A Contradiction Still: Representations of Women in the Poetry of Alexander Pope
Manchester University Press, 1998 - Literary Criticism - 245 pages
This book offers a stimulating critique of the views concerning gender and gender roles expressed or implied in Pope’s poetry. Christa Knellwolf approaches Pope's stylistic complexity revealing it as an effect of his engagement with a historical situation in which the position of women was one of the most prominent sources of ideological conflict. She provides a detailed discussion of Pope’s poetic language and relates it to the wider context of publication in which male writers defended the masculine privilege of literary authorship against intellectual women. An attentive close-reading of the poetry reveals Pope's conflicting attitudes towards women and explains them as a product of his difficulties with a society that was experiencing rapid political and cultural change. His contradictory views of femininity are examined in contrast to his self-appointed role as an artist who exercised the prerogative of criticizing the taste of contemporary readers. Knellwolf shows him to be torn between mourning the loss of an old order and fighting for a place in the new social hierarchy. She identifies this conflict with contemporary struggles over the definition of identity and gender, and thus makes a strong case for the reappraisal of Pope’s poetry in the context of gender politics.
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aesthetic Alexander Pope ambiguity ambivalent Ambrose Philips analysis Aphra Behn argues argument Ariel artistic attitude behaviour Belinda Brean Hammond century character claim complex concerning contemporary context contradiction conventional couplet creativity Criticism culture demonstrates describes Dryden Dulness Dunciad eighteenth eighteenth-century Eliza Haywood Eloisa to Abelard Empson Epistle Essay Essay on Criticism example expression fact femininity feminism feminist figure gender Heloise human idea ideology implies important intellectual interpretation John Dryden Lady language Lauretis literary Lock logical London Lord Hervey male masculinity meaning metaphor mind mock-heroic moral narrative nature object Oxford particular passage pastoral performative contradiction physical poem poem's poet poetic political Pope's poetry position produces question Rape readers recognise reference relation representation rhetorical role satire says Scriblerian sense sexual social society stereotypes structure sylphs theory tion Umbriel understanding violence voice William Empson Windsor-Forest woman women