Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The woman and the muse

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While the male poet, even at his most wretched and alienated, can at least solace himself with his open or secret creativity, his mythmaking power, the female poet must come to terms with the fact that as a female she is that which is mythologized, the incarnation of otherness (to use de Beauvoir’s terminology) and hence the object of anthologies full of male metaphors. Many of her hypotheses about herself are therefore in one way or another replies to prevalent definitions of her femininity, replies expressing either her distress at the disparity between male myths about her and her own sense of herself, or else her triumphant repudiation of those myths. Men tell her that she is a muse. Yet she knows that she is not a muse, she has a muse (and what is its sex?). Men tell her she is the “angel in the house,” yet she doesn’t feel angelic, and wonders, therefore, if she is a devil, a witch, an animal, a criminal. Men tell her that she is Molly Bloom, Mother Earth, Ishtar, a fertility goddess, a thing whose periodicity expresses the divine order (or is it the disorder?) of seasons, skies, stars. They tell her, echoing Archibald MacLeish’s definition of a poem, that she should not mean but be. Yet meanings delight her, along with seemings, games, plays, costumes, and ideas of order, as they delight male poets. But perhaps, she speculates, her rage for order is mistaken, presumptuous?

Sandra M. Gilbert, “My Name is Darkness”

Written by nevalalee

July 29, 2018 at 7:30 am

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