Culture, response, and re-vision in the work of Lev Vygotsky, Louise Rosenblatt, and Adrienne Rich

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Culture, response, and re-vision in the work of Lev Vygotsky, Louise Rosenblatt, and Adrienne Rich
Wycisk, Margaret Ann
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Denver, CO
University of Colorado Denver
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v, 97 leaves : ; 29 cm

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Master's ( Master of Humanities)
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University of Colorado Denver
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Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, CU Denver
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Committee Chair:
Wiley, Catherine
Committee Co-Chair:
Casper, Kent


Criticism, interpretation, etc. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
Criticism, interpretation, etc ( fast )


Includes bibliographical references.
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Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Humanities
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Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
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by Margaret Ann Wycisk.

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CUL TIJRE, RESPONSE, AND RE-VISION IN Tim WORK OF LEV VYGOTSKY, LOUISE ROSENBlATT, AND ADRIENNE RICH by Margaret Ann Wycisk B.A., Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota, 1965 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado_ at Denver in partial fulflllmen t of the requirements for the degree of Master of Humanities 1993


This thesis for the Master of Humanities degree by Margaret Ann Wycisk has been approved for the Humanities Program by Date


Wycisk, Margaret Ann (M.H., Humanities) Culture, Response, and Re-Vision in the Work of Lev Vygo_tsky, Louise Rosenblatt, and Adrienne Rich Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Catherine A. Wiley ABSTRACT Through his research on the nature of learning and the relationships between thought and language, Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky determined that socially meaningful activity generates consciousness. Working with adolescent subjects, Vygotsky observed that the sociocultural activity in which they were involved created dialogue between the psychological and developmental functions of the mind. Since literature mirrors human activity, the work of critic Louise Rosenblatt reflects Vygotsky's studies in that she examines the role of the reader as an active participant in the sociocultural event of reading literature. An author creates a work out of individual experience with thought, language, and sodal process. An adolescent reader then comes to the reading transaction from a separate sociocultural location, bringing individual experience and insight to that process. The work of literature emerges as a result of the dialogic. As a poet, and as a woman, Adrienne Rich responds to and participates in this dialogic. She refuses to receive information from the iii


past in past forms but rather actively engages i,n the process of constructing her own knowledge out of her particular sociocultural experience. She uses language to question cultural assumptions about both the role of poetry and the individual person within society. As writer, reader, and social critic, and as teacher, student, and poet, she transforms her own life as well as the lives of her readers in the process of re-visioning the sociocultural world in which she fmds her self. In her essays Rich speaks of the role of education in the process of re-visioning what has been, what is, and what will be. Her poems are infinitely teachable to adolescents within this context because she speaks directly to issues of the development of self, language, and culture. Her thought expands through the language of a poem, provoking response in thought and language from readers who, in transaction with the text, create the poem. Her poems have the potential to stimulate the development of individual voice within students through their active participation in the sociocultural process of creating their own meaning. This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I recommend Its publication. c:dierine A. Wiley ::s iv


CONTENTS In.troduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Cultural Interaction Between Thought and language: Lev Vygotsky . . 9 Cultural Interaction Between Reading and Response: Louise Rosenblatt 24 Cultural Re-Visioning: Vygotsky, Rosenblatt, Rich ................... 34 Adrienne Rich: The Activity of Making Meaning .................... 56 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85 Works Cited . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93 Works Consulted .. ." . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97 v


CULTURE, RESPONSE, AND RE-VISION IN THE WORK OF LEV VYGOTSKY, LOUISE ROSENBIATI, AND ADRIENNE RICH Introduction In his book, Thought and Language (1934), the Russian psychologist and humanist Lev Vygotsky argues that socially meaningful activity generates consciousness. Human thought and language do not evolve in isolation but rather through social interaction. "The word is a thing in our consciousness ... that is absolutely impossible for one person, but that becomes a reality for two," he explains. "The word is a direct expression of the historical nature of human consciousness" (256). Vygotsky's studies focus on the dialogic between these two dynamic functions: thought is stimulated by language which rises out of a sociocultural world that, in tum, produces a consciousness which emerges from language. We become intimately caught up in the swirl of cultural activity which produces the lives that we live. Vygotsky examines this sociocultural activity and exposes the relationships between developmental and psychological functions of the mind which integrate thought, language, and social process. Throughout our lives, he says, we struggle with the psychological nuances that are embedded in our sociocultural history. We cannot free ourselves from psychological and cultural entanglements, it seems; yet the


