Date of Award

5-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

English

Major Professor

Marilyn Kallet

Committee Members

Arthur Smith, Ben Lee, Chris Holmlund

Abstract

Emily Dickinson, Frances Sargent Osgood, and Sarah Piatt render the nineteenth-century “women’s sphere” ironically Unheimliche while simultaneously conveying it as the “home sweet home” the sentimental tradition prescribes it should be. These American women poets turn the domestic milieu into, as Paula Bennett phrases it, “the gothic mise en scene par excellence…the displacements, doublings, and anxieties characterizing gothic experience are the direct consequence of domestic ideology’s impact on the lives and psyches of ordinary bourgeois women (121-122).”

Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath continue to represent the Unheimliche home in their poetry through the middle of the twentieth century, specifically by portraying the woman writer’s homebound experience as a fearful one; the materials of writing surrounding Plath’s and Sexton’s speakers encourage both creation and self-destruction. The speakers of Invisible Mink confront writing similarly in that the process of making a poem is couched in extreme anxiety. Poetic creation in my collection is explored via gothic conventions including the use of doubles, or poetic doppelgangers, as multiple speakers in poems.

Recent poetry and criticism by Lyn Hejinian, Brenda Hillman, Mary Ruefle, and Olena Kalytiak Davis navigate the space between “home” and “away” in terms of tensions between the “feminine” and the “masculine” and the “confessional” and the “experimental.” Innovations in form and content throughout Invisible Mink are encouraged by Hillman’s work with blank space on the page and Hejinian’s writings on the materiality of words and forms. The use of classic film as a guiding motif in Invisible Mink is particularly inspired by Ruefle’s erasures and Davis’ “samplings,” as termed by critic Ira Sadoff, of classical literary texts.

Invisible Mink serves as an example of one woman artist’s “survival story” and is also, I hope, a testament to other women artists’ similar ordeals.

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