acquisition of the well bred, isn’t ‘natural’ at all–nor is it a reliable social indicator” (440).

“Eliza’s low status seems ‘primary’–the unchangeable result of heredity–even though it is actually derivative, resulting from economics, education, demographics, and other social phenomena. Higgins’s phonetics game of guessing people’s origins in Act I drives the point home: Speech patterns are the product not of genes or inborn character, but geography” (441).

Gainor, J. Ellen. “The Daughter in her Place.” in Shaw’s Daughters: Dramatic and Narrative Constructions of Gender (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991).

“Higgins, of course, is actually one of three fathers for Eliza, the other two being Colonel Pickering…and Alfred Doolittle. These three men represent the social spectrum of patriarchy, each with his own mode of keeping Eliza ‘in her place'” (519).

“Higgins has reared Eliza in his own image, a male image. Significantly, language, the instrument of male paternity, is the medium through which Eliza assumes her resemblance to Higgins” (520).

“In Act 4, after Eliza’s triumph, when she expresses anger and frustration over the men’s insensitivity to her dominant role in the success, Higgins remarks, ‘You’re not bad-looking: it’s quite a pleasure to look at you sometimes – not now, of course, because you’re crying and looking as ugly as the very devil; but when you’re all right and quite yourself.” The subtext of his comment, “when you behave in a feminine fashion–that is, crying or being temperamental–you are ‘not yourself,’ not the creature I made,” comes through clearly. When in act 5 Eliza asserts her independece Higgins exclaims triumphantly–in the same manner in which Shaw’s avuncular persona instructed ‘his’ Dorothea–’By George, Eliza, I said I’d make a woman of you; and I have. I like you like this. Her attainment of Higgins’s sense of ‘womanhood’ allows her access to male identity: ‘Now you’re a tower of strength: a consort battleship. You and I and Pickering will be three old bachelors instead of only two men and a silly girl” (521).



Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth

Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. Broadview Editions, 1905, 2005.

(intro by Janet Beer)

“There were two prior titles of The House of Mirth, both recorded in Wharton’s notebooks: one was ‘The Year of the Rose’ and the other ‘A Moment’s Ornament.’ The final title derives from Ecclesiastes 7:4: ‘The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth,’ a text that Wharton’s publishers reproduced in the first edition, but which Wharton deleted as too morally crass to include” (17).

The book was originally serialized in Scribner’s Magazine between January and November 1905, and was published in book form in October 1905.

Opening sentence: “Selden paused with surprise” (37). (to see Lily.) Mirrors end when he pauses with surprise at her death.

“There was nothing new about Lily Bart, yet he could never see her without a faint movement of interest: it was characteristic of her that she always roused speculation, that her simplest acts seemed the result of far-reaching intentions” (37).

“Everything about her was at once vigorous and exquisite, at once strong and fine. He had a confused sense that she must have cost a great deal to make, that a great many dull and ugly people must, in some mysterious way, have been sacrificed to produce her” (39).

“How delicious to have a place like this all to one’s self! What a miserable thing it is to be a woman.’ She leaned back in a luxury of discontent.

Selden was rummaging in a cupboard for the cake.

‘Even women,’ he said, ‘have been known to enjoy the privileges of a flat.’

‘Oh, governesses–or widows. But not girls–not poor, miserable, marriageable girls!” (41).

“She was so evidently the victim of the civilization which had produced her, that the links of her bracelet seemed like manacles chaining her to her fate” (41).

“We’re so different, you know, Gerty and I. She likes being good, and I like being happy” (42).

[on marrying] “Ah, there’s the difference – a girl must, a man may if he chooses.’ She surveyed him critically. ‘Your coat’s a little shabby–but who cares? It doesn’t keep people from asking you to dine. If I were shabby no one would have me: a woman is asked out as much for her clothes as for herself. The clothes are the background, the frame, if you like: they don’t make success, but they are a part of it. Who wants a dingy woman? We are expected to be pretty and well-dressed till we drop–and if we can’t keep it up alone, we have to go into partnership” (46). (AD: Clothing is a Derridean parargon to Woman’s being. Woman dressing herself is a business venture – humorously, men sign onto a “partnership” to dress a woman well in exchange for a wife.)

“Why must a girl pay so dearly for her least escape from routine? Why could one never do a natural thing without having to screen it behind a structure of artifice? …it was so seldom that she could allow herself the luxury of an impulse!” (49).

“Her whole being dilated in an atmosphere of luxury; it was the background she required, the only climate she could breathe in. But the luxury of others was not what she wanted…. Now she was beginning to chafe at the obligations it imposed, to feel herself a mere pensioner on the splendour which had once seemed to belong to her. There were even moments when she was conscious of having to pay her way” (60). (AD: Women are constantly having to scheme to access money, but consciousness of this scheme is distasteful and unwomanly.)

“A world in which such things could be seemed a miserable place to Lily Bart, but then she had never been able to understand the laws of a universe which was so ready to leave her out of its calculations” (62).

After her father’s “ruin” of the family’s finances through illness, Lily’s mother “used to say to her with a kind of fierce vindictiveness: ‘But you’ll get it all back–you’ll get it all back, with your face…'” (63).

“Only one thought consoled her [Lily’s mother], and that was the contemplation of Lily’s beauty. She studied it with a kind of passion, as though it were some weapon she had slowly fashioned for her vengeance. It was the last asset in their fortunes, the nucleus around which their life was to be rebuilt. She watched it jealously, as though it were her own property and Lily its mere custodian; and she tried to instil into the latter a sense of the responsibility that such a charge involved… pointing out to her daughter what might be achieved through such a gift, and dwelling on the awful warnings of those who, in spite of it, had failed to get what they wanted: to Mrs. Bart, only stupidity could explain the lamentable dénouement of some of her examples” (69).(AD: A girl’s beauty is a physical piece of property transferrable between others and useful as a survival tool.)

“Every one knows you’re a thousand times handsomer and cleverer than Bertha; but then you’re not nasty. And for always getting what she wants in the long run, commend me to a nasty woman.’

Miss Bart stared in affected reproval. ‘I thought you were so fond of Bertha.’

‘Oh, I am – it’s much safer to be fond of dangerous people” (79).

“Lily found herself the centre of that feminine solicitude which envelops a young woman in the mating season. A solitude was tacitly created for her in the crowded existence of Bellomont, and her friends could not have shown a greater readiness for self-effacement had her wooing been adorned with all the attributes of romance” (82).

“Lily considered with interest the expression of their faces: the girl’s turned toward her companion’s like an empty plate held up to be filled, while the man lounging at her side already betrayed the encroaching boredom which would presently crack the thin veneer of his smile.

‘How impatient men are!’ Lily reflected. ‘All Jack has to do to get everything he wants is to keep quiet and let that girl marry him, whereas I have to calculate and contrive, and retreat and advance, as if I were going through an intricate dance, where one misstep would throw me hopelessly out of time” (83).

“Lily had known the species before: she was aware that such a guarded nature must find one huge outlet of egoism, and she determined to be to hi what his Americana had hitherto been: the one possession in which he took sufficient pride to spend money on it” (85).

Selden “had preserved a certain social detachment, a happy air of viewing the show objectively, of having points of contact outside the great gilt cage in which they were all huddled for the mob to gape at. How alluring the world outside the cage appeared to Lily, as she heard its door clang on her! In reality, as she knew, the door never clanged: it stood always open; but most of the captives were like flies in a bottle , and having once flown in, could never regain their freedom” (90).

“The spot was charming, and Lily was not insensible to the charm, or to the fact that her presence enhanced it; but she was not accustomed to taste the joys of solitude except in company, and the combination of a handsome girl and a romantic scene struck her as too good to be wasted. No one, however, appeared to profit by the opportunity; and after a half hour of fruitless waiting she rose and wandered on” (96). …

“Lily had no real intimacy with nature, but she had a passion for the appropriate and could be keenly sensitive to a scene which was the fitting background of her own sensations” (99).

[conversing w/Selden]

“Success?” she hesitated. ‘Why, to get as much as one can out of life, I suppose. It’s a relative quality, after all. Isn’t that your idea of it?’

‘My idea of it? God forbid!’ He sat up with sudden energy, resting his elbows on his knees and staring out upon the mellow fields. ‘My idea of success,’ he said, ‘is personal freedom.’

‘Freedom? Freedom from worries?’

‘From everything–from money, from poverty, from ease and anxiety, fro all the material accidents. To keep a kind of republic of the spirit–that’s what I call success.” (103). (AD: at the end of the day, Lily’s death offers her exactly this freedom in the only way she would have been able to attain it. In some ways she beats Selden at his own game of freedom, becoming pure ‘spirit.’)

“The cleverest girl may miscalculate where her own interests are concerned, may yield too much at one moment and withdraw too far at the next: it takes a mother’s unerring vigilance and foresight to land her daughters safely in the arms of wealth and suitability”  (127). (AD: Unmothered, Lily has no guidance.)

“She could not figure herself as anywhere but in a drawing-room, diffusing elegance as a flower sheds perfume” (136). (AD: What is her relationship to nature? She has no intimacy with it, but is sensitive to it as an appropriate background. Is she, the flower, an appropriate background to a man she will marry? Is her attempt to be a flower an attempt to be wallpaper?)

