restricted access Alice Notley's Descent: Modernist Genealogies and Gendered Literary Inheritance
Abstract

This article examines modernist genealogy in Alice Notley's 1992 poem The Descent of Alette. Notley's central speaker finds herself riding on a nightmarish subway ruled by a male tyrant who controls all artistic form. This article argues that the subway can be understood as an ongoing public to which poets since Pound have returned to experiment with impersonal poetic form. In Notley's poem, the subway signals vexed poetic lineage as well as the passageway to a new collective formal space. However, this article suggests, we must ask whether the poem's emphasis on private poetic speech qualifies the poem's feminist poetic imagination, or whether Notley's formal experimentation, particularly her use of citational quotation marks, leads to a workable notion of collective voice as the object of quest. Reading Alette against "Doctor Williams' Heiresses," Notley's early experimental historiography, the article situates the question of private speech within the larger question of modernism's "after-affects" in postwar women's poetry.


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