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In Fashioning the Female Subject, Sabine Sielke addresses the often nebulous concept of female subjectivity through a critical analysis of the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Marianne Moore, and Adrienne Rich, each of whom has uniquely fashioned and transformed the female subject over the last 150 years. Applying the feminist theories of Kristeva, Irigaray, and Cixous, Sielke articulately develops a notion of female subjectivity as an intertextual network, a network whose three historically distinct levels illustrate a clear evolution in the poetic designs of such subjectivity.
Acknowledging the semantics of the female body as the most contested battleground of female subject constitution, Sielke shows how a historical female subject emerges from Moore's and Rich's strategies of poetic mimicry and camouflage, and culminates in Rich's strategy of continuous re-vision. Like Dickinson, Rich creates "subjects-in-process," which, when projected as processes in history, are capably transformed from a sense of fluent subjectivity into an ethically responsible identity practice. Rich's poetics close a significant gap in French feminist theory, Sielke claims, by reconstructing the female subject as an agent of her own history.
Fashioning the Female Subject is a rereading of American women's poetry, a partial revisioning of French feminist theory, and a reassessment of Adrienne Rich as a central figure in American feminist theory. Offering a revisionary sense of literary history, Sielke's book offers a new model of literary affiliation to readers of poetry, scholars of literary history, feminist critics, and literary theorists alike.
Sabine Sielke is Assistant Professor of American Literature, John F. Kennedy-Institut, Freie Universität Berlin.