Lyric Interventions: Feminism, Experimental Poetry, and Contemporary Discourse

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University of Iowa Press, May 1, 2005 - Literary Criticism - 305 pages
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Lyric Interventions explores linguistically innovative poetry by contemporary women in North America and Britain whose experiments give rise to fresh feminist readings of the lyric subject. The works discussed by Linda Kinnahan explore the lyric subject in relation to the social: an “I” as a product of social discourse and as a conduit for change.

Contributing to discussions of language-oriented poetries through its focus on women writers and feminist perspectives, this study of lyric experimentation brings attention to the cultural contexts of nation, gender, and race as they significantly shift the terms by which the “experimental” is produced, defined, and understood.

This study focuses upon lyric intervention in distinct but related spheres as they link public and ideological norms of identity. Firstly, lyric innovations with visual and spatial realms of cultural practice and meaning, particularly as they naturalize ideologies of gender and race in North America and the post-colonial legacies of the Caribbean, are investigated in the works of Barbara Guest, Kathleen Fraser, Erica Hunt, and M. Nourbese Philip. Secondly, experimental engagements with nationalist rhetorics of identity, marking the works of Carol Ann Duffy, Denise Riley, Wendy Mulford, and Geraldine Monk, are explored in relation to contemporary evocations of “self” in Britain. And thirdly, in discussions of all of the poets, but particularly accenuated in regard to Guest, Fraser, Riley, Mulford, and Monk, formal experimentation with the lyric “I” is considered through gendered encounters with critical and avant-garde discourses of poetics.

Throughout the study, Kinnahan seeks to illuminate and challenge the ways in which visual and verbal constructs function to make “readable” the subjectivities historically supporting white, male-centered power within the worlds of art, poetry, social locations, or national policy. The potential of the feminist, innovative lyric to generate linguistic surprise simultaneously with engaging risky strategies of social intervention lends force and significance to the public engagement of such poetic experimentation.

This fresh, energetic study will be of great interest to literary critics and womens studies scholars, as well as poets on both sides of the Atlantic.


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1 Lyric Conversations and Interventions
2 Lyric Discourse the Arts and the AvantGarde
3 Our Visible Selves
4 The Rhetoric of Self Nation and Economics
5 Theory and the Lyric I

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About the author (2005)

Linda A. Kinnahan is Professor of English at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where she teaches American literature, twentieth-century poetry, and feminist studies. She is the author of Poetics of the Feminine: Authority and Literary Tradition in William Carlos Williams, Mina Loy, Denise Levertov and Kathleen Fraser.

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