individual self pushes and pulls within its cultural space in attempts to continually define its dimensions as separate and individual as well as relative and social. literature emerges from this social and cultural matrix as writers attempt to reflect the struggles of the self, yet a work of literature is not complete until an other reads and reflects on that literature. Reading literature is an active process: "an event occuning at a particular time in a particular environment at a particular moment in the life history of the reader," in the words of critic Louise Rosenblatt (20). In The Reader, the Text, tbe Poem (1978), Rosenblatt describes the ways in which each word becomes a reflection of the reader's life and relationship with the world at a particular point in time and from within a particular cultural milieu. The work itself moves back and forth between the worlds of thought and language, both embedded in cultural history. literature generates thought yet at the same time is generated by thought. literature becomes a social institution yet at the same time remains highly individual in respect to both authorship and readership. Rosenblatt acknowledges that authors create texts, but she describes this process of creation as necessarily fluid because of the "groping, developing, trial-and-error revision characteristic of much creative activity ... (49). Authors create works out of a particular time, place, and culture, and in the course of creation, Rosenblatt explains, their initial motivations for writing develop and transform as they continue to live in the world (121). 2


A reader approaching a particular text becomes involved in the transaction between the author and the world. The reader constructs the speaker in the process of decoding the language of the text. The transaction then involves the reader's past experience, present interests, and active participation in the reading event. The poem that results from this language transaction, Rosenblatt argues, is not an object on display but rather an active process which the reader lives through: Thus the transactional view, freeing us from the old separation between the human creature and the world, reveals the individual consciousness as a continuing self-ordering, self creating process, shaped by and shaping a network of interrelationships with its environing social and natural matrix. Out of such transactions flowers the author's text, an utterance awaiting the readers whose participation will consummate the speech act. By means of texts ... the individual may share in the funded knowledge and wisdom of our culture. ( 172-173) literature becomes our cultural mirror. It reflects a larger world into which we place ourselves as performers. As we perform the text, we bring our own world experience to the transaction. Our thought mingles with the writer's language. Only then is the text truly "written" on our consciousness; only then does the text become the poem. The poetry of Adrienne Rich reflects her culture and her own personal and political transformations. Her poems come out of her cultural situation, but during the active process of writing, Rich works at breaking out of the constraints of that culture and its language. Rosenblatt would say that Rich's poems develop from the fabric of her individual life as she increases her awareness of both culture and self. In a statement at a poetry 3


reading in 1964, Rich proclaimed, "what I know I know through making poems" (Gelpi 89). Poetry is her reality and out of that reality she constructs her own knowledge from life experience. As the reading transaction is an event in Rosenblatt's response theory of literary criticism, so are poems experiences and events for Rich, experiences "that contribute to my knowledge and my emotional life even while they reflect and assimilate it" (Gelpi 89). Rich uses language to construct her own knowledge of the world and to transform the life that she lives and the language that she uses as she works to re-vision culture's view of women and of her self as actively participating in a life she chooses. She uses the power of language to re-name the world and the ways in which she perceives her reality. She chooses to communicate this power through the texts of her poems, poems which teach re-vision and transformation. In each of her poems "something is happening, something has happened to me and, if I have been a good parent to the poem, something will happen to you who read it" (89). For that is the goal of the poem, to be read by active readers who agree to participate in the making of the poem. Rich is the parent of the poem but it takes a reader (even if that reader is herself) to perform the poem. Thought, language, culture, writer, text, reader, poem: this entire stream of activity produces that fmal form which is the literary work of art. Adrienne Rich writes poems that are infinitely teachable. Her poems speak self-consciously to issues of the self, language, and culture. In 4