“There had of course been ‘fast’ girls even in Mrs. Peniston’s early experience; but their fastness, at worst, was understood to be a mere excess of animal spirits, against which there could be no graver charge than that of being ‘unladylike.’ The modern fastness appeared synonymous with immorality, and the mere idea of immorality was as offensive to Mrs. Peniston as a sell of cooking in the drawing-room: it was one of the conceptions her mind refused to admit” (163).

p. 171 scene of looking at a racy painting of a woman that mirrors Villette 

Scene of Mr. Trenor’s cornering and threatening of Lily: “Her eyes travelled despairingly about the room – they lit on the bell, and she remembered that help was in call. Yes, but scandal with it– a hideous mustering of tongues. No, she must fight her way out alone. …Old habits, old restraints, the hand of inherited order, plucked back the bewildered mind which passion had jolted from its ruts. Trenor’s eye had the haggard look of the sleep-walker waked on a deathly ledge” (184).

[says Ned Van Alstyne] “When a girl’s as good-looking as that she’d better marry; then no questions are asked. In our imperfectly organized society there is no provision as yet for the young woman who claims the privileges of marriage without assuming its obligations” (195).

What’s going on with Gerty? She kind of wants Selden, but also kind of wants Lily. “What right had she to dream the dreams of loveliness? A dull face invited a dull fate….She wanted happiness–wanted it as fiercely and unscrupulously as Lily did, but without Lily’s power of obtaining it. And in her conscious impotence she lay shivering, and hated her friend––” (200).

[re: Gerty and Lily] “The mortal maid on the shore is helpless against the siren who loves her prey: such victims are floated back dead from their adventure” (204).

205 Gerty holding Lily

“She [Lily] was realizing for the first time that a woman’s dignity may cost more to keep up than her carriage; and that the maintenance of a moral attribute should be dependent on dollars and cents, made the world appear a more sordid place than she had conceived it” (207).

“There would be a perilous moment, perhaps: but could she not trust to her beauty to bridge it over, to land her safe in the shelter of his [Selden’s] devotion?” (212). (AD: answer is no, her beauty fails her and she dies.)

[says Mrs. Fisher] “That’s Lily all over, you know: she works like a slave preparing the ground and sowing her seed; but the day she ought to be reaping the harvest she oversleeps herself or goes off on a picnic… sometimes I think it’s because, at heart, she despises the things she’s trying for” (227).

“You asked me just now for the truth–well, the truth about any girl is that once she’s talked about she’s done for; and the more she explains her case the worse it looks. – My good Gerty, you don’t happen to have a cigarette about you?” (265).

“If they are not true,’ she said, ‘doesn’t that alter the situation?’

“He met this with a steady gaze of his [Rosedale] small stock-taking eyes, which made her feel herself no more than some superfine human merchandise. ‘I believe it does in novels; but I’m certain it don’t in real life. You know that as well as I do…” (294).

Lily tries to market herself non-sexually after failing to market herself sexually:

“Having been accustomed to take herself at the popular valuation, as a person of energy and resource, naturally fitted to dominate any situation in which she found herself, she vaguely imagined that such gifts would be of value to seekers after social guidance; but there was unfortunately no specific head under which the art of saying and doing the right thing could be offered in the market… difficulty of discovering a workable vein in the vague wealth of Lily’s graces” (307). (AD: women are meant to be ornamental, not marketable; women are designed to be economically useless in and of themselves (to have no use value, only exchange value); women marketing themselves non-sexually is ridiculous.)

When Lily awakes at the hotel with Mrs. Norma Hatch, “her first feeling was one of purely physical satisfaction” at the sheets and pillow (311). Despite her relatively lack of sexual forwardness, she takes a great deal of account of “physical satisfaction” at luxury. This is almost sexual for her.

“Since she had been brought up to be ornamental, she could hardly blame herself for failing to serve any practical purpose; but the discovery put an end to her consoling sense of universal efficiency” (337).

“Inherited tendencies had combined with early training to make her the highly specialized product she was: an organism as helpless out of its narrow range as the sea-anemone torn from the rock. She had been fashioned to adorn and delight; to what other end does nature round the rose-leaf and paint the humming-bird’s breast? And was it her fault that the purely decorative mission is less easily and harmoniously fulfilled among social beings than in the world of nature? That it is apt to be hampered by material necessities or complicated by moral scruples?” (341).

[Lily meets with one of the girls she helped find work, who is now married with a baby.]

You in trouble? I’ve always thought of you as being so high up, where everything was just grand. Sometimes, when I felt real mean, and got to wondering why things were so queerly fixed in the world, I used to remember that you were having a lovely time, anyhow, and that seemed to show there was a kind of justice somewhere” (352). (AD: deferral of justice to others hides the fact that no one is really that happy and prevents systemic changes.)

“Lily felt the soft weight [of the child] sink trustfully against her breast. The child’s confidence in its safety thrilled her with a sense of warmth and returning life, and she bent over, wondering at the rosy blur of the little face, the empty clearness of the eyes, the vague tendrilly motions of the folding and unfolding fingers. At first the burden in her arms seemed as light as a pink cloud or a heap of down, but as she continued to hold it the weight increased, sinking deeper, and penetrating her with a strange sense of weakness, as though the child entered into her and became a part of herself” (355). (AD: you think here that maybe Lily will be redeemed through her childbearing, as the Bible suggests, but instead she dies, cradling herself to herself like a child. She becomes the child rather than bears one.)

“He [Selden] knelt by the bed and bent over her, draining their last moment to its lees; and in the silence there passed between them the word which made all clear.

The End” (369). (AD: Is “The End” the word, or is it something else? Love? Success? Freedom? Meant to be ambiguous.)

Wharton’s Introduction to 1936 Edition of House of Mirth 

“When I wrote The House of Mirth I held, without knowing it, two trumps in my hand. One was the fact that New York society in the nineties was a field as yet unexploited by any novelist who had grown up in that little hot-house of traditions and conventions; and the other, that as yet these traditions and conventions were unassailed, and tacitly regarded as unassailable. / Why had no one written a novel of New York society? The answer is fairly obvious – most people thought it offered nothing worth writing about…” (372). (AD: frilly complexity of women offers nothing worth writing about. She saw that they did.)

“The fact is that Nature, always wasteful, and apparently compelled to create dozens of stupid people in order to produce a single genius, seems to reverse the process in manufacturing the shallow and the idle. Such groups always rest on an underpinning of wasted human possibilities and it seemed to me that the fate of the persons embodying these possibilities ought to redeem my subject from insignificance. This is the key to The House of Mirth, and its meaning; and I believe the book has owed its success, from the first, as much to my picture of the slow disintegration of Lily Bart as to the details of the ‘conversation piece’ of which she forms the central figure” (373).

the “very group among whom I had lived y life and situated my story” met the book with “a loud cry of rejection and reprobation” (375).






W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

Opening lines: “Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line” (v).

“Leaving, then the world of the white man, I have stepped within the Veil, raising it that you may view faintly its deeper recesses–the meaning of its religion, the passion of its human sorrow, and the struggle of its greater souls. all this I have ended with a tale twice told but seldom written” (v).

“…need I add that I who speak here am bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of them that live within the Veil?” (vi).

*Chapter headings open with religious songs or spirituals

“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem?, they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town… To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem?, I answer seldom a word” (1).

“After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world – a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,– an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,– this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face (2-3).

“The would-be black savant was confronted by the paradox that the knowledge his people needed was a twice-told tale to his white neighbors, while the knowledge which would teach the white world was Greek to his own flesh and blood. The innate love of harmony and beauty that set the ruder souls of his people a-dancing and a-singing raised but confusion and doubt in the soul of the black artist; for the beauty revealed to him was the soul-beauty of a race which his larger audience despised, and he could not articulate the message of another people. This waste of double aims, this seeking to satisfy two unreconciled ideals, has wrought sad havoc with the courage and faith and deeds of ten thousand thousand people, –has sent them often wooing false gods and invoking false means of salvation, and at times has even seemed about to make them ashamed of themselves” (3).

[After the Civil War] “The ballot, which before he had looked upon as a visible sign of freedom, he now regarded as the chief means of gaining and perfecting the liberty with which war had partially endowed him. And why not?…” (4).

“To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships…the accumulated sloth and shirking and awkwardness of decades shackled his hands and feet. Nor was his burden all poverty and ignorance. The red stain of bastardy, which two centuries of systematic legal defilement of Negro women had stamped upon his race, meant not only the loss of ancient African chastity, but also the hereditary weight of a mass of corruption from white adulterers, threatening almost the obliteration of the Negro home.

A people thus handicapped ought not to be asked to race with the world, but rather allowed to give all its time and thought to its own social problems” (5-6).

“Nevertheless, out of the evil came something of good,–the more careful adjustment of education to real life, the clearer perception of the Negroes’ social responsibilities, and the sobering realization of the meaning of progress.

So dawned the time of Sturm und Drang: storm and stress to-day rocks our little boat on the mad waters of the world-sea…” (6).

