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|Title:||Aspects of the Spiritual in Three Canadian Women Poets: Anne Wilkinson, Gwendolyn MacEwen, and Phyllis Webb|
|Authors:||Potvin, Elizabeth Ann|
|Abstract:||This thesis examines recent theories in feminist mythopoeic reconstruction and in contemporary theology, and considers their application to three English-Canadian women poets: Anne Wilkinson, Gwendolyn MacEwen, and Phyllis Webb. It compares gendered theories about heroic and spiritual quest paradigms, concluding that the work of all three poets illustrates the difference of women's spiritual journeys. These journeys follow a pattern distinct from the male heroic quest of the divine, one of a dialectical series of encounters with the world of nature whereby the heroines resist normative restrictions to their spiritual liberty by imitating Daphne's retreat into the green world, following the model defined by Annis Pratt (1981). Writing both within and outside of the Canadian literary tradition, MacEwen, Wilkinson, and Webb challenge the structures of and rocentric belief --literary, spiritual, political, mythical. All three poets refute the validity of the manmade version of Paradise because they find it too abstract and impoverished. Instead of the ascetic approach to the divine, each substitutes her own aesthetic approach; poetry, spirituality, and a love of what Wilkinson calls the Green World become inseparable. MacEwen connects the poet giving birth to herself with the rebirth of nature. All three poets are suspicious of the transcendent artist-god, replacing him with an immanent deity. All employ metaphors of engulfment and resistance to suggest interiority and a sense of connectedness between nature, their bodies, and themselves, denying disembodied concepts of the divine. Each of the three poets elevates the private domestic sphere, debased as a result of the sexual division of labour. By shifting the discursive centre, they publicize and politicize the domain of women, embodying and elevating everyday experience, and simultaneously redefining the sacred. To break with the ideological habits of our society results in marginalization. This thesis examines "the extent to which all or some women, by virtue of their marginalized relation to discourse, also write as feminists" (Meese 6). Each poet develops a strategy for imagining herself as powerful and nurturing, elevating some aspect of her experience as a woman living on earth. For Wilkinson, the symbol of the divine is not the god-man of the Gospels, but a nursing mother who sings lullabies to her children. For MacEwen, the body is given new strength and eroticism, enrobed in vivid colour and sensual texture. For Webb, the encounter with suicide and despair yields a new understanding of the creative force of destruction. MacEwen and Webb elevate the domestic and the personal above the universal. Canadian women poets articulate their spiritual difference and describe their visions from an original perspective, arguing for the recognition of a female mystical tradition in Canadian poetry.|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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