'We’ll all be Penelopes then': Art and Domesticity in American Women’s Poetry, 1958-1996

Hurst, Isobel. 2009. 'We’ll all be Penelopes then': Art and Domesticity in American Women’s Poetry, 1958-1996. In: S. J. Harrison, ed. Living Classics: Greece and Rome in Contemporary Poetry in English. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 275-294. ISBN 978 0 19 923373 1 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

The feminist critic Sandra M. Gilbert argues that ‘a mythological way of structuring female experience … has been useful to many women writers since the nineteenth century’. Whereas Victorian women writers drew strength from the women of Greek tragedy, American women poets (whose difficulties in getting serious consideration for poetry based on the personal and the domestic are sometimes surprisingly close to those of their Victorian predecessors) have chosen Penelope as a model for their explorations of women’s changing attitudes towards marriage
and of the difficulty of reconciling the demands of art and domestic life. The poets’ identification with Penelope can be uneasy as well as celebratory: the Penelopes in poems by Linda Pastan, Jorie Graham, Louise Glück, Angela Jackson, Eve Merriam and others range from a resourceful, creative figure, worthy of emulation, to a poor substitute for the more fantastic female characters in the Odyssey.

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Book Section

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature



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Date Deposited:

15 Nov 2011 14:19

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:49



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