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A Sense of Our Uniqueness: Gender and Time in Joseph Brodsky’s “Lullaby”

From: College Literature
Volume 40, Number 1, Winter 2013
pp. 32-44 | 10.1353/lit.2013.0000



Joseph Brodsky’s 1992 poem “Lullaby” is a key text in furthering the discussion on Brodsky’s poetic preoccupation with time: the image of the Christ child surrounded by the desert is an image of finite time surrounded by the infinite. The poem also represents a unique attempt in Brodsky’ oeuvre to speak extendedly in a female voice. In its original Russian, the poem’s language goes out of its way to identify the speaker as a woman, reinforcing the speaker’s separateness from both her son and the poet, and insufficient critical attention has been paid to the reasons for and effects of this heavily feminized monologue. In addition to thematic discussions, this paper will address how Brodsky uses prosody to transform the poem itself into a physical embodiment of time and gender. The poem’s ability to create and reinforce two fundamental aspects of human identity, gender and temporality, fosters in its readers a heightened sense of their own uniqueness.

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