Battlemaids of domesticity : domestic epic in the works of Gwendolyn Brooks and Sylvia Plath
Frazier, Valerie Doris
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In this dissertation, I argue that particularly during the 1950s and early 1960s there was a reification of beliefs and codes of conduct similar to the nineteenth century “cult of domesticity,” which encouraged women to subsume personal desires and aspirations in favor of emphasis on family and home life. To rewrite these scripts of domesticity, Brooks and Plath revise, in their poetry written during the 1950s and 1960s, the traditional epic genre and invent a new subgenre—the domestic epic—that expands the traditional epic to encapsulate a distinctly feminine pattern of figurative warfare. In this way, they destabilize patriarchal and societal structures and assert the primacy of new visions of feminine growth and creative expression. As a part of the structure of the domestic epic, the two poets employ poetic and narrative strategies such as encoded meanings within names, shifts in narrative voice, the infusions of mythology, and conflations of birth and death imagery to subvert and redefine traditional definitions of domesticity.