Monday, May 18, 2009

A good muse is hard to find!

We don't need no stinking muses! The Wall Street Journal, of all places, speculates on, though it doesn't necessarily illuminate, the subject. Go launch your own ships, mate!

Women still need a room of their own, though, we can all agree; here's an article on Elaine Showalter which, like the WSJ piece, tries to correlate the staus of women with how pop culture uses them and vice versa.

More to the point is Double X - a new blog/magazine from the folks at Slate which is "founded by women but not just for women" - the former including Meghan O'Rourke and Emily Bazelon - that asks questions like "What, some future historian may very well ask, do all of these babies on our Facebook pages say about the construction of women’s identity at this particular moment in time?" The New Yorker's "Book Bench" blogger Madeleine Elfenbein says XX's "attempts to grapple with big issues make me yearn for a lost era when feminist questions were viewed as universally compelling and worthy of exploration in the public arena." She misses debates that were "conducted in broad daylight by intellectual heavyweights who took their ideas and opponents seriously enough to present arguments carefully, with wit and gravitas." To wit: the New York Review of Books exchange between Adrienne Rich and Susan Sontag, prompted by Sontag’s 1975 essay “Fascinating Fascism." (Check out the NYRB, by the way, for a swell review essay about proto-feminist Madame de Staël.) The American Prospect, on the other hand, asks: "Is the niche-ification of the Internet amplifying or ghettoizing women's voices?"

Ruth Padel, everyone now knows, has become the first female Oxford Professor of Poetry, thanks, you could say, to Derek Walcott's behavior toward his women students, about which there has been much hemming and hawing - except, that is, at Deliroius Hem, which is more constructively asking questions of poets who are women, e.g.: "What branch of feminism, model of feminist poetics, feminist icon, or etc. informs your poetry? Or, from which of these does your poetry diverge? Are there particular feminist tactics you employ? Do you consider yourself a feminist in many ways, but don't particularly involve it in the poetry?" Sounds kind of post-Gurlesque, maybe?

Just don't expect any clarity on the gender thing, or hope for visitations from muses any time soon. Maybe we should all just go the the movies. I mean, even fairy tales, we now learn, are merely grist for the dark mills of "material culture — greeting cards, games, dolls, graphic novels, and other artifacts." Meanwhile, as Moloch recommends on Harriet: "keep writing on message boards cuz it's like dreaming right?" But stay tuned whatever you do for Daisy Fried's forthcoming essay in Poetry, "Sing, God-awful Muse!" Milton had troubles with his wives and daughters, but the Muses were still in touch with poets back in the day; Fried found Milton to be a "resource" following the birth of her daughter: "... I wasn’t reading Paradise Lost for pleasure (though it gave me pleasure). I was trying to remember, in those first weeks of motherhood, who I was. I needed to know if my brain still worked."

Why am I telling you things you already know? 'Cos this is a blog, silly! Duh. I mean, you gotta love 'em or hate 'em - or whatever! - right? Assuming our brains are still working...

P.S. This pertinent comment by Eileen Myles just arrived on Harriet:

"It isn’t about our genitals or our rights. It’s history. I think trying to fit women retrospectively into male art movements is a convenient idea but it doesn’t work. Women are often fellow travellers but the actual conditions of our lives and the nature of the kinds of economic and social supports we receive make us always in a parallel history even if we are reading in the same reading. Printed in the same book or not. Even when we’re far better writers than the men it still often falls upon the next men to decide whether we belong or not. I think we don’t and yet here we are. The challenge is always for men to find a way to have some grace about their position, rather than to endlessly reinscribe it."


Philip Metres said...

I don't know, but Kate Roiphe's argument seems to neglect a more obvious reason that mothers post pics of their children--they are signaling that they are in committed relationships and probably aren't after male suitors. In a sense, it says as much or more about online male predatory behaviors than it does about womanly self-erasure...

the unreliable narrator said...

@Philip: No. All respect, but no, that's not why mothers post pictures of themselves with their children. It just isn't.

@Sharedon WOWIE WOW WOW linky goodness! So much here to distract me from posting final grades tonight. And it's synchronous because just yesterday I read an old Salmagundi interview with Sontag in which she defends herself again from Rich's criticisms, more articulately I think—I'll have to post that bit at some point.

Daisy said...

Suspect Roiphe is doing second-wave boomer-feminist drag (trying to please her own mom?) though she's really only Gen X, whilst some of the rest of us are doing mom drag, startled to find it's rather fun and not antipathetic to either feminism or to doing all the other things we want to do in life.

Thx for the plug, Don.

Philip, that's obnoxious. But also funny.

Henry Gould said...

Men, women, feh. The main distinction is Bookworm.

- Henry Gould, Alexandrian Eunuch