Poetic Epistemologies

Gender and Knowing in Women's Language-Oriented Writing

By Megan Simpson

Subjects: Poetry
Series: SUNY series in Feminist Criticism and Theory
Paperback : 9780791444467, 222 pages, January 2000
Hardcover : 9780791444450, 222 pages, February 2000

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Table of contents



1. Language-Oriented Feminist Epistemology, and the Case of Lyn Hejinian

"A space that has opened": Gender and Language
Language-Oriented Feminist Epistemology
"Night Knowledge": Lyn Hejinian's Faustienne Poetics

2. "Come, words, away": Modernist Women's Invitations to Innovation

Laura Riding's Lifelong Project with Language
Inside Language as Language with Gertude Stein
"From stepping-stone to stone of creative explorations": Mina Loy's Deconstruction of Femininity
Slipping the Knot of Language: Realism and Indeterminacy for H.D.

3. Subjects of Knowledge: Processing Gender and Sexuality

Beverly Dahlen
Lori Lubeski
Laura Moriarty

4. Feminist Phenomenologies: Language as the Horizon of Encounter

Leslie Scalapino
Mei-mei Berssenbrugge
Carla Harryman

5. "Cries open to the words inside them": Textual Truth and Historical Materialism in the Poetry of Susan Howe

Interventions in History: Recovering the Feminine
Intertextuality and the Material Word
The "Visible surface of Discourse"
A Poetics of Encounter


Works Cited


Through detailed readings and interviews, this book provides a valuable introduction to feminist language-poets and to some of the most compelling issues in contemporary poetry.


Poetic Epistemologies explores the political and epistemological implications of women's language-oriented writing in the United States, arguing that, in its investigation of knowledge, language, and gender, this writing (re)unites art with philosophy, and both with social critique. Featuring eight contemporary and four earlier-twentieth-century poets—including Lyn Hejinian, Susan Howe, Leslie Scalapino, Mina Loy, and Gertrude Stein—Simpson emphasizes each writer's unique contribution to the emerging tradition of feminist epistemological poetry. Drawing upon original interviews, as well as poststructuralist and feminist theory, Poetic Epistemologies offers an informed account of one of the most vital recent developments in contemporary American poetry.

Megan Simpson is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.


"Drawing upon her own interviews with several of the poets as well as on the work of prior critics, Simpson evinces an enviable ease dealing with extremely difficult materials. Free of jargon, this book is a model of lucid interpretation. Written with enthusiasm and scholarly acumen, Poetic Epistemologies offers a powerful introduction to the feminist language-poets and to some of the most compelling questions having to do with poetry in our time." — Joanne Feit Diehl, author of Women, Poets, and the American Sublime

"We can't foretell the map of literary history in the decades ahead, but it strikes me that Simpson's book will become an important touchstone for the study of language-oriented feminist poetry in the twenty-first century. The odds are good that this book will preserve and transmit important primary information about how major figures of the late twentieth century wrote poetry." — Timothy Morris, author of Becoming Canonical in American Poetry

"Poetic Epistemologies is beautifully written, rigorously documented, and carefully argued. Most impressively, the book seamlessly blends two functions: it offers an accessible introduction to a number of emerging contemporary poets, yet it also provides a meticulous and nuanced theoretical discussion of some very complex philosophical and epistemological issues." — Helen Sword, author of Engendering Inspiration: Visionary Strategies in Rilke, Lawrence, and H. D.