“The bright ideals of the past,–physical freedom, political power, the training of brains and the training of hands,–all these in turn have waxed and waned, until even the last grows dim and overcast. Are they all wrong,–all false? No, not that, but each alone was over-simple and incomplete,–the dreams of a credulous race-childhood, or the fond imaginings of the other world which does not know and does not want to know our power” (6).

“…there is no true American music but the wild sweet melodies of the Negro slave; the American fairy tales and folk-lore are Indian and Africa; and, all in all, we black men seem the sole oasis of simple faith and reverence in a dusty desert of dollars and smartness” (7).

[I have written this] “…that men may listen to the striving in the souls of black folk” (7).

Opens Ch. 2 with a hymn by Lowell in which he reappropriates the “shadow” from which God “keeps watch above his own” as a metaphor for the Veil.

He gives a history of the Civil War and Reconstruction periods: “…the destitution of the freedmen was often reported as ‘too appalling for belief,’ and the situation was daily growing worse rather than better…The broader economic organization thus clearly demanded sprang up here and there as accident and local conditions determined” (11).

“Three characteristic things one might have seen in Sherman’s raid through Georgia, which threw the new situation into shadowy relief: the Conqueror, the Conquered, and the Negro. Some see all significance in the grim front of the destroyer, and some in the bitter sufferers of the Lost Cause. But to me neither soldier nor fugitive speaks with so deep a meaning as that dark human cloud that clung like remorse on the rear of those swift columns, swelling at times to half their size, almost engulfing and choking them…. All these experiments, orders, and systems were bound to attract and perplex the government and nation” (12).

“The annals of this Ninth Crusade are yet to be written, – the tale of a mission that seemed to our age far more quixotic than the quest of St. Louis seemed to his. Behind the mists of ruin and rapine waved the calico dresses of women who dared, and after the hoarse mouthings of the field guns rang the rhythm of the alphabet. Rich and poor they were, serious and curious. Bereaved now of a father, now of a brother, now of more than these, they came seeking a life work in planting New England schoolhouses among the white and black of the South. They did their work well. In that first year they taught one hundred thousand souls, and more” (16).

“…the Negro knew full well that, whatever their deeper convictions may have been, Southern men had fought with desperate energy to perpetuate this slavery under which the black masses, with half-articulate thought, had writhed and shivered. They welcomed freedom with a cry. They shrank from the master who still strove for their chains; they fled to the friends that had freed them, even though those friends stood ready to use them as a club for driving the recalcitrant South back into loyalty” (18).

Everyone had to develop a “new way of working… The largest element of success lay in the fact that the majority of the freedmen were willing, even eager, to work… the two great obstacles which confronted the officials were the tyrant and the idler, – the slaveholder who was determined to perpetuate slavery under another name; and the freedman who regarded freedom as perpetual rest, – the Devil and the Deep Sea” (19).

“…the South believed an educated Negro to be a dangerous Negro. And the South was not wholly wrong; for education among all kinds of men always has had, and always will have, an element of danger and revolution, of dissatisfaction and discontent” (20).

“Bureau courts tended to become centres simply for punishing whites, while the regular civil courts tended to become solely institutions for perpetuating the slavery of blacks… It is not difficult now to say to the young freedman, cheated and cuffed about, who has seen his father’s head beaten to a jelly and his own mother namelessly assaulted, that the meek shall inherit the earth. Above all, nothing is more convenient than to heap on the Freedmen’s Bureau all the evils of that evil day, and damn it utterly for every mistake and blunder that was made. All this is easy, but it is neither sensible nor just” (21).

“When sticks and stones and beasts form the sole environment of a people, their attitude is largely one of determined opposition to and conquest of natural forces. But when to earth and brute is added an environment of men and ideas, then the attitude of the imprisoned group may take three main forms, – a feeling of revolt and revenge; an attempt to adjust all thought and action to the will of the greater group; or, finally, a determined effort at self-realization and self-development despite environing opinion. The influence of all these attitudes at various times can be traced in the history of the American Negro, and in the evolution of his successive leaders” (28).

“Mr. [Booker T.] Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitude of adjustment and submission; but adjustment at such a peculiar time as to make his programme unique. This is an age of unusual economic development, and Mr. Washington’s programme naturally takes an economic cast, becoming a gospel of Work and Money to such an extent as apparently almost completely to overshadow the higher aims of life” (30).

“…it has been claimed that the Negro can survive only through submission. Mr. Washington distinctly asks that black people give up, at least for the present, three things, –

First, political power,

Second, insistence on civil rights,

Third, higher education of Negro youth, –

and concentrate all their energies on industrial education, the accumulation of wealth, and the conciliation of the South. This policy has been courageously and insistently advocated for over fifteen years, and has been triumphant for perhaps ten years. As a result of this tender of the palm-branch, what has been the return? In these years there have occurred:

  1. The disenfranchisement of the Negro.
  2. The legal creation of a distinct status of civil inferiority for the Negro.
  3. The steady withdrawal of aid from insitutions for the higher training of the Negro (31).

“…for where in the world may we go and be safe from lying and brute force?” (31).

“…it is wrong to aid and abet a national crime simply because it is unpopular not to do so” (33).

“First, it is the duty of black men to judge the South discriminatingly. The present generation of Southerners are not responsible for the past, and they should not be blindly hated or blamed for it…Discriminating and broad-minded criticism is what the South needs, – needs it for the sake of her own white sons and daughters, ad for the insurance of robust, healthy mental and moral development” (33).

“I have called my tiny community a world, and so its isolation made it; and yet there was among us but a half-awakened common consciousness, sprung from common joy and grief, at urial, birth, or wedding; from a common hardship in poverty, poor land, and low wages; and, above all, from the sight of the Veil that hung between us and Opportunity. All this caused us to think some thoughts together; but these, when ripe for speech, were spoken in various languages” (41).

“My log schoolhouse was gone. In its place stood Progress; and Progress, I understand, is necessarily ugly” (43).

“Uncle Bird told me how, on a night like that, Thenie came wondering back to her home over yonder, to escape the blows of her husband. And next morning she died in the home that her little bow-legged brother, working and saving, had bought for their widowed mother. …How shall man measure Progress there where the dark-faced Josie lies?…” (45).

“Atlanta must not lead the South to dream of material prosperity as the touchstone of all success; already the fatal might of this idea is beginning to spread; it is replacing the finer type of Southerner with vulgar money-getters; it is burying the sweeter beauties of Southern life beneath pretence and ostentation” (49).

“Today it makes little difference to Atlanta, to the South, what the Negro thinks or dreams or wills. In the soul-life of the land he is to-day, and naturally will long remain, unthought of, half forgotten; and yet when he does come to think and will and do for himself, –and let no man dream that day will never come, –then the part hep lays will not be one of sudden learning, but words and thoughts he has been taught to lisp in his race-childhood. To-day the ferment of his striving toward self-realization is to the strife of the white world like a wheel within a wheel: beyond the Veil are smaller but like problems of ideals, of leaders and the led, of serfdom, of poverty, of order and subordination, and, through all, the Veil of Race… The old leaders of Negro opinion, in the little groups where there is a Negro social consciousness, are being replaced by new; neither the black preacher nor the black teacher leads as he did two decades ago” (50).

“The South laments to-day the slow, steady disappearance of a certain type of Negro,–the faithful courteous slave of other days, with his incorruptible honesty and dignified humility. He is passing away just as surely as the old type of Southern gentleman is passing, and from not dissimilar causes, –the sudden transformation of a fair far-off ideal of Freedom into the hard reality of bread-winning and the consequent deification of Bread” (50).

“In the Black World, the Preacher and Teacher embodied once the ideals of this people, –the strife for another and a juster world, the vague dream of righteousness, the mystery of knowing; but to-day the danger is that these ideals, with their simple beauty and weird inspiration, will suddenly sink to a question of cash and a lust for gold… What if the NEgro people be wooed from a strife for righteousness, from a love of knowing, to regard dollars as the be-all and end-all of life?” (50).

“The hundred hills of Atlanta are not all crowned with factories…There I live, and there I hear from day to day the low hum of restful life. In winter’s twilight, when the red sun glows, I can see the dark figures pass between the halls to the music of the night-bell. In the morning, when the sun is golden, teh clang of the day-bell brings the hurry and laughter of three hundred young hearts from hall and street, and from the busy city below, – children all dark and heavy-haired, – to join their clear young voices in the music of the morning sacrifice. In a half-dozen class-rooms they gather then, – here to follow the love song of Dido, here to listen to the tale of Troy divine; there to wander among the stars, there to wander among men and nations, – and elsewhere other well-worn ways of knowing this queer world. Nothing new, no time-saving devices, –simply old time-glorified methods of delving for Truth, and searching out the hidden beauties of life, and leanring the good of living. The riddle of existence is the college curriculum that was laid before the Pharaohs…and is today laid before the freedmen’s sons by Atlanta University. And this course of study will not change; its methods will grow more deft and effectual, its content richer by toil of scholar and sight of seer; but the true college will ever have one goal, –not to earn meat, but to know the end and aim of that life which meat nourishes” (51).

