Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Cornell campus is swarming with day-before-classes-start energy. It's kind of sticky.

I'd like to welcome Laura Carter's blue revisions to the blogroll. She has a marvelous post today on gender in writing which distills some of the quasi-essentialist and/or metaphysical theories on the feminine I'm mostly familiar with from French theory in a very clear way. The Evdokimov quote is terrific. I'm very conscious, largely because of my mother and various women I've known in my life, of how "the types of women created by history" are probably not true, not "normative." It's difficult to posit a notion of the feminine that isn't assembled in contradistinction from the masculine. But on a more pragmatic level, I demand access to feminine modes of being, thinking, and writing for myself (though not in a drag show kind of way) and for everyone—I don't think a woman should have to be/think/write "like a man" to be heard, to be successful. Men who insist on always writing like men are cutting themselves off from the unconscious of the language (a "content" in language that some but not all feminist projects are devoted to foregrounding, making conscious). So I too am drawn to poets, male and female, who consciously or unconsciously (consciously is more interesting if it's not overdetermining) search out the feminine. (A recent book that does this to spectacular and queasy effect is Catherine Wagner's Macular Hole.)

Where I part ways with Carter (isn't that terribly "masculinist," referring to someone by their last name only? It smacks of prep school machismo. But "Ms. Carter" is even worse) is on Stevens and his alleged "musclarity, secularism, priggishness." Are we talking about the same poet? I suppose one could characterize the later Stevens that way, but the effete, sybaritic persona that presides over Harmonium? His language in those poems is so delectable, so delightful, and so mischievous that even the heavy sonorousness of "An Ordinary Evening in New Haven" or "Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction" echo, to my mind, the earlier work's brightness, like a flicker of sunlight reflected by the reverse of a coin.

No comments:

Popular Posts