Carol Ann Duffy's Revision of Masculinist Representations of Female Identity

Powerful Essays
Carol Ann Duffy's Revision of Masculinist Representations of Female Identity

Carol Ann Duffy is one of the freshest and bravest talents to emerge in British poetry —any poetry — for years', writes Eavan Boland (Duffy, 1994, cover). This courage is manifest in Duffy’s ability and desire to revise masculinist representations of female identity and her engagement with feminine discourse, a concept which, as Sara Mills points out: has moved away from viewing women as simply an oppressed group, as victims of male domination, and has tried to formulate ways of analysing power as it manifests itself and as it is resisted in the relations of everyday life. (p.78)

It is these aspects of Duffy's work that I wish to address here by examining the ways in which she subverts masculinist assumptions and discourses in the following ways: by giving voice to previously marginalised or silenced figures, by re-presenting stereotypes and power relations, through comic reappropriation of myth and by re-writing the canonical love poem.

The problematic nature of representation itself, its subjectivity and unreliability, is a central concern of Duffy's poetry. Much of her work is written in the form of dramatic monologue which serves to demonstrate the fundamental inadequacy of language to re-present by undermining the readers' expectations of traditional discourses. By using characters' voices rather than her own, Duffy identifies with the speaker and confers authority onto a voice which might otherwise be silent. The foregrounding of this voice becomes a means of demonstrating the failure of language to represent specific aspects of experience, particularly female experience. The monologue, by giving voice to the previously subjugated female ...

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...t, New York.

Works Cited

Duffy, Carol Ann, Standing Female Nude (London: Anvil, 1985).

——, Selling Manhattan (London: Anvil, 1987).

——, The Other Country (London: Anvil, 1990).

——, Selected Poems (London: Penguin, 1994).

——, The World’s Wife (London: Picador, 1999).

Gregson, Ian, 'Carol Ann Duffy: Monologue as Dialogue' in Contemporary Poetry and Postmodernism: Dialogue and Estrangement (Basingstoke: MacMillan, 1996).

Lacan, Jacques, 'The Insistence of the Letter in the Unconscious' in David Lodge, (ed.), Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader (London: Longman, 1988).

Mills, Sara, Discourse (London: Routledge, 1997).

‘Pass Notes’, Guardian G2, 10 May 1999, p.3.

Room, Adrian, (ed.), Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (London: Cassel & Co, 2001).

Viner, Katharine, 'Metre Maid', Guardian Weekend, 25 September 1999, pp.20‑26.
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