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Date of Award

9-1991

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Supervisor

Lorraine York

Abstract

Concerned by the limitations of language, Canadian women poets, such as Jay Macpherson, P.K. Page, Margaret Atwood, Jan Conn, Lorna Crozier, and Betsy Warland, are reexamining the language and images associated with male mythologis in order to seek and redefine personal mythologies that are "not destructive," but rather "livable," reflections of self. The way these poets find alternate symbolic importance - "new patterns" - for the snake suggests that meaning is open and contextual. By reexamining a significant image used by the writers working in phallocentric language - such as the snake - these women writers separate the image from its phallic associations and enable themselves to write an empowering personal mythology. The emphasis on non-visual responses to experience is a way for women writers to de-phallusize the vision of their culture. Another way these poets alter the vision of their culture is by revising the dominant myths of the patriarchy. The image of the snake in these poems is that of a creator making and living its own language. The snake's tongue - be it black, red, forked, or flicking - is especially significant because of its link to language as a tool of expression, and also because it is a model for women poets seeking a new tongue, a new dialect, a language of the body, in which to communicate their experience. In the poetry of these Canadian women, the snake provides a language in which these poets not only imagine lost matriarchies, but also find a community of mothers, they find themselves, and as the echoes and allusions indicate, they find each other.

McMaster University Library

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