The Wicked Sisters; Women Poets, Literary History, and Discord / Edition 1

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This provocative study of the lives and works of Emily Dickinson, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Adrienne Rich, and Gwendolyn Brooks focuses on the historical struggles and differences among and within women writers and among feminists themselves. Erkkila explores the troubled relations women writers experienced with both masculine and feminine literary cultures, arguing that popular feminist views often romanticize and maternalize women writers and their interrelations in ways that effectively reinforce the very gender stereotypes and polarities which initially grounded women's oppression. Studying the multiple race, class, ethnic, cultural, and other locations of women within a particular social field, Erkkila offers a revisionary model of women's literary history that challenges recent feminist theory and practice along with many of our fundamental assumptions about the woman writer, women's writing, and women's literary history. In contrast to the tendency of earlier feminists to heroize literary foremothers and communities of women, Erkkila focuses on the historical struggles and conflicts that make up the history of women poets. Without discounting the historical power of sisterhood, she seeks to reclaim women's literary history as a site of contention, contingency, and ongoing struggle, rather than a separate space of untroubled and essentially cooperative accord among women. Encompassing the various historical significations of "wickedness" as destructive, powerful, playful, witty, mischievous, and not righteous, The Wicked Sisters explores the power struggles and discord that mark both the history of women poets and the history of feminist criticism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Erkkila's argument could not be more timely....As a close study of conflicting tensions affecting the lives and works of five prestigious women poets, Erkkila's book makes lively and enlightening reading."—Lesbian and Gay Studies Newsletter

"Erkkila's book contributes to feminist criticism by adding new complexities to our models of female literary influence and literary relationships."—Sharon O'Brien, Dickinson College

"Excellent literary-historical background."—Louise Westling, University of Oregon

"Most impressive and intelligent—extremely valuable to the profession."—E.N. Feltskog, University of Wisconsin, Madison

"The Wicked Sisters is full of particular insights which make it illuminating reading....The Wicked Sisters are needed and valuable studies that offer varying and creative approaches to the enterprise of rewriting women's literary histories in ways which both transform and recuperate an American cultural past."—Modern Philology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195072129
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/28/1992
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Northwestern University
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Table of Contents

1 Rethinking Women's Literary History 3
2 Emily Dickinson and the Wicked Sisters 17
The Magic Circle 19
"Satan, or Sue" 27
Sisterhood and Difference 42
Placing Dickinson in History 44
3 Dickinson, Women Writers, and the Marketplace 55
Literary Sisterhood: The Bronte Sisters 63
"Tomes of Solid Witchcraft": Elizabeth Barrett Browning 68
Superior Women: George Eliot 79
Going to Market: Helen Hunt Jackson 86
4 Differences That Kill: Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore 99
Gender and Modernism 101
The Dynamics of Influence 107
"Can't They See How Different It Is?" 119
Witchcraft 131
"Driving to the Interior" 137
"You Are an Elizabeth" 146
5 Adrienne Rich, Emily Dickinson, and the Limits of Sisterhood 152
Breaking the Mold 155
Feminism and Poetry 162
Lesbian Feminist Politics and Poetics 170
Dickinson as Other 176
"What Chou Mean WE, White Girl?" 181
6 Race, Black Women Writing, and Gwendolyn Brooks 185
Making Herself a Tradition 186
Black Blueswomen 192
Poetry and Black Motherhood 195
Words as Weapons 206
Black Power 210
"There Will Be Differences" 221
"Who Said It Was Simple" 229
Notes 235
Bibliography 245
Index 261
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