Prof. Melissa F. Zeiger (Dartmouth College, NH/USA)

"Silence and Speech in Modern American Women Poets" (December 2013)

This course studied the thrillingly rich and diverse body of work by U.S. women poets in the twentieth century, as these writers establish an emerging counter-tradition, within American modernism and within the larger tradition of poetry in English, of American women poets in the twentieth century. The central cue came from the important feminist lesbian author Adrienne Rich, who poses a riddle by calling a book of essays On Lies, Secrets and Silences (is she for or against?). The seminar followed debates about what makes it possible to break previous silences--and to what degree and in what ways it is useful or satisfying to do so. When is straightforward speech necessary for survival and change? When is it counterproductive, or complicit with the status quo? Topics within this discussion included sexuality, race, illness, gender roles, literary modes, female literary succession, and relations with the literary tradition.

The Instructor

Melissa Zeiger is Associate Professor of English at Dartmouth College the author of Beyond Consolation: Death, Sexuality, and the Changing Shapes of Elegy (1997). She is a distinguished teacher with a special interest in contemporary poetry, AIDS and Breast Cancer Literature, women's fiction and Feminist Criticism, but has also published on Victorian and Modernist poetry. Her current research projects focus on the garden/gardening in American literature and the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop.