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The lesbian muse: homoeroticism, female poetic identity and contemporary muse figures

Parker, Sarah Louise (2012)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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This thesis addresses the concept of the contemporary muse in the work of six late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century women poets. In my introduction, I detail the history of the muse in literary tradition. I examine the problems that the gendered dynamic of poet/muse presented, by restricting women to a passive, inspiring role. I argue that, due to these problematic aspects, contemporary feminist criticism of the woman poet’s muse has often elided the homoerotic desire and power-play that structures these relationships. To rectify this, I focus on contemporary, living muse figures. I emphasise why these kinds of figures (as opposed to dead, historical or mythological muses) were particularly inspiring to women poets in the late-nineteenth/early-twentieth centuries. I also address the specific ethical dilemmas of claiming a living muse. My four main chapters detail and theorise the dynamics between poets and their contemporary muses: Michael Field and Bernard Berenson; Olive Custance and Lord Alfred Douglas; Amy Lowell and Eleonora Duse/Ada Russell; and H.D. and Bryher. My conclusion draws these individual studies together to emphasise their illuminating similarities, including the increased fluidity between the roles of poet/muse, destabilisation of gender categories, and the presence of a third term that mediates the muse/poet relationship.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Thain, Marion
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:Department of English, School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies
Subjects:HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
PN0441 Literary History
PR English literature
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:3498
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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