The poetics of sexual myth : gender and ideology in the verse of Swift and Pope /
Ellen Pollak.
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1985.
xii, 239 p. ; 23 cm.
0226673456 :
More Details
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1985.
0226673456 :
general note
Includes index.
catalogue key
Bibliography: p. 221-233.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 1985-09-01:
After a lengthy overview of the role of women in early 18th-century English life and literature, Pollak presents a feminist reading of Pope's ``The Rape of the Lock'' and ``Epistle to a Lady,'' and of Swift's ``Cadenus and Venessa'' and excremental verses. She regards these texts as ``products of a phallocentric culture'' and hence misogynist, though Swift's ``sexual violence is less insidious than Pope's.'' Pollak's sexual ideology colors her interpretation; she seems to want the fiery Thalestris to be the norm of ``The Rape'' and sees Pope's altering Martha Blount's biography as sexist, though he often played fast and loose with biography for poetical ends. Her style, too, is turgid, making a difficult argument even harder to follow. Joseph Rosenblum, Univ. of North Carolina at Greensboro
Appeared in Choice on 1986-02:
Feminist contributions to literary criticism are in vogue these days, and scholarly presses seem to be trying to outdo one another in the production of feminist rereadings of the canon. Eighteenth-century studies have been less widely influenced by a feminist presence than many other fields, and so this feminist critique of the sexual ideologies of Swift and Pope is especially welcome. Working from notions of the interconnectedness of literature, ideology, and myth primarily derived from Roland Barthes's Mythologies (Paris, 1957), Pollak offers an introduction to the dominant 18th-century myths of gender, especially the construction of a ``passive,'' instrumentally negative femininity. This is followed by detailed, not entirely formalist readings of a few selected texts by Pope and Swift, from which crucial differences in their manipulation of a common ideology of gender emerge. The antifeminist condescension that Pope manages flatteringly to conceal, Swift exposes as intolerably mystifying. Pollak thus reverses the commonsensical judgment that Pope is ``kinder'' in his representation of women than Swift. This analysis is somewhat schematic and could have profited from the kind of broader sociopolitical grounding evident in Laura Brown's Alexander Pope (CH, Jul '85) and Carole Fabricant's Swift's Landscape (CH, Apr '83). But within the limits of a bourgeois or liberal feminist analysis, this book breaks important ground with energetic conviction and should be read by every student of the period. Appropriate for upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and general readers.-D. Landry, University of Southern California
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, September 1985
Choice, February 1986
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