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January 30 , 2010

'What's a Man Without a Woman ...?' - Gender Constructions in Carol Ann Duffy's 'The World's Wife'


History has always been a space of male deeds, male achievements, male gain or loss. Or so one is made to believe in retrospection. Of course women were not absent from history but they certainly are to a great extent from historical representations. Patriarchy dominated Western culture for more than two thousand years and supplied the framework for what is to be known and how, i.e. in which contexts, it is to be known. Historical material has always been scarce but in regard to women it is almost non-existent. So women rightfully started to ask where their part in history was or why they have been consequently written out of history instead of being included. A necessity arose to deconstruct certain historical 'truths' and to make women visible in and show their relevance to our past to build up strength and to obtain a voice or rather voices in order to question the present and the past systems. In this paper I examine Carol Ann Duffy's The World's Wife , whose poetry runs very much in above line. I will concentrate on the gender constructions established within The World's Wife. Even though Duffy questions traditional conceptions of men and women and their relationships with each other, she maintains a binary gender structure. The first chapter therefore deals with a general overview of gender conceptions constructed in and through the poems. The second and third chapter will take a closer look at certain poems. I think the poems weave their own web of femininity. In a circular movement they refer to past and future thus describing a female/feminist tradition. Accordingly the first and the last poem, Little Red Cap and Demeter, form the outline of the circle, not only in regard to their position but also by implicitly refering to each other. My third chapter will extend the question of wo/manhood. As extreme picture inspired by psychoanalytical gender definitions Queen Kong presents an excellent farce of cultural constructions of masculinity and femininity. Mrs. Teresisas likewise undermines biological essentialisms. Within the volume it is the most explicit voicing of gender constructions and differences.For my analysis I will rely mainly on psychoanalytical theories, and here especially on Jacques Lacan and Hélèn Cixous.
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