Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore

Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore: The Psychodynamics of Creativity

Joanne Feit Diehl
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 140
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore
    Book Description:

    This highly innovative work on poetic influence among women writers focuses on the relationship between modernist poet Elizabeth Bishop and her mentor Marianne Moore. Departing from Freudian models of influence theory that ignore the question of maternal presence, Joanne Diehl applies the psychoanalytic insights of object relations theorists Melanie Klein and Christopher Bollas to woman-to-woman literary transactions. She lays the groundwork for a far-reaching critical approach as she shows that Bishop, mourning her separation from her natural mother, strives to balance gratitude toward Moore, her literary mother, with a potentially disabling envy.

    Diehl begins by exploring Bishop's memoir of Moore, "Efforts of Affection," as an attempt by Bishop to verify Moore's uniqueness in order to defend herself against her predecessor's almost overwhelming originality. She then offers an intertextual reading of the two writers' works that inquires into Bishop's ambivalence toward Moore. In an analysis of "Crusoe in England" and "In the Village," Diehl exposes the restorative impulses that fuel aesthetic creation and investigates how Bishop thematizes an understanding of literary production as a process of psychic compensation.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2086-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION The Muse’s Monogram
    (pp. 3-9)

    Harold Bloom in hisAnxiety of Influenceand Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar more recently inNo Man’s Landreflect upon individual authors’ perceptions of the origins of their creativity and issues of intertextuality. In response to Bloom’s male-identified Oedipal model of influence relations, Gilbert and Gubar posit an alternative paradigm which they label the “female affiliation complex.” Arguing from a revisionist Freudian position, Gilbert and Gubar contextualize Freud’s theories of female sexuality and modulate his premise of female insufficiency. Gilbert and Gubar articulate the problematic aspects of Freud’s theory for women, then proceed to posit an alternative approach to...

  5. CHAPTER ONE “Efforts of Affection”: Toward a Theory of Female Poetic Influence
    (pp. 10-48)

    In “Efforts of Affection: A Memoir of Marianne Moore,” Elizabeth Bishop has not only written a feelingly accurate description of Moore as friend and literary precursor, but through her delineation of that friendship more generally investigated the vexed dynamics of female literary influence. What follows is simultaneously a reading of Bishop’s memoir, an interpretation of what transpires beneath the glow of approbation that characterizes Bishop’s reflections on Moore, and an attempt to suggest an alternative paradigm (or at least a set of questions) that seeks to illuminate female patterns of influence. Indeed, what I will argue is that Bishop’s memoir...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Reading Bishop Reading Moore
    (pp. 49-84)

    If, in “Efforts of Affection,” Bishop covertly delineates the conflictual relationship between herself and Moore, Bishop’s poems articulate the significance of that conflict. The psychological ramifications of the anxious ambivalence that shadows Bishop’s relation to Moore have a determinative corollary in the realm of trope and the rhetoric of style. The analysis that follows, therefore, attempts to show how the Moore-Bishop relationship was worked out in rhetorical terms so as to establish a transposition from psychoanalytic inquiry to aesthetics. Object-relations theory here becomes supplanted by the principles of intertextual reading; my hope is that this substitution is suggestive of the...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Memory of Desire and the Landscape of Form: Reading Bishop through Object-Relations Theory
    (pp. 85-105)

    Critics have consistently admired Bishop’s accurate eye, the keen powers of observation that surprise the reader into fresh perception. What has been less noted and too frequently neglected is the intense introspection, the deeply inward-looking gaze that makes Bishop’s work differ so radically from Moore’s. The provisional, deeply ruminative cast of Bishop’s poetry lends itself to the subtleties of psychoanalytic criticism, particularly object-relations analysis. That Bishop herself was drawn to Kleinian analysis is, of course, an interesting observation, but more important to the use of object-relations theory in reading Bishop is her concentration on effects of perception, the deeply felt...

  8. CONCLUSION Object Relations, Influence, and the Woman Poet
    (pp. 106-110)

    Why object relations? It has been my contention that this revisionary psychoanalytic model offers a particularly advantageous method for reading poetry.¹ Specifically, I argue that reading Bishop through object-relations theory yields a number of insights; foremost among them, an understanding of the psychodynamics of literary influence relations as they work themselves out between Bishop and her most formidable predecessor, Marianne Moore. In addition to the individual insights provided through such an approach, one can discern a larger, revisionist conceptualization of poetic influence through the lens of object relations. Particularly, one can understand the workings of influence not in the agonistic...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 111-116)
  10. Index
    (pp. 117-119)