Seeing in the Dark: The Poetry of Phyllis Webb

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Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, Mar 20, 1997 - Biography & Autobiography - 184 pages
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Poet Phyllis Webb initiated new ways of seeing into the cultural “dark” of Western thought. By blurring the axis between “light” and “dark,” she redefined in positive terms women’s subjectivity and sexuality, which are traditionally assigned “dark” negative values.

Seeing in the Dark includes perceptive discussions on a number of Webb’s collections, specifically Naked Poems, Wilson’s Bowl, Water and Light and Hanging Fire. Butling shows how Webb uses strategies of subversion, reversal and re-vision of prevailing traditions and tropes to facilitate “seeing in the dark.” She also provides a fascinating analysis of Webb criticism — tracing it over the past thirty years and revealing a shift in critical paradigms. A chapter on biography includes intriguing archival material.

Pauline Butling offers important new ways of reading one of Canada’s finest poets. Seeing in the Dark is essential introductory material for the general reader and provides provocative penetrating analysis for literary scholars.


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Chapter 1 Webbs Poetics of Resistance
Chapter 2 Reading Water and Light
Chapter 3 Form as ProcessForm in Process
Chapter 4 Shifting the ShiftersFrom IYou to IWe
Wilsons Bowl and Hanging Fire
Chapter 6 Webb CriticismA Re View
Chapter 7 The Bio as Text
Chronology of Phyllis Webb
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Page 3 - From this point of view, discursive 'transparency' is best read in the photographic sense in which a transparency is also always a negative, processed into visibility through the technologies of reversal, enlargement, lighting, editing, projection, not a source but a re-source of light. Such a bringing to light is never a prevision; it is always a question of the provision of visibility as a capacity, a strategy, an agency but also in the sense in which the prefix pro(vision) might indicate an elision...

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About the author (1997)

Pauline Butling teaches Canadian literature and cultural studies in the Humanities Department at the Alberta College of Art and Design. Her previous work on Phyllis Webb includes editing a Festschrift (West Coast Line Number Six) in 1992.

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