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Medea’s Chorus

Myth and Women’s Poetry Since 1950


Veronica House

Women’s mythic revision is a tradition at the heart of twentieth-century literature. Medea’s Chorus explores post-WWII women’s poetry that takes Greek mythology as its central topos. The book investigates five of the most influential poets writing in the twentieth century (H.D., Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Margaret Atwood, Eavan Boland) who challenge both the ancient literary representations of women and the high modernist appropriations of the classics. In their poetry and prose, the women engage with cultural discourses about literary authority, gender, oppression, violence, and age. Yet even while the poets rework certain aspects of the Greek myths that they find troubling, they see the inherent power in the stories and use that power for personal and social revelation. Because myths exist in multiple versions, ancient writers did not create from scratch; their artistic contribution lay in how they changed the stories. Modern female poets are engaging in a several millennia-old tradition of mythic revision, a tradition that has ruthlessly posited that there is no place for women in the creation and transmission of mythological poetry. Medea’s Chorus tracks mythic revision from the 1950s through the second-wave feminist movement and into turn-of-the-century feminism to highlight individual achievements and to show the collective effect of the poets’ highly varied works on post-WWII literature and feminist thought and practice. This engaging and beautifully written book is a must-read for any student, teacher, or scholar of the Classical Tradition, revisionist mythmaking, and twentieth-century poetry.
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Studies in Modern Poetry

THIS SERIES BRINGS TOGETHER BOOK-LENGTH WORKS ON PARTICULAR MODERN poets and twentieth-century movements as well as comparative and theoretical studies. Works in the series seek to explore the contributions of twentieth-century poets beyond the well-known major figures of Modernism such as Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, in the belief that modern poetry is characterized by its variety, richness, and scope. A particular focus of the series are those books that compare poetic projects from different national and linguistic traditions or explore the interconnections between poetic expression and the other arts. Authors whose critical approaches utilize contemporary literary theory and/or multicultural perspectives are especially encouraged to consider this series. Languages of the poetry studied include, but are not limited to, English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, though the texts should be written in English and addressed to readers beyond strictly national or disciplinary boundaries. Inquiries and manuscripts should be directed to the general editor:

Peter Baker Department of English Towson University Towson, MD 21204-7097

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