[Those who planted Fisk & Howard] “forgot, too, just as their successors are forgetting, the rule of inequality: that of the million black youth, some were fitted to know and some to dig; that some had the talent and capcity of university men, and some the talent and capacity of blacksmiths; and that true training meant neither that all should be college men nor all artisans, but that the one should be made a missionary of culture to an untaught people, and the other a free workman among serfs. And to seek to make the blacksmith a scholar is almost as silly as the more modern scheme of making the scholar a blacksmith; almost, but not quite” (52).

“The function of the university is not simply to teach breadwinning, or to furnish teachers for the public schools, or to be a centre of polite society; it is, above all, to be the organ of that fine adjustment between real life and the growing knowledge of life, an adjustment which forms the secret of civilization” (53).

“The tendency is here, born of slavery and quickened to renewed life by the crazy imperialism of the day, to regard human beings as among the material resources of a land to be trained with an eye single to future dividends” (58).

“…they are not fools, they have tasted of the Tree of Life, and they will not cease to think, will not cease attempting to read the riddle of the world” (64).

“I insist that the question of the future is how best to keep these millions from brooding over the wrongs of the past and the difficulties of the present, so that all their energies may be bent toward a cheerful striving and co-operation with their white neighbors toward a larger, juster, and fuller future” (66).

“I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color-line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls. From out the caves of evening that swing between the strong-limbed earth and the tracery of the stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the Veil. Is this the life you grudge us, O knightly America: Is this the life you long to change into the dull red hideousness of Georgia? Are you so afraid lest peering from this high Pisgah, between Philistine and Amalekite, we sight the Promised Land?” (67).

“I think I never before quite realized the place of the Fence in civilization. This is the Land of the Unfenced, where crouch on either hand scores of ugly one-room cabins, cheerless and dirty. Here lies the Negro problem in its naked dirt and penury… for has he not fine fences? And those over yonder, why should they build fences on the rack-rented land? It will only increase their rent” (75).

“There is little of the joyous abandon and playfulness which we are wont to associate with the plantation Negro. At best, the natural good-nature is edged with complaint or has changed into sullenness and gloom” (79).

“Have you ever seen a cotton-field white with the harvest, – its golden fleece hovering above the black earth…I have sometimes half suspected that here the winged ram Chrysomallus left that Fleece after which Jason and his Argonauts went vaguely wandering…one might frame a pretty and not far-fetched analogy of witchery and dragon’s teeth, and blood and armed men, between the ancient and the modern Quest of the Golden Fleece in the Black Sea” (83).

“The system of labor and the size of the houses both tend to the breaking up of family groups: the grown children go away as contract hands or migrate to town, the sister goes into service; and so one finds many families with hosts of babies, and many newly married couples, but comparatively few families with half-grown and grown sons and daughters. The average size of Negro families has undoubtedly decreased since the war, primarily from economic stress. …such postponement [of marriage and children] is due to the difficulty of earning sufficient to rear and to support a family; and it undoubtedly leads, in the country districts, to sexual immorality. The form of this immorality, however, is very seldom that of prostitution, and less frequently that of illegitimacy than one would imagine. Rather, it takes the form of separation and desertion after a family group has been formed…the plague-spot in sexual relations is easy marriage and easy separation… It is the plain heritage from slavery” (87).

[due to buying, selling, moving] “it was clearly to the master’s interest to have both of them take new mates…and a broken household is the result. The Negro church has done much to stop this practice, and now most marriage ceremonies are performed by the pastors. Nevertheless, the evil is still deep seated, and only a general raising of the standard of living will finally cure it” (87).

Housewifery is at stake here: “…here ninety-six per cent are toiling; no one with leisure to turn the bare and cheerless cabin into a home, no old folks to sit beside the fire and hand down traditions of the past; little of careless happy childhood and dreaming youth” (88).

“Their great defect as laborers lies in their lack of incentive to work beyond the mere pleasure of physical exertion. They are careless because they have not found that it pays to be careful; they are improvident because the improvident ones of their acquaintance get on about as well as the provident. Above all, they cannot see why they should take unusual pains to make the white man’s land better, or to fatten his mule, or save his corn” (94).

“the best of the whites and the best of the Negroes almost never live in anything like close proximity. It thus happens that in nearly every Southern town and city, both whites and blacks see commonly the worst of each other” (101).

“I will not stop to ask whose duty it was, but I insist it was the duty of someone to see that these workingmen were not left alone and unguided, without capital, without land, without skill, without economic organization, without even the bald protection of law, order, and decency, –left in a great land, not to settle down to slow and careful internal development, but destined to be thrown almost immediately into relentless and sharp competition with the best of modern workingmen under an economic system where every participant is fighting for himself, and too often utterly regardless of the rights or welfare of his neighbor” (102).

“The laws are made by men who have little interest in him; they are executed by men who have absolutely no motive for treating the black people with courtesy or consideration; and, finally, the accused law-breaker is tried, not by his peers, but too often by men who would rather punish ten innocent Negroes than let one guilty one escape” (106).

“the Negro has already been pointed out many times as a religious animal– a being of that deep emotional nature which turns instinctively toward the supernatural. Endowed with a rich tropical imagination and a keen, delicate appreciation of Nature, the transplanted African lived in a world animate with gods and devils, elves and witches; full of strange influences, –of Good to be implored, of Evil to be propitiated… the Negro, losing the joy of this world, eagerly seized upon the offered conceptions of the next; the avenging Spirit of the Lord enjoining patience in this world, under sorrow and tribulation until the Great Day when He should lead His dark children home, – this became his comforting dream” (121).

The Sorrow Songs “are the articulate message of the slave to the world. They tell us in these eager days that life was joyous to the black slave, careless and happy. I can easily believe this of some, of many. But not all the past South, though it rose from the dead, can gainsay the heart-touching witness of these songs. They are the music of an unhappy people, of the children of disappointment; they tell of death and suffering and unvoiced longing toward a truer world, of misty wanderings and hidden ways” (157).

Afterthought: “Hear my cry, O God the Reader; vouchsafe that this my book fall not still-born into the world-wilderness…” (165).




George Macdonald, Lilith

Macdonald, George. Lilith. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1962. Print.

Opening lines: “I had just finished my studies at Oxford, and was taking a brief holiday from work before assuming definitely the management of the estate. My father died when I was yet a child; my mother followed him within a year; and I was nearly as much alone in the world as a man might find himself” (187).

“Nothing surely can more impress upon a man the transitory nature of possession than his succeeding to an ancient property! Like a moving panorama mine has passed from before many eyes, and is now slowly flitting from before my own” (187). (AD: Adam’s possession of Lilith is transitory, as is God’s, as is Lilith’s possession of her own will.)

“Mr. Raven continued to show himself at uncertain intervals in the library. There were some who believed he was not dead; but both he and the old woman held it easier to believe that a dead man might revisit the world he had left, than that one who went on living for hundreds of years should be a man at all” (190).

(his first discovery of the other world): “I had been looking at rather than into the mirror, when suddenly I became aware that it reflected neither the chamber nor my own person. I have an impression of having seen the wall melt away, but what followed is enough to account for any uncertainty: –could I have mistaken for a mirror the glass that protected a wonderful picture?” (192). (AD: what a beautiful, Irigarayan portrait of the man who looks for himself in a woman and ends up seeing the woman herself. Of course, for Macdonald, this is demonic rather than appropriate, although it may lead to the discovery of new worlds. Mr. Vane doesn’t know it, but it is in fact Lilith herself, and her disobedience–the painting behind the mirror–that leads him on this journey.)

“One fact only was plain–that I saw nothing I knew” (193).

“Oblige me by telling me where I am.”

“That is impossible. You know nothing about whereness. The only way to come to know where you are is to begin to make yourself at home.”

“How am I to begin that where everything is so strange?”

“By doing something.”


“Anything; and the sooner you begin the better ! for until you are at home, you will find it as difficult to get out as it is to get in” (195). (AD: Doing something is, in fact, Lilith’s problem: doing Adam in her own way, and exerting will.)

“You have, I fear, got into this region too soon, but none the less you must get to be at home in it; for home, as you may or may not know, is the only place where you can go out and in. There are places you can go into, and places you can go out of; but the one place, if you do but find it, where you may go out and in both, is home” (196). (AD: is Lilith at home on the Earth also, then, since she can go in and out?)

“In the morning all that horror of the empty garret spaces had left me” (199). (AD: lots of horror of vaginal spaces. Mothers are terrifying, and Lilith is in fact a vampiric cunt.)

“Going where?” I asked.

“Going where we have to go,” he answered. “You did not surely think you had got home? I told you there as no going out and in at pleasure until you were at home!”

“I do not want to go,” I said.

“That does not make any difference–at least not much,” he answered. “This is the way!”

“I am quite content where I am.”

“You think so, but you are not. Come along” (200). (AD: His words mirror Lilith’s. Also, though, is he more content later, in fact? Not so sure.)

“No creature should be allowed to forget what and where it came from!”

“Why?” said the raven.

“Because it will grow proud, and cease to recognise its superiors.”

No man knows it when he is making an idiot of himself” (201).


“What right have you to treat me so, Mr. Raven?” I said with deep offence. “Am I, or am I not, a free agent?”

“A man is as free as he chooses to make himself, never an atom freer,” answered the raven.

“You have no right to make me do things against my will!”

“When you have a will, you will find that no one can.”

