In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

356 Western American Literature fascination with language. The result is the ability to cut through any fuzzi­ ness or fogginess of imagery or concept. Her lines are as precise and sharp as glass shards. A major theme here, as the book’s title suggests, isDeal’s fascination with the dark of night or of shadow. In her title poem the door opens, not out, but into the physical world and to the psychical darkness as well: Wemove carefully into the dark ... the night things are with us, awake and watching Dark blood stirs. Weopen the door ofthe dark to enter a history, a memory. Close to a secret, we tremble with words. But the dark isa door we can onlyvoicelesslyenter, a place before the words. Thus the mythical, primeval Jungian dark is evoked, as well as the physical, western night sky, often pierced by sharp stars. Deal’s dark is often virtually palpable. It is not a dark to be feared, although the dangers and unknowables of the dark are recognized. Usually, in her poems nothing is to be feared, but much must be acknowledged: the weight, the heaviness, the im­ mensity of the land and sky, gravity itself, pulling and twisting the inhabitants. Those who found Deal’spoetry admirable in her firstbook will appreciate this one in which she adds new perspectives, as the poet continues to grow. The theme of the human in the landscape is an old one, but Deal proves it is neither hackneyed nor outworn. HELEN WINTER STAUFFER Kearney State College The Land Before Her: Fantasy and Experience of the American Frontiers, 1630-1860. By Annette Kolodny. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1984. 293 pages, $28.00 hardcover, $9.95 paper.) In The Land Before Her, Annette Kolodny begins the process of rescuing the western woman writer from her role as “unwilling inhabitant of a meta­ phorical landscape she had had no part in creating—captive, as it were, in the garden of someone else’s imagination.” Her earlier influential study of the responses of male writers to the American landscape, The Lay of the Land, had demonstrated how women were “dispossessed of paradise” in a symbolic fantasy about male conquest of “Eden,” a landscape presented in erotically charged language as compliant, nurturant, and submissive—as, in short, female. The Land Before Her explores again the mythologies and fantasies Reviews 357 writers create to express collective desires. These desires, of course, are shaped by gender. Focusing this time on female voices, Kolodny shows through analyzing “women’s developing literary response to the West” how women “escape the psychology of captivity” by claiming the garden of their own imaginings as “a potential sanctuary for an idealized domesticity.” They create a feminine Eden where they “reveal themselves healed, renewed, revitalized—even psychically reborn.” Defining her subject as “the sequence of fantasies through which genera­ tions of women came to know and act upon the westward-moving frontier,” Kolodny reveals the women’s interaction with “the persistent pervasiveness of the male configurations.” She begins with texts by men in which the women’s stories are captive, and she concludes with an analysis of how the domestic novelists return the isolate American Adam to the human community. One of the roles of women’s culture, as Gerda Lerner and others have argued, is to turn subordination into complementarity and then redefine it in positive ways. Because the female fantasy of “idealized domesticity” Kolodny describes places “the responsibility for creating a western Eden where sentiment and habit had traditionally located it—in women’s hands,” it seems to support the male myth’s relegation of the civilizing role to women. But the women’s tradition of western fantasizing Kolodny describes is also an expression of women’s emotional needs. It presents a healing, renewing vision and vantage point. From 1830 through 1860, women’s writings “purposefully and self­ consciously rejected (or refined) male fantasies, replacing them with figures from the female imagination.” Kolodny approaches her subject with the dual perspective which is one of the strengths of feminist theory today: while she acknowledges that the dominating male ideologies have restricted women’s lives and outlooks, she does...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 356-358
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.