Alison, this is simply too complex to unweave. But I'll do a very little
and then leave the field. I'll try not to splutter or poopoo, and I won't
accuse you of same, as that would be the grossest sort of provocative
behavior and against the rules of the list, and besides would be an attempt
to render you invisible.
1. Yale made an administrative decision. This doesn't speak to bias, which
may or may not exist, especially in an environment in which gay studies are
pursued without the benefit of a specific chair.
The problem with chairs that are so focused can be that they outlive the
political situation they are meant to afddress. Bureaucracioes tend to be
2. I have no reason to believe that Rukeyser was harmed as a poet by her
gender. If she was, I'd want to know how. Otherwise it's just mouthing off.
3. my interest in the muse is very different from yours, and I didn't
realize that at first. I'm interested in it as the manifestation of what I
take to be a widespread, if not universal, psychological phenomenon,
introjection, and I think that whatever other significances it has had it
would not have existed without that enabling phenomenon. You are interested
in those other significances. Legitimate, I think, on both sides. I'm not
sure how the muse you present operates in the current world, at least in
the US, where most poets under forty have never read an invocation to the muse.
4. The world is full of assholes. They don't always speak for the cultures
that produced them. We also have polygamists, flat-earthers and neonazis.
5. The US is not Australia--it sounds like the situation is somewhat
different. I question seriously whether you could perceive any
such difference. Note that you come very close to ad homina here.
6. In the present moment in the US, there are many fine female poets who
appear to have no greater difficulty getting published and even taught than
their male peers. This is a relatively new phenomenon and attracts
comment. Hence "woman poets." Similarly, there are "woman ceos" of major
corporations. The novelty is noted, but the ceos are dealt with exactly as
men are. In the case of poets, who are we talking about? All poets are
treated as oddities.
By the way, if the idea is to discourage women poets being seen as "women
poets" one should perhaps ask about the wisdom or utility of journals
exclusively devoted to poetry by women.
7. I'm not aware that there is an active backlash against "the feminization
of literature" in the US, altho there are people who occasionally propose it.
8. As to Bakhtin's formulation, I think it's more useful (I derive this
indirectly from Vygotsky) to think of this particular introject as the
grown-up, internalized version of the imaginary friend, who is always gendered.
At 07:56 AM 5/6/2003 +1000, you wrote:
>At 9:21 AM -0700 5/5/03, Mark Weiss wrote:
>>I'm really talking about what I'm guessing is the psychological phenomenon
>>behind the muse and skipping the historical, which is interesting but
>>largely no longer operative. I also have never called on one, but a female
>>figure personifying longing (in my case with traceable roots) did appear
>>during one stretch of years in my work. Does something similar never happen
>>to women? Or to gay men? I'm thinking of O'Hara's great poem "In Memory of
>>My Feelings": "My quietness has a man in it, he is transparent / and
>>carries me quietly, like a gondola, through the streets."
>One fruitful way of thinking about it might be Bakhtin's idea of the
>"ideal interlocutor" (whom he cites as perhaps god, or some other
>imagined ideal reader addressed in works). It's usefully ungendered.
>But you are changing the subject: you say things like "It's
>inconceivable that any respectable US universities would discourage
>gay studies" and in reply to Chris' pointing out that a major
>university refused to endow a chair of gay studies because of its
>"narrow focus" you splutter and say how can they be biased? they
>publish books on gay studies; you poopoo the idea of systemic or
>structural biases which operate specifically against women, citing a
>number of examples, which are refuted, and then say, oh, but I wasn't
>talking about that anyway, but something else.
>I wasn't arguing anything so coarse as your paraphrases
>("conspiracies against women" &c). Nor was I saying that unjust
>obscurity does not happen to men. But the existence of a systemic,
>endemic historical bias against women poets seems to me unremarkably
>obvious and has been in the past decades very thoroughly documented,
>and I wonder that you find it so unbelievable; and your assertion
>that people like Mary Shelley and HD had no trouble with such issues
>(they did) makes me question seriously whether you could perceive any
>such patterns now.
>The "mechanism" you are asking for evidence for is a million subtle
>mechanisms, far from a single crude conspiracy. I was talking about
>one of them, the gendering of a historically specific concept of
>creativity in a way which makes creativity for a woman sterile, and
>therefore impossible. This started as a discussion about the Muse and
>my observation that the Muse is part of a gendered construction which
>has been around for a few centuries, and which is one of the ideas
>that fenced women out of writing. I _wasn't_ saying that things
>haven't changed (nor was I saying that things aren't complex): I
>_was_ saying that many of those constructions are still extant
>(otherwise we might not be arguing about the Muse) and in conjunction
>with a reactive swing against the very prominence of women that you
>are citing, I find it troubling. Because we seem to be entering
>reactionary times. And the fact that you don't believe such
>attitudes are around and finding public space doesn't mean that they
>are not present. I mentioned one myself: a recent hubbub about the
>"feminisation" of Australian literature representing a corruption of
>literary integrity. That has been happening _this year_.
>Rukeyser remains stubbornly and individually herself, to her
>detriment (her first book was 1935, if that makes any difference).
>No, she would appeal to neither the agendas of Vendler (too left
>wing) nor Perloff (too conservative in her poetics). I am not sure
>whether that proves anything. Why does she have to be promoted by
>women in order to be visible? Why are women presumed to have the
>same hegemonic priorities? Why wouldn't men equally embrace her
>work, as they might embrace say Langston Hughes? Why is she
>considered to be merely of "special interest" (the "narrow field" of
>"women's studies", perhaps? I think her work suffers in that
>The difficulty is and has always been twofold: how to highlight these
>actual systemic biases in order to permit the work to exist in more
>interesting relationships with the rest of the culture, without
>creating a further excuse for its dismissal as a marginal part of
>literature. I remember years ago seeing two (male) Australian
>anthologists interviewed on tv; they talked about "special interest"
>groups like "women" and "aborigines". Is that valuable notice? I
>would ideally like my poetry just to be read as poetry, but my sex
>gets in the way all the time, whether I draw attention to it or not
>(I've tried both tactics and both are equally useless). I am,
>whether I choose to embrace it or not, a "woman writer" in a way that
>a man is never a "man writer". (Such a ridiculous phrase, no?)
>Whether or not I choose to write about specifically female experience
>(sometimes I do, sometimes I don't) it is filtered through my "woman"
>status: I have been interested for example by how the less "feminine"
>poems often get filtered out of discussions of my work.
>At 6:37 PM +0100 5/5/03, Douglas Clark wrote:
>>What Chodorow, based on object relations, says is that men have one
>>basic relation with their mothers whereas women have relations both with
>>father and mother at the levels that matter. So women can opt out of one
>>relationship and transfer to another in the way that men cant. So me would
>>appear to be limited to a Muse whereas women are not.
>Douglas, I'm not familiar with Chodorow, but I find this apparent
>erasure of the father out of the male psyche simply unbelievable.
>What does she mean? That fathering doesn't count or matter (or only
>to girls)? That a father, absent or otherwise, is not formative to a
>boy's development? If it matters to girls, it matters to boys. Of
>course there may be differences in _how_ it matters. But it seems to
>me that would vary enormously from child to child.