“You wrong me in the very essence of my individuality!” I persisted.

“If you were an individual I could not, therefore now I do not. You are but beginning to become an individual.”

All about me as a pine-forest, in which my eyes were already searching deep, in the hope of discovering an unaccountable glimmer, and so finding my way home. But, alas! how could I any longer call that house home, where every door, every window opened into–Out, and even the garden I could not keep inside!

I suppose I looked discomfited.

“Perhaps it may comfort you,” said the raven, “to be told that you have not yet left your house, neither has your house left you. At the same time it cannot contain you, or you inhabit it!”

“I do not understand you,” I replied. “Where am I?”

“In the region of the seven dimensions,” he answered, with a curious noise in his throat, and a flutter of his tail. “You had better follow me carefully now for a moment, lest you should hurt some one!” (202). (AD: 1) emphasis on will of man. Is Lilith an individual in the same way Vane or Raven/Adam is? In the same way as Eve? What place does she occupy? Perhaps the chora, of which the “seven dimensions” seems to be a part. The chora, which changes the way we see things, and exists outside the intelligible realm (re Kristeva).)

“There is no lady in the house!”

“Indeed! Is not your housekeeper a lady? She is counted such in a certain country where all are servants, and the liveries one and multitudinous!” (202). (AD: If the inhabitants of the worlds are equal, who is she? Lona? Mara?)

“Entreaty was in vain. I must accept my fate! But how was life to be lived in a world of which I had all the laws to learn? There would, however, be adventure! That held consolation; and whether I found my way home or not, I should at least have the rare advantage of knowing two worlds!” (203). (AD: he should have been a woman! Sounds like Lilith / the chora )

“But how can a pigeon be a prayer?” I said. “I understand, of course, how it should be a fit symbol or likeness for one; but a live pigeon to come out of a heart!” …”When a heart i really alive, then it is able to think live things…All live things were thoughts to begin with, and are fit therefore to be used by those that think” (206). (AD: Metaphor become flesh! This is the purpose Lilith serves here, too. In fact, it is the purpose that everyone except Vane serves in the story. He is the brain thinking the live thoughts which are in fact only metaphors become flesh.)

“Why know the name of a thing when the thing itself you do not know? Whose work is it but your own to open your eyes? But indeed the business of the universe is to make such a fool of you that you will know yourself for one, and so begin to be wise!” (207).

“Every one, as you ought to know, has a beast-self–and a bird-self, and a stupid fish-self, ay, and a creeping serpent-self too – which it takes a deal of crushing to kill! In truth he has also a tree-self and a crystal-self, and I don’t know how many selves more – all to get into harmony. You can tell what sort a man is by his creature that comes oftenest to the front” (211). (AD: or woman. most of the animal hybrids are in fact women.)

“Here I interrupt my narrative to remark that it invovles a constant struggle to say what cannot be said with even an approach to precision, the things recorded being, in their nature and in that of the creatures concerned in them, so inexpressibly different from any possible events of this economy, that I can present them only by giving, in the forms and language of life in this world, the modes in which they affected me–not the things themselves, but the feelings they woke in me” (227). (AD: sounds like Luce Irigaray.)

“I knew what an awful thing it was to be awake in the universe: I was, and could not help it!” (229).

“Though hers [the moon’s] was no primal radiance, it so hampered the evil things, that I walked in safety. For light is yet light, if but the last of a countless series of reflections!” (229) (woman reflects man. Moon is a “she”.)

[he sees Lilith for the first time without knowing her] “A white mist floating about her, now assuming, now losing to reassume the shape of a garment, as it gathered to her or was blown from her by a wind that dogged her steps. She was beautiful, but with such a pride at once and misery on her countenance that I could hardly believe what yet I saw” (230). (AD: Mara also sad, if not miserable. Women don’t get off too well in this world.)

Lilith instigates fights. “The holiest words went with the most halting blow. Lie-distorted truths flew hurtling in the wind of javelins and bones… The moon shone till the sun rose, and all the night long I had glimpses of a woman moving at her will above the strife-tormented multitude, now on on this front now on that, one outstretched arm urging the fight, the other pressed against her side. ‘Ye are men: slay one another!’ she shouted. I saw her dead eyes and her dark spot…” (234).

pg 241 the Little ones don’t know their gender makeup and would rather not know

“But they can’t be glad when they have no babies! I wonder what bad means, good giant!” (245). (AD: in a way the Lovers are the human baseline: they have the appropriate human drive for the production of babies that Lilith lacks. Being children, they want more to exist.)

“Knowledge no doubt made bad people worse, but it must make good people better!” (247). (AD: Lilith & knowledge of will, of good and evil, of her own feminine power.)

The cat-woman’s name is “Mara,” hebrew for “bitter,” and recalling the “manna” from heaven (she gives bread and water.)

“Some people…take me for Lot’s wife, lamenting over Sodom; and some thing I am Rachel, weeping for her children; but I am neither of those” (256). (AD: she & Lilith, unlike everyone else, know exactly who they are.)

The white leopard, Mara’s, is named Astarte – think about that.

“I had stopped under one of the windows, on the point of calling aloud my repentant confession, when a sudden wailing, howling scream invaded my ears, and my heart stood still. Something sprang from the window above my head, and lighted beyond me. I turned, and saw a large gray cat, its hair on end, shooting toward the river-bed. I fell with my face in the sand, and seemed to hear within the house the gentle sobbing of one who suffered but did not repent” (259).

“What a hell of horror, I thought, to wander alone, a bare existence never going out of itself, never widening its life in another life, but, bound with the cords of its poor peculiarities, lying an eternal prisoner in the dungeon of its own being! … ‘Any man,’ I said now, ‘is more than the greatest of books!’ I had not cared for my live brothers and sisters, and now I was left without even the dead to comfort me!” (262). (AD: Lilith is not more than the Bible, though, which is ostensibly the greatest of books.)

When he finds Lilith half-dead:

“I crept into the heap of leaves, got as close to her as I could, and took her in my arms. I had not much heat left in me, but what I had I would share with her! Thus I spent what remained of the night, sleepless, and longing for the sun. Her cold seemed to radiate into me, but no heat to pass from me to her. Had I fled from the beautiful sleepers, I thought, each on her ‘dim, straight’ silver couch, to lie alone with such a bedfellow! I had refused a lovely privilege: I was given over to an awful duty! Beneath the sad, slow-setting moon, I lay with the dead, and watched for the dawn” (275). (AD: the necrophilia here is almost a fantasy of possession: Lilith is here will-less, and he mothers her.)

“In that cave, day after day, night after night, seven long days and nights, I sat or lay, now waking now sleeping, but always watching. Every morning I went out and bathed in the hot stream, and every morning felt thereupon as if I had eaten and drunk – which experience gave me courage to lay her in it also every day. Once as I did so, a shadow of discoloration on her left side gave me a terrible shock, but the next morning it had vanished, and I continued the treatment– every morning, after her bath, putting a fresh grape in her mouth…” (279)

“But Adam himself, when first he saw her asleep, could not have looked more anxiously for Eve’s awakening than I watched for this woman’s. Adam knew nothing of himself, perhaps nothing of his need of another self; I, an alien from my fellows, had learned to love what I had lost! Were this one wasted shred of womanhood to disappear, I should have nothing in me but a consuming hunger after life! I forgot even the Little Ones…I saw now that a man alone is but a being that may become a man–that he is but a need, and therefore a possibility. To be enough for himself, a being must be an eternal, self-existent worm!” (279). (AD: he in fact needs Lilith. Does he need her willful or dead, though? Also, the worm that shows her her true self later – is it this self-existant worm? He is but a need for a woman. Woman is but the fulfillment of that need.)

“You have done me the two worst of wrongs–compelled me to live, and put me to shame: neither of them can I pardon!” (285).

“I must devote my life to sharing the burden I had compelled her to resume!” (285).

“To rouse that heart were a better gift to her than the happiest life! It would be to give her a nobler, higher life!” (286).

[says the woman from Bulika] “There is an old prophecy that a child will be the death of her. That is why she will listen to no offer of marriage, they say” (291). Like Oedipus, Jesus/Herod

“The seemingly inscrutable in her I would fain penetrate: to understand something of her mode of being would be to look into marvels such as imagination could never have suggested! In this I was too daring: a man must not, for knowledge, of his own will encounter temptation!” (294).

“I was wakened by something leaping upon me, and licking my face with the rough tongue of a feline animal. ‘It is the white leopardess!’ I thought. ‘She is come to suck my blood! – and why should she not have it? – it would cost me more to defend than to yield it!’ So I lay still, expecting a shoot of pain. But the pang did not arrive; a pleasant warmth instead began to diffuse itself through me. Stretched at my back, she lay as close to me as she could lie, the heat of her body slowly penetrating mine, and her breath, which had nothing of the wild beast in it, swathing my head and face in a genial atmosphere. A full conviction that her intention toward me was good, gained possession of me…” (300). (AD: sexual vampirism.)

“I sprang from the bench. Had I indeed had a leopardess for my bedfellow, or had I but dreamed it? She had but just left me, for the warmth of her body was with me yet! I left the recess with a new hope, as strong as it was shapeless. One thing only was clear to me: I must find the princess! Surely I had some power with her, if not over her! Had I not saved her life, and had she not prolonged it at the expense of my vitality? The reflection gave me courage to encounter her, be she what she might” (300). (AD: Lilith satiates herself vampirically.)

