chapter  5
20 Pages

Mock-Heroic and Gallantry: Pope's Rape of the Lock

Much recent criticism of The Rape of the Lock has been bent on the correction of an imbalance: no longer the poem's form but its content now looms as the pressing issue. Moreover, a new critical awareness of the role played by strong discourses in interpellating subjecthood has seen the poem's construction of 'womanhood' established as what it might least controversially be said to 'be about'.1 This tilting of the debate from form to content is probably timely, but there is also something to be regretted in the inability of most recent gender approaches to make form and content speak articulately about each other, to make the 'kind' of poem the Rape is seem relevant to what is going on discursively in it. What, for instance, does it mean that a poem that has come to be seen as a conduit for a discreditable gender ideology is also a mock-heroic - a literary genre pledged to ironic cross-purposes of form and content, to comic imbrications of high and low?