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Women's Poetry

Jo Gill

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This guide examines the production and reception of poetry by a range of women writers - predominantly although not exclusively writing in English - from Sappho through Anne Bradstreet and Emily Bronte to Sylvia Plath, Eavan Boland and Susan Howe.

Women's Poetry offers a thoroughgoing thematic study of key texts, poets and issues, analysing commonalities and differences across diverse writers, periods, and forms. The book is alert, throughout, to the diversity of women's poetry. Close readings of selected texts are combined with a discussion of key theories and critical practices, and students are encouraged to think about women's poetry in the light of debates about race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, and regional and national identity. The book opens with a chronology followed by a comprehensive Introduction which outlines various approaches to reading women's poetry. Seven chapters follow, and a Conclusion and section of useful resources close the book.

Key Features

  • Wide-ranging and flexible in scope, giving detailed consideration to widely-taught poets, texts, periods and issues
  • Introduces themes, questions and perspectives applicable to the work of other less familiar writers
  • Encourages informed discussion of the difficulties of defining a discrete genre of 'women's poetry'
  • Offers valuable introductory and supplementary guidance for students
  • Discusses in detail poems by Margaret Cavendish, Anne Bradstreet, Sara Coleridge, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, Edith Sitwell, Amy Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Ruth Fainlight, Grace Nicholls, Eavan Boland, Kathleen Jamie, Jackie Kay and Carol Ann Duffy.


A Feminist Framework
Critical Perspectives
Readers and Writers
Chapter 1: Self-Reflexivity
Poetic Daring
Poetic Inspiration
Poetic Relationships
Poetic Form
A Theory of Self-Reflexivity
Chapter 2: Performance
Self Exposure
Slam Poetry
Chapter 3: Private Voices
Separate Spheres
The Lyric
Poetic Convention
Privacy in History
'I could not find a privacy': Emily Dickinson
Chapter 4: Embodied Language
Objects / Subjects
Writing the Body
Desire: Christina Rossetti
Creativity and Femininity
Chapter 5: Public Speech
The Romantic Movement
Chapter 6: Poetry and Place
Borderland Britain
Specificities of Place: Elizabeth Bishop
Chapter 7: Experimentation and Form
Mythology and Fairytale
Modernist Experimentation: Marianne Moore
Contemporary Avant-Garde Poetics
Student Resources:
Critical Contexts
Studying Poetry
Close Reading
Writing about Poetry
Web Resources
Guide to Further Reading

About the Author

Jo Gill is Lecturer in Twentieth-Century Literature at The University of Exeter. Author of Anne Sexton: Confessional Poetry and Contemporary Poetics (forthcoming, University of Florida Press). Editor of Modern Confessional Writing: New Critical Essays (forthcoming, Routledge, 2005) and The Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath (Cambridge UP, forthcoming, 2005).

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