“Many lovers have sought me; I have loved none of them: they sought to enslave me; they sought me but as the men of my city seek gems of price…” (305). She’s a siren, but she isn’t lying.

“She looked at me tenderly, and hid her face in her hands. But I had caught a flash and a sparkle behind the tenderness, and did not believe her. She laid herself out to secure and enslave me; she only fascinated me!” (306). (AD: re: etymology of “glamour”)

“Her great eyes were clear and calm. Her mouth wore a look of satisfied passion; she wiped from it a streak of red” (309). “I was a tame animal for her to feed upon; a human fountain for a thirst demoniac! She showed me favour the more easily to use me!” (309). (AD: the horror when it is the woman who has this power rather than the man who subdues and uses the woman.)

The poem he finds, that is a kind of rune:

In me was every woman. I had power

Over the soul of every living man,

Such as no woman ever had in dower–

Could what no woman ever could, or can;

All women, I, the woman, still outran,

Outsoared, outsank, outreigned, in hall or bower.


For I, though me he neither saw nor heard,

Nor with his hand could touch finger of mine,

Although not once my breath had ever stirred

A hair of him, could trammel brain and spine

With rooted bonds which Death could not untwine–

Or life, though hope was evermore deferred.” (319).


Lilith was created out of the earth, just like Adam (320).

The Raven explains Lilith to the Persian Cat (her feline familiar):

“Lilith, when you came here on the way to your evil will, you little thought into whose hands you were delivering yourself! – Mr. Vane, when God created me–not out of Nothing, as say the unwise, but out of His own endless glory–He brought me an angelic splendour to be my life: there she lies! For her first thought was power, she counted it slavery to be one with me, and bear children for Him who gave her being. One child, indeed, she bore; then, puffed with the fancy that she had created her, would have me fall down and worship her! Finding, however, that I would but love and honour, never obey and worship her, she poured out her blood to escape me, fled to the army of the aliens, and soon had so ensnared the heart of the great Shadow, that he became her slave, wrought her will, and made her queen of Hell. How it is with her now, she best knows, but I know also. The one child of her body she fears and hates, and would kill, asserting a right, which is a lie, over what God sent through her into His new world. Of creating, she knows no more than the crystal that takes its allotted shape, or the worm that makes two worms when it is cloven asunder. Vilest of God’s creatures, she lives by the blood and lives and souls of men. She consumes and slays. but is powerless to destroy as to create.”

The animal lay motionless, its beryl eyes fixed flaming on the man: his eyes on hers held them fixed that they could not move from his.

“Then God gave me another wife – not an angel but a woman–who is to this as light is to darkness” (323).

“It is but her jealousy that speaks,’ he said, ‘jealousy self-kindled, foiled and fruitless; for her eI am, her master now whom she would not have for her husband! while my beautiful Eve yet lives, hoping immortally! Her hated daughter lives also, but beyond her evil ken, one day to be what she counts her destruction–for even Lilith will be saved by her childbearing. Meanwhile she exults that my human wife plunged herself and me in despair, and has borne me a countless race of miserables; but my Eve repented, and is now beautiful as never was woman or angel, while her groaning, travailing world is the nursery of our Father’s children” (323).

“She fears, and therefore hates her child, and is in this house on her way to destroy her. The birth of children is in her eyes the death of their parents, and every new generation the enemy of the last” (325).

“Nothing will ever close that wound…It must eat into her heart! Annihilation itself is no death to evil. Only good where evil was, is evil dead. An evil thing must live with its evil until it chooses to be good. That alone is the slaying of evil” (328). (AD: Lilith is evil.)

328-9 literal catfight between Mara and Lilith as leopards.

332 Vane experiences the same false sense of power as Lilith with his mighty horse and botches everything by asserting his own will rather than listening to Raven.

“In Lona the beauty of Lilith was softened by childlikeness, and deepened by the sense of motherhood…I loved her as one who, grow to what perfection she might, could only become the more a child” (339). (AD: this is the perfect woman.)

“I hardly remembered my mother, but in my mind’s eye she now looked like Lona; and if I imagined sister or child, invariably she had the face of Lona! My every imagination flew to her; she was my heart’s wife! She hardly ever sought me, but was almost always within sound of my voice. What I did or thought, I referred constantly to her, and rejoiced to believe that, while doing her work in absolute independence, she was most at home by my side. Never for me did she neglect the smallest child, and my love only quickened my sense of duty. To love her and do my duty, seemed, not indeed one, but inseparable. She might suggest something I should do; she might ask me what she ought to do; but she never seemed to suppose that I, any more than she, would like to do, or could care about anything except what must be done. Her love overflowed upon me–not in caresses, but in a closeness of recognition which I can compare to nothing but the devotion of a divine animal” (347).

She appreciates his attempt to make clothes for her, vs. Lilith who is ungrateful (347).

“I do not remember ever being without a child to take care of…” (348 [Lona]).

“Mothers are worth fighting for!” (349, Vane)

“Mother! Mother! she sighed, and her breathing ceased…. She was ‘dead as earth.'” (357).

Lilith & Mara:

“Will you turn away from the wicked things you have been doing so long?” said Mara gently….

“I will not,” she said. “I will be myself and not another!”

“Alas, you are another now, not yourself! Will you not be your real self?”

“I will be what I mean myself now…I will do as my Self pleases–as my Self desires… No one ever made me. I defy that Power to unmake me from a free woman! You are his slave, and I defy you! You may be able to to torture me–I do not know, but you shall not compel me to anything against my will!” (371).

“She alone is free who would make free; she loves not freedom who would enslave: she is herself a slave. Every life, every will, every heart that came within your ken, you have sought to subdue: you are the slave of every slave you have made–such a slave that you do not know it! –See your own self!” (372). (AD: Christian logic here sounds eerily Hegelian.

“Why did he make me such?”

“…he did not make you such. You have made yourself what you are… If you are willing, put yourself again on the settle.”

“I will not…” (374).

“Will you restore that which you have wrongfully taken?”

“I have taken nothing,” answered the princess, forcing out the words in spite of pain, “that I had not the right to take. My power to take manifested my right” (375).

“She was what God could not have created. She had usurped beyond her share in self-creation, and her part had undone His! She saw now what she had made, and behold, it was not good! She was as a conscious corpse ,whose coffin would never come to pieces, never set her free!” (378).

“They walked from beside her, and left her with him who had been her husband–ashamed indeed of her gaunt uncomeliness, but unsubmissive” (384).

Lilith asks them to cut off her hand with the sword to get rid of the fist she cannot open herself (if your eye lusts, poke it out…)

Vane sees that his mother also has a wounded hand… is she a Lilith figure too? (399)

“Their empty places frighten me,” (409). Vane says to Lona of the tomb. VAginal.

Heaven is full of and based around mothers (416): a “group of woman-angels descended upon them, and in a moment they were fettered in heavenly arms. The radiants carried them away, and I saw them no more” (418).


“Man dreams and desires; God broods and wills and quickens” (420). (AD: And woman?? It seems like, here at least, it was mostly Lillith doing the willing and brooding, and women’s bodies doing the quickening of life.)

Schaafsma, Karen. “The Demon Lover: Lilith and the Hero in Modern Fantasy.” Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy 28.1, 1987. 

“In many fantasies, then, the hero’s development depends upon his encounters with archetypal feminine figures who may be inspiring or threatening or both, but who act as catalysts for his radical transformation. Through these encounters, the successful hero undergoes a process of feminization, in which he is forced to abandon his reliance on the intellect and on the ego’s will to power and to surrender himself to the feminine domain of the unconscious” (53). (AD: she uses this to argue that fantasy is essential matriarchal in nature.)

“In Neumann’s analysis of feminine archetypes, Lilith is symbolic of negative transformation; her influence leads to a dissociation of consciousness through seduction, intoxication, ecstasy, and madness… the figure of Lilith can shift into that of her opposite, the Virgin-Sophia, bearer of illumination, source and goal of the highest spiritual development” (53).

“The power of the Mother-Creator cannot be denied; the gap left in consciousness by the absent mother will be filled by another presence. As William Irwin Thompson observes, ‘When man will not deal with Isis, through the path of initiation, he must deal with Lilith’…the murder of the mother leads to the masculine projection of the murdering female, who is both the enemy of masculine consciousness and, paradoxically, its shadow” (53-4).

“Young-old, beautiful and horribly disfigured, seductive and deadly, Lilith is supreme ego, boundless desire” (55).


look up The Great Mother by Erich Neumann.


Gaarden, Bonnie. “Cosmic and Psychological Redemption in George MacDonald’s Lilith.” Studies in the Novel 37.1, 2005.

MacDonald was a failed Congregational minister and was chastised for his belief in universal redemption. “Lilith contains its author’s strongest affirmation of his doctrine of universal redemption. If, as the story has it, even a Lilith can be saved, who then shall be eternally condemned?” (21).

Gaarden argues that MacDonald and Jung have a lot in common. “In Jungian terms, she [Lilith] insists upon her ego’s right to define and control her self, the right of her consciousness to dictate to her unconscious” (29).

