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Purple Passages

Pound, Eliot, Zukofsky, Olson, Creeley, and the Ends of Patriarchal Poetry

Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Publication Year: 2012

What is patriarchal poetry? How can it be both attractive and tempting and yet be so hegemonic that it is invisible? How does it combine various mixes of masculinity, femininity, effeminacy, and eroticism? At once passionate and dispassionate, Rachel Blau DuPlessis meticulously outlines key moments of choice and debate about masculinity among writers as disparate as Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Louis Zukofsky, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, and Allen Ginsberg, choices that construct consequential models for institutions of poetic practice.

As DuPlessis writes, "There are no genderless subjects in any relationship structuring literary culture: not in production, dissemination, or reception; not in objects, discourses, or practices; not in reading experiences or in interpretations." And, as she reveals in careful and enthralling detail, for the poets at the center of this book, questions of masculinity loomed large and were continuously articulated in their self-creation as writers, in literary bonding, and in its deployment.

These gender-laden choices, debates, and contradictions all have a striking influence today. In this empathic yet critical historical polemic, DuPlessis reveals the outcomes of these many investments in the radical reconstruction of masculinity, in their strains, incompleteness, tensions—and failures. At the heart of modernist maleness and poetic practices are contradictions and urgencies, gender ideas both progressive and defensive.In a striking book on male behavior in poetic dyads, the third book in a feminist critical trilogy, DuPlessis tracks the poetic debates and arguments about gender that continuously affirm patriarchal poetry.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-ix

Part One

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1. Manifesting Literary Feminism

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pp. 3-31

There are no genderless subjects in any relationship structuring literary culture: not in production, dissemination, or reception; not in objects, discourses, or practices; not in reading experiences or in interpretations. This book—analytic, invested, affectual—discusses masculinity and maleness in poetry as marked and constructed social subject positions framed within a cultural poetics of gender. It investigates male...

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2. Pound Edits Loy and Eliot

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pp. 32-58

In the teens and twenties, male and female cultural workers were struggling with, against, and for female coequality and with resistance to homosexuality in cultural life (Miller 2007, 76).1 Among the acts of affirmation and contestation are warding-off charms (including misogynist bluster), particularly given the fear, in T. S. Eliot’s words in 1917, that writing poetry (by definition feminine or perverse...

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3. Succession and Supersession, from Z to “A”

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pp. 59-85

Certain cautions apply to literary-critical uses of letters, including the sets of letters crucial to this book. The letters in any selected edition appear by an editor’s best judgment at the time; in addition, untold texts may be lost.1 Letters are an emotionally invested practice in which contestation, raillery, intimacy, revelation, and exposure are staged...

Part Two

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4. Poetic Projects of Countercultural Manhood

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pp. 89-116

The works of Beat and “New American” poets of the 1950s in the Pound tradition were overtly countercultural and countercanonical. The poets stood on the periphery of American culture in chosen and flaunted marginality at the moment of the fixing of the Cold War and United States post–World War II hegemony. The most dramatic instance of cultural marginality was Charles Olson; he renounced...

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5. Sex/Gender Contradictions in Olson and Boldereff

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pp. 117-141

Consolidating, analyzing, and deploying maleness in writing are self-conscious, visceral activities for Charles Olson, a “gender project” central to his poetic career (Connell 2005, 72; see also Mossin 2007). Olson’s self creation from about 1949 to 1956 (focusing here on 1949– 1952) produced a mythically invested protean masculinity, to become influential within the ideologies, affiliations, and practices of contemporary...

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6. Olson’s “Long Exaggeration of Males”

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pp. 142-168

The “long exaggeration of males” that Olson acknowledges to his estranged partner Constance Wilcock in 1952 (Olson 2000, 176) is a historical as well as a personal artifact.1 “Manliness and hypermasculinity,” Suzanne Clark proposes, were ideological formations in the American Cold War era. Yet while manhood “was everywhere invoked and women were largely silenced,” there was a general disinclination to credit this as...

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7. Wieners and Creeley after Olson

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pp. 169-197

In 1972 the poet John Wieners published his contribution to “A Curriculum of the Soul,” an Olson-inspired project continued by Jack Clarke, Albert Glover, and George Butterick after Olson’s death in 1970 and centered on key Olson topics.1 The Wieners pamphlet is called WOMAN; later it was called “Women.”2 The differences between a title in the singular (including capitalization) and a title in...


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pp. 199-223


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pp. 225-243


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pp. 245-250

Further Reading

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E-ISBN-13: 9781609380946
E-ISBN-10: 1609380940
Print-ISBN-13: 9781609380847
Print-ISBN-10: 1609380843

Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 782918055
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Purple Passages

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Masculinity in literature.
  • American poetry -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Gender identity in literature.
  • Patriarchy in literature.
  • Literature and society -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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