July 17, 2003


Because the introduction of my dissertation looks like it just isn't going to come together until the end of the project, I'm starting with an entirely different chapter just to get myself going. The chapter is on portraiture, self-portraiture, and women's ekphrastic poetry in the 20th century. I have about 22 poems that I'm looking at right now. Not all of them are going to be in the chapter, of course, but I feel like this just isn't a comprehensive enough view of women's poems on portraiture and self-portrait.

You're probably wondering what qualifies as self-portraiture or portrait ekphrasis. Well, I'm not completely resolved on that myself. What I do know is that self-portraiture can be actual or notional. In other words, there can actually be a self-portrait or the self-portrait can be imagined (in other words, simply titling a poem "self-portrait" would put a poem in this category, because according to my argument, it automatically invokes a tradition in painting in which self-advertisement and self-identity are visually explicit and where the specific intention is to "record" both the physical and emotive character of the subject, where the emotional character is defined by physical means).

There are other instances where the self-portrait is "adopted." In other words, the poet takes on the physical presence of the portrait in order to explicitly "record" the poet's own physical or emotional character. These are also poems that I'd consider for this chapter. The distinction between this classification (again, more classifications with unstable boundaries..) and the use of portraiture is that in portraiture the speaker takes as its subject the physical presence of a visual representation of another person (typically female).

For the purposes of limiting this chapter, I'm not including nudist portraiture in this chapter. Possibly, I'll include the figure of the nude in another chapter, but the issues there seem so much more complicated. This presents a couple of problems. For example, what does one do with a painting of Venus? The portrait is an imagined work of portraiture of a mythological figure. Typically, it is also depicted as a nude. Well, I haven't made any decisions about that one either.

However, if you have a poem that is titled "Self-Portrait" by a female poet (20th century) or a similar poem that meditates on a portrait, please share. I've been gathering work by Sandra McPherson, Nina Bogin, C.D. Wright, Jorie Graham, Jane Cooper, Linda Pastan, Margaret Atwood, Louise Gluck, Michael Field, Constance Naden, Adrienne Rich, Kelley Cherry, Ellen Glasgow, Liesel Mueller, Joy Katz, Susan Wood, and Sandra Gilbert. If you have others to suggest, please let me know.

Posted by c_jane at July 17, 2003 12:38 PM | TrackBack

Dear CJ,

In your gathering of authors to examine, have you begun to group them? A tableau ...

Intrigued by how you will handle the composite "I" of the lyrical voice in the work of Michael Field (Katherine Harris Bradley (1846–1913) and Edith Emma Cooper (1862–1914)).

I look forward to learning as to how this research unfolds as you set about describing depictions.

Best wishes,

Posted by: Francois Lachance at July 22, 2003 2:44 PM |

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