“The Rule of Three”: Textual Triads, Trialogues, and Women’s Voices in Sylvia Plath, Jackie Kay, and debbie tucker green

Osborne, Deirdre. 2023. “The Rule of Three”: Textual Triads, Trialogues, and Women’s Voices in Sylvia Plath, Jackie Kay, and debbie tucker green. In: Rachel Carroll and Fiona Tolan, eds. The Routledge Companion to Literature and Feminism. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 244-262. ISBN 9780367410261 [Book Section]

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Chronologically separated by nearly three decades and with three distinct media (radio drama, novella poem, and play), Sylvia Plath’s “Three Women: A Poem for Three Voices” (1962), Jackie Kay’s “The Adoption Papers” (1991) and debbie tucker green’s trade (2005) each employ an arresting tripartite structure that testifies to their reformations of writing. As a dramatic device, the triad keeps any one member potentially on the edge of a group or else can create a strength through greater unity. In unique and powerful ways, the texts serve as conduits to un(der)represented experiences (childbirth, miscarriage, adoption, female sex tourism) and to socio-cultural histories (the medicalization of maternity, interracial relationships, imperial-colonial legacies of the British Empire). The socio-cultural parameters around each woman’s motherhood expectations and experiences as daughters (Plath and Kay) offer a compelling aesthetics. tucker green’s dramatis personae specifies “three black actresses” to play all roles across race, class, age and gender, ensuring the work can be accessed only through Black women: author and actors. These texts are read comparatively as literary and cultural documents, artistically archiving eras of women’s citizenship and creativities attuned to racial, economic and gendered sightlines and generic innovativeness.

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"This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in ‘The Routledge Companion to Literature and Feminism’ on 1 December 2023, available online: https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Companion-to-Literature-and-Feminism/Carroll-Tolan/p/book/9780367410261. It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way."


drama, feminism, triad, trialogue, black British women's writing, motherhood, adoption, maternity, maternal poetics

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


1 December 2023Published

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Date Deposited:

01 Dec 2023 10:04

Last Modified:

01 Dec 2023 10:06



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