Kathryn Walls, “George Macdonald’s Lilith and the Later Poetry of T. S. Eliot.” Engilsh Language Notes January 1978.

Is the raven in Eliot’s “Burnt Norton” reminiscent of Macdonald’s Raven?

Vane’s entrance into the 7 dimensions he does not hear piano music and enters by a rosebush.

Eliot’s image of children is reminiscent of the Little ones.

Vane should have responded to Raven’s riddles with Eliot’s “I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.”

Comparisons b/w Eliot & ideas about Lilith / Mother of Sorrow may just be that both are grounded in tradition that holds very strong beliefs about the way women work in myth and society.



Ezra Pound, “A Retrospect”

Pound, Ezra. “A Retrospect.” Pavannes and Divisions, 1918.

“In the spring or early summer of 1912 ‘H.D.,’ Richard Aldington and myself decided that we were agreed upon the three principles following:

  1. Direct treatment of the ‘thing’ rather than subjective or objective.
  2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome” (84).

“…the natural object is always the adequate symbol. Go in fear of abstractions… Use either no ornament or good ornament” (85).

“It is not necessary that a poem should rely on its music, but if it does rely on its music that music must be such as will delight the expert” (85).

“Don’t chop your stuff into separate iambs. Don’t make each line stop dead at the end, and then begin every next line with a heave. Let the beginning of the next line catch the rise of the rhythm wave, unless you want a definite longish pause. In short, behave as a musician, a good musician, when dealing with that phase of your art which has exact parallels in music. The same laws govern, and you are bound by no others” (86).

“A rhyme must have in it some slight element of surprise if it is to give pleasure; it need not be bizarre or curious, but it must be well used if used at all” (86).

“The meaning of the poem to be translated can not ‘wobble'” (87).

“I believe in an ‘absolute rhythm,’ a rhythm, that is, in poetry which corresponds exactly to the emotion or shade of emotion to be expressed” (87).

“I believe that the proper and perfect symbol is the natural object, that if a man use ‘symbols’ he must so use them that their symbolic function does not obtrude; so that sense, and the poetic quality of the passage, is not lost to those who do not understand the symbol as such, to whom, for instance, a hawk is a hawk” (87).

“No good poetry is ever written in a manner twenty years old, for to write in such a manner shows conclusively that the writer thinks from books, convention and cliché, and not from life, yet a man feeling the divorce of life and his art may naturally try to resurrect a forgotten mode if he finds in that mode some leaven, or if he think he sees in it some element lacking in contemporary art which might unite that art again to its sustenance, life” (89).

“As for the nineteenth century, with all respect to its achievements, I think we shall look back upon it as a rather blurry, messy sort of a period, a rather sentimentalistic, mannerish sort of a period, I say this without any self-righteousness, with no self-satisfaction” (89).

“Mr. Yeats has once and for all stripped English poetry of its perdamnable rhetoric. He has boiled away all that is not poetic – and a good deal that is. He has become a classic in his own lifetime and nel mozzo del cammin. He has made our poetic idiom a thing pliable, a speech without inversions” (89).

“As to Twentieth century poetry, and the poetry which I expect to see written during the next decade or so, it will, I think, move against poppy-cock, it will be harder and saner, it will be what Mr. Hewlett calls ‘nearer the bone.’ It will be as much like granite as it can be, its force will lie in its truth, its interpretative power (of course, poetic force will always rest there); I mean it will not try to seem forcible by rhetorical din, and luxurious riot. We will have fewer painted adjectives impeding the shock and stroke of it” (89).

“I think one should write vers libre only when one ‘must,’ that is to say, only when the ‘thing’ builds up a rhythm more beautiful than that of set metres, or more real, more a part of the emotion of the ‘thing,’ more germane, intimate, interpretative than the measure of regular accentual verse; a rhythm which discontents one with set iambic or set anapaestic. Eliot has said the thing very well when he said, ‘No vers is libre for the man who wants to do a good job'” (89-90).


Amy Lowell, “Poetry as a Spoken Art”

Lowell, Amy. “Poetry as a Spoken Art,” in Poetry and Poets: Essays by Amy Lowell

Pages refer to PiT.

“To speak of poetry as a ‘spoken art,’ may seem, in this age of printing, a misnomer; and it is just because of such a point of view that the essential kinship of poetry and music is so often lost sight of. The ‘beat’ of poetry, its musical quality, is exactly that which differentiates it from prose, and it is this musical quality which bears in it the stress of emotion without which no true poetry can exist” (69).

“We moderns read so much more than we listen, that perhaps it is no wonder if we get into the habit of using our minds more than our ears, where literature is concerned, with the result that our imaginative, mental ear becomes absolutely atrophied” (70).

“In the case of the average person, auditory imagination is not nearly so well developed as visual” (70).

“No art has suffered so much from printing as has poetry” (70).

“Printed words, of no beauty in themselves, of no value except to rouse the imagination and cause it to function” (70).
“Using the common implements of all the world, poetry is treated with a cavalier ease which music escapes” (71).

“Whether vers libre is poetry or prose, can be treated quite summarily: It is assuredly poetry. That it may dispense with rhyme, and must dispense with metre, does not affect its substance in the least. For no matter with what it dispenses, it retains that essential to all poetry: Rhythm” (74).

Filippo Marinetti, “Technical Manifesto of Futurist Literature”

Marinetti, Filippo. “Technical Manifesto of Futurist Literature,” 1912.

Page numbers refer to PiT.

“This is what the whirling propeller told me, when I flew two hundred meters above the mighty chimney pots of Milan” (57).

“1. One must destroy syntax and scatter one’s nouns at random, just as they are born” (57).

“3. One must abolish the adjective to allow the naked noun to preserve its essential color” (57). (AD: “naked” is an adjective.)

“4. One must abolish the adverb, old belt buckle that holds two words together. The adverb preserves a tedious unity of tone within a phrase” (57).

“5. Every noun should have its double; that is, the noun should be followed, with no conjunction, by the noun to which it is related by analogy. Example: man-torpedo-boat, woman-gulf, crowd-surf, piazza-funnel, door-faucet. Just as aerial speed has multiplied our knowledge of the world, the perception of analogy becomes ever more natural for man. One must suppress the like, the as, the so, the similar to. Still better, one should deliberately confound the object with the image that it evokes, foreshortening the image to a single essential word” (57).

“6. Abolish even the punctuation. After adjectives, adverbs, and conjunctions have been suppressed, punctuation is naturally annulled…. To accentuate certain movements and indicate their directions, mathematical symbols will be used: + – x: = and the musical symbols” (57).

“Analogy is nothing more than the deep love that assembles distant, seemingly diverse and hostile things. An orchestral style, at once polychromatic, polyphonic, and polymorphous, can embrace the life of matter only by means of the most extensive analogies” (57).

“Images are not flowers to be chosen and picked with parsimony, as Voltaire said. They are the very lifeblood of poetry. Poetry should be an uninterrupted sequence of new images, or it is mere anemia and green-sickness. The broader their affinities, the longer will images keep their power to amaze. One must – people say – spare the reader’s capacity for wonder. Nonsense! Let us rather worry about the fatal corrosion of time that not only destroys the expressive calue of a masterpiece but also its power to amaze. Too often stimulated, have our old ears perhaps not already destroyed Beethoven and Wagner? We must therefore eliminate from our language everything it contains in the way of stereotyped images, faded metaphors; and that means almost everything” (58).

“…the analogical style is absolute master of all matter and its intense life” (58).

Literature should be organised into “nets of images” (58).

“11. Destroy the in literature: that is, all psychology… put matter in his place, matter whose essence must be grasped by strokes of intuition, the kind of thing that the physicists and chemists can never do. To capture the breath, sensibility, and the instincts of metals, stones, wood, and so on, through the medium of free and whimsical motors. To substitute the human psychology, now exhausted, the lyric obsession with matter” (58).

“Be careful not to force human feelings onto matter. Instead, divine its different governing impulses, its forces of compression, dilation, cohesion and disaggregation, its crowds of massed molecules and whirling electrons. We are not interested in offering dramas of humanized matter. The solidity of a strip of steel interests us for itself; that is, the incomprehensible and nonhuman alliance of its molecules or its electrons that oppose, for instance, the penetration of a howitzer. The warmth of a piece of iron or wood is in our opinion more impassioned than the smile or tears of a woman” (59).

“Three elements hitherto overlooked in literature must be introduced:

  1. Sound (manifestation of the dynamism of objects).
  2. Weight (objects’ faculty of flight).
  3. Smell (objects’ faculty of dispersing themselves)” (59).


“Man tends to foul matter with his youthful joy or elderly sorrows; matter has an admirable continuity of impulse toward greater warmth, greater movement, a greater subdivision of itself” (59).

“Together we will invent what I call the imagination without strings. Someday we will achieve a yet more essential art, when we dare to suppress all the first terms of our analogies and render no more than an uninterrupted sequence of second terms. To achieve this we must renounce being understood. It is not necessary to be understood” (60).

