Word, Birth, and Culture: The Poetry of Poe, Whitman, and Dickinson

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Bloomsbury Academic, 2002 M04 30 - 184 pages
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Poe, Whitman, and Dickinson form an engaging triad of poets who, considered together, enrich the poetics of each other; the works of the three poets address language, birth, and scientific aspects of culture in ways that frame new perceptions of sex roles. Exacerbating 19th-century American expectations for sexually-constructed experience, they employ tactics that disrupt patriarchal signification. The first book to group these three poets together, this volume examines the daring language experiments in which they engage. It explores their use of pseduoscientific and scientific studies of alchemy, hydropathy, and botany to inform their understanding of language and birth and to discover expressions that challenge expectations for 19th-century poetry.

The rising awareness of women's rights, which concurred with the antebellum call for a new American literature, also informed the emerging sense of the feminine that prompts the poets to use the maternal in their poetry. While they do not address the woman question of the 19th century in concrete ways, they nonetheless relied upon the female experience of birthing to create a new relationship with language and to question the nature of signification.

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Poes The Raven and Gestative Signification
Whitmans Song of Myself and Gestative Signification
Dickinsons Fascicle TwentyEight and Gestative Signification

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About the author (2002)

DANEEN WARDROP is Associate Professor of English at Western Michigan University. She is the author of Emily Dickinson's Gothic: Goblin with a Gauge (1996), and her articles have appeared in such journals as Texas Studies in Literature and Language, ESQ, African American Review, and The Emily Dickinson Journal.

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