chapter  6
43 Pages

Female Modernism

The category of 'Female Modernism' is constructed around poetry which is concerned with representation, particularly the representation of women's lives. Modernism's anti-realist aesthetic is ostensibly at odds with women's attempts to find a public voice for their experiences of cultural change, particularly concerning their new roles and rights. It is also at odds with their attempts to realise an identity which is distinct from the maternal function. The poets in this section variously reflect their preoccupation with psychological freedom and free expression as much through a feminist perspective or social conscience as through radical experiment. Female modernists did not dress themselves up as men but identified themselves as women by centralising women's experiences in their writing. They adopted and adapted male-associated poetic conventions; by appropriating the tradition to women's agendas, they changed its association with exclusive masculinity. In displacing literary symbols, reversing gender stereotypes or challenging depictions of idealised femininity, female modernists culminate the progress of the modem woman poet towards aesthetic freedom.