“Futurist poets! I have taught you to hate libraries and museums, to prepare you to hate the intelligence, reawakening in you divine intuition, the characteristic gift of the Latin races. Through intuition we will conquer the seemingly unconquerable hostility that separates out human flesh from the metal of motors” (60).



T. E. Hulme, “Romanticism and Classicism”

T. E. Hulme, “Romanticism and Classicism,” in Speculations. 1924.

Page numbers reference PiT.

*note: T. E. Hulme is a precursor of Imagism.

“I want to maintain that after a hundred years of romanticism, we are in for a classical revival, and that the particular weapon of this new classical spirit, when it works in verse, will be fancy… fancy will be superior to imagination” (47).

There are two views: “One, that man is intrinsically good, spoilt by circumstance; and the other that he is intrinsically limited, but disciplined by order and tradition to something fairly decent. To the one party man’s nature is like a well, to the other like a bucket. The view which regards man as a well, a reservoir full of possibilities, I call the romantic; the one which regards him as a very finite and fixed creature, I call the classical…” (48).

“It is like pouring a pot of treacle over the dinner table. Romanticism then, and this is the best definition I can give of it, is spilt religion” (48).

“The romantic, because he thinks man infinite, must always be talking about the infinite; and as there is always the bitter contrast between what you think you ought to be able to do and what man actually can, it always tends, in its later stages at any rate, to be gloomy” (49).

“What I mean by classical in verse, then, is this. That even in the most imaginative flights there is always a holding back, a reservation. The classical poet never forgets this finiteness, this limit of man. He remembers always that he is mixed up with earth. He may jump, but he always returns back; he never flies away into the circumambient gas. You might say if you wished that the whole of the romantic attitude seems to crystallise in verse round metahpors of flight. Hugo is always flying, flying over abysses, flying up into the eternal gases. The word infinite is in every other line” (49).

“the thing that I think quite classical is the word lad. Your modern romantic could never write that. He would have to write golden youth, and take up the thing at least a couple of notes in pitch” (50).

“Each field of artistic activity is exhausted by the first great artist who gathers a full harvest from it. This period of exhaustion seems to me to have been reached in romanticism. We shall not get any new efflorescence of verse until we get a new technique, a new convention, to turn ourselves loose in” (50).

“certain extremely complex mechanisms, subtle enough to imitate beauty, can work by themselves – I certainly think that this is the case with judgments about beauty” (51).

“At the present time I should say that this receptive attitude has outlasted the thing from which it was formed. But while the romantic tradition has run dry, yet the critical attitude of mind, which demands romantic qualities from verse, still survives. So that if good classical verse were to be written tomorrow very few people would be able to stand it” (51).

“The dry hardness which you get in the classics is absolutely repugnant to them. Poetry that isn’t damp isn’t poetry at all. They cannot see that accurate description is a legitimate object of verse. Verse to them always means a bringing in of some of the emotions that are grouped round the word infinite. The essence of poetry to most people is that it must lead them to a beyond of some kind. Verse strictly confined to the earthly and the definite (Keats is full of it) might seem to them to be excellent writing, excellent craftsmanship, but not poetry. So much as romanticism debauched us, that, without some form of vagueness, we deny the highest. In the classic it is always the light of ordinary day, never the light that never was on land or sea. It is always perfectly human and never exaggerated: man is always man and never a god” (51).

“It is essential to prove that beauty may be in small, dry things” (51). (Like imagist poems.) “The great aim is accurate, precise and definite description. The first thing is to recognise how extraordinarily difficult this is. It is no mere matter of carefulness; you have to use language, and language is by its very nature a communal thing; that is, it expresses never the exact thing but a compromise – that which is common to you, me and everybody. But each man sees a little different, and to get out clearly and exactly what he does see, he must have a terrific struggle with language, whether it be with words or the technique of other arts” (52).

“I prophesy that a period of dry, hard, classical verse is coming” (52). (Imagism.)

“In prose as in algebra concrete things are embodied in signs or counters which are moved about according to rules, without being visualised at all in the process. There are in prose certain type situations and arrangements of words, which move as automatically into certain other arrangements as do functions in algebra. One only changes the X’s and the Y’s back into physical things at the end of the process. Poetry, in one aspect at any rate, may be considered as an effort to avoid this characteristic of prose. It is not a counter language, but a visual concrete one. It is a compromise for a language of intuition which would hand over sensations bodily. It always endeavors to arrest you, and to make you continuously see a physical thing, to prevent you gliding through an abstract process” (53).

“Works of art aren’t eggs. Rather the contrary” (53).

“it is the zest with which you look at the thing which decides you to make the effort” (54).

“Fancy is not mere decoration added on to plain speech. Plain speech is essentially inaccurate. It is only by new metaphors, that is, by fancy, that it can be made precise” (54).

“The intellect always analyses – when there is a synthesis it is baffled. That is why the artist’s work seems mysterious. The intellect can’t represent it. This is a necessary consequence of the particular nature of the intellect and the purposes for which it is formed. It doesn’t mean that your synthesis is ineffable, simply that it can’t be definitely stated” (55).


Freud, “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming”

Sigmund Freud, “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming.” Neue Revue, 1908. 

Page numbers reference Poetry in Theory.

“The opposite of play is not what is serious but what is real” (42).

“The creative writer does the same as the child at play. He creates a world of phantasy which he takes very seriously – that is, which he invests with large amounts of emotion – while separating it sharply from reality. Language has preserved this relationship between children’s play and poetic creation” (42).

“As people grow up, then, they cease to play… Actually we can never give anything up; we only exchange one thing for another. what appears to be a renunciation is really the formation of a substitute or surrogate. In the same way, the growing child, when he stops playing, gives up nothing but the link with real objects; instead of playing, he now phantasies” (43).
The adult, on the contrary, is ashamed of his phantasies and hides them form other people. He cherishes his phantasies as his most intimate possessions, and as a rule he would rather confess his misdeeds than tell anyone his phantasies” (43).

“A happy person never phantasies, only an unsatisfied one. The motive forces of phantasies are unsatisfied wishes, and every single phantasy is the fulfillment of a wish, a correction of unsatisfying reality” (43).

“We must separate writers who, like the ancient authors of epics and tragedies, take over their material ready-made, from writers who seem to originate their own material” (45). (AD: What does this mean for diving into the wreck? Are divers on par with epic-writers / tragediennes?)

“Insofar as the material is already at hand, however, it is derived from the popular treasure-house of myths, legends, and fairy tales. The study of constructions of folk-psychology such as these is as far from being complete, but it is extremely probably that myths, for instance, are distorted vestiges of the wishful phantasies of whole nations, the secular dreams of youthful humanity” (46).

“Such phantasies, when we learn them, repel us or at least leave us cold. But when a creative writer presents his plays to us or tells us what we are inclined to take to be his personal day-dreams, we experience a great pleasure, and one which probably arises from the confluence of many sources. How the writer accomplishes this is his innermost secret; the essential ars poetica lies in the technique of overcoming the feeling of repulsion in us which is undoubtedly connected with the barriers that rise between each single ego and the others…The writer softens the character of his egoistic day-dreams by altering and disguising it, and he bribes us by the purely formal – that is, aesthetic – yield of pleasure which he offers us in the presentation of his phantasies” (46).


Yeats, “The Symbolism of Poetry”

W. B. Yeats, “The Symbolism of Poetry.” In Ideas of Good and Evil, 1903.

— page numbers reference Poetry in Theory 1900-2000.

“In ‘Symbolism in Painting,’ I tried to describe the element of symbolism that is in pictures and sculpture, and described a little the symbolism in poetry, but did not describe at all the continuous indefinable symbolism which is the substance of all style” (30).

“We may call this metaphorical writing, but it is better to call it symbolical writing, because metaphors are not profound enough to be moving, when they are not symbols, and when they are symbols they are the most perfect of all, because the most subtle, outside of pure sound, and through them one can best find out what symbols are….. All sounds, all colours, all forms, either because of their preordained energies or because of long association, evoke indefinable and yet precise emotions, or, as I prefer to think, call down among us certain disembodied powers, whose footsteps over our hearts we call emotions; and when sound, and colour, and form are in a musical relation, a beautiful relation to one another, they become, as it were, one sound, one colour, one form, and evoke an emotion that is made out of their distinct evocations and yet is one emotion” (30).

“It is indeed only those things which seem useless or very feeble that have any power, and all those things that seem useful or strong, armies, moving wheels, modes of architecture, modes of government, speculations of the reason, would have been a little different if some mind long ago had not given itself to some emotion, as a woman gives herself to her lover, and shaped sounds or colours or forms, or all of these, into a musical relation, that their emotion might live in other minds” (31).

“The purpose of rhythm, it has always seemed to me, is to prolong the moment of contemplation, the moment when we are both asleep and awake, which is the one moment of creation, by hushing us with an alluring monotony, while it holds us waking by variety, to keep us in that state of perhaps real trance, in which the mind liberated from the pressure of the will is unfolded in symbols” (31).

“If I say ‘white’ or ‘purple’ in an ordinary line of poetry, they evoke emotions so exclusively that I cannot say why they move me; but if I bring them into the same sentence with such obvious intellectual symbols as a cross or a crown of thorns, I think of purity and sovereignty” (32).

“…if one is moved by Dante, or by the myth of