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Record Type: Review   ID: 381

Women as Mythmakers: Poetry and Visual Art by Twentieth-Century Women

Lauter, Estella

 This impressive work of scholarship is empirically based on the author’s examination of thousands of poems and artworks by contemporary women over a period of several years. She was looking for any evidence of mythological change in these works. She reviewed the visual artworks to see if any single mythic view was emerging. Although there are three main issues covered in this book: mythmaking, archetypal theory, and feminist criticism, Lauter’s primary goals were "to explore the multiple processes of mythmaking in current use by women, and to discern the direction toward which those processes are tending" (p. xi). In the Introduction, Steps Toward a Feminist Archetypal Theory of Mythmaking, Lauter discusses several aspects of the making of cultural mythology: the task of identifying contemporary myths; the role that literature, and especially the visual arts, play in regard to myth; and the role of feminist scholarship. She thinks of myth "as a structure for dealing with shared crises of self-definition in the face of the unknown" (p. 8) and defines the unconscious, which is the source of myth, "as the unknown within us instead of being simply a storehouse of repressed materials" (p. 8). She also reviews various feminist views of the relation of women to myth. Part One consists of six chapters each dealing with an individual writer: Anne Sexton, Margaret Atwood, and Diane Wakowski, or artist: Käthe Kollwitz, Remedios Varo, and Léonor Fini. The second part contains three chapters entitled Mythic Patterns in Contemporary Visual Art by Women, "Woman and Nature" Revisited in Poetry by Women, and the Conclusion: The Light Is in Us. In the conclusion she points up several ways in which women are involved as mythmakers and some results of women’s mythmaking. She notes that what is suggested in the individual is "the presence of a myth that is ... the product of women’s common ‘ground’ of experience in patriarchal societies [and] it may also be the product of our newly-found sense that we form an audience for each other, so that we can speak directly to each other across great distances" (pp. 213-214). She hypothesizes that the incipient myth she has found in the works described here "arises from the same distinctive aspects of female experience that also inspires a female epistemology" (p. 20). It could be that just as more than one feminist epistemology has been identified, so we may uncover more than one female mythic view.
Publisher Information:Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984. 267p. Bibl: 247-260; Chap. notes: 225-246; 16 figs; Index: 261-267
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