a literary transaction as described by Rosenblatt, the action between reader and text creates the poem. Rich believes the reader (the student) has infinite power to glide through "currents of ... thought," to go beyond, and to change history and culture through the language of the poem. The poet takes risks with words in the attempt to re-create culture to fit the images of his/her life. (S)he allows thought to develop through the language of the poems in order to stimulate the self and to provoke thought and language to complete the poem. According to Rosenblatt, in an aesthetic reading of a piece of literature (a reading as action, process, and lived through experience), the reader has the power to see the re-creation, the re-vision, of cultural history. Through language the reader can control the course of the imagination. This is an important lesson for students who are constantly fighting to discover and retain their own identities in the process of using language in their reading, writing, and talking about literature: what does this literature have to do witb me? janet Marting, in an article about the "disenfranchisement" of students, writes: The sheer act of writing and rewriting, thinking and rethinking, reading and rereading one's words is the most active, powerful, and influential teacher of all: it asks students to acknowledge what they know and don't know, and explore ways to say it best to themselves and/or to others. It not only teaches them to play with language, to see all of its possibilities, but to have the material to back up their language, the materials that make writing more than competent writing that becomes meaningful and compelling for the composer and to the readers (161-162). As students read, they write, and, in tum, read what they write. Ideally they also talk with a teacher and other students before, during and after 5


they read and write. language and thought back and forth in continual interplay. Imagination and activity form the words that bounce back and forth, creating meaning, composing-and transforming-the possibilities within their lives. Psychological transformations occur throughout a transaction between one and an otber, whether that other be another person or the voice of a poem. Our higher mental functions, according to Vygotsky, need the challenge which both the other and language can present. Because language is a process in itself, it needs to be active, and it needs the space in which to work on thought, to develop thinking, and to transform being. In her essay, "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision" (1971), Adrienne Rich says that "there is the challenge and promise of a whole new psychic geography to be explored" (On lies, Secrets, and Silence 35), especially for women who Rich believes have been the notorious other, buried within a male-dominated culture (and I say through extension, especially for students as they begin to develop their own voices). Marting argues that students are also victims of oppression: "when they have never been given the opportunity to write--freely and openly-without some ... restrictions which [serve] to conceal more than reveal what they [have] to say, preventing them from telling their [stories]" (159). The freedom to read aesthetically, to respond freely, to interact with the other, and to keep the process active provides fertile ground for the development of thought and language in Vygotsky's terms: 6


The relation of thought to word is not a thing but a process, a continual movement back and forth from to word and from word to thought. In that process, the relation of thought to word undergoes changes that themselves may be regarded as development in the functional sense. Thought is not merely expressed in words; it comes into existence through them. Every thought tends to connect something with something else, to establish a relation between things (T. and L. 218). These relationships generate both the poem and the response to the poem, and the activity of this process becomes a central part of a student's construction of knowledge. In her essay "Teaching Language in Open Admissions" (1972), Adrienne Rich asks herself some difficult questions about the process of teaching. How does a teacher teach "order, coherence, the structure of ideas" (On L, S., and S. 56) and also respect the experience of the students as they think and use language to express that thinking? How can a teacher pay attention and give validity to the knowledge students have gathered from disparate places and also promote further thinking and fresh uses of language? How might a teacher encourage students to find their voices and tell their own stories? Rich argues that students discover language and its possibilities through reading first, then through writing. Through the act of reading over a number of years people begin to hear the language, perceive rhythm, tone and word meaning, and discover "many different possible modes of being" (63). Rich wants students to see reading and writing as part of the natural self. What is then required is to accept the students as they are and encourage them to start from their own responses to the world, to pay attention to the world as they know it, to discover that 7


language is power, and as her poems show, to re<:ognize that "language can be used as a means of changing reality" (67). No person has to settle for what is, because there are always other possibilities. That is the lesson of Adrienne Rich's poetry: language develops thinking and thinking develops through language; reading is an active process, a transaction with the text and the world; women, students, (and all humankind) can re-vision the world, re-name what it is we see, tell our own stories, and change cultural history. I believe that the activity of the creative process-in thinking, reading, writing, making-has the potential to transform our knowledge of the world and of the self in its attempts to expand cultural history. In this paper I will examine the learning theories of Lev Vygotsky, the reader-response theories of Louise Rosenblatt, and their relationships to Adrienne Rich's feminist theories of creation and cri.tidsm. I will expand this discussion with attention to the activities of thinking, reading, writing, creating as integral parts of the active process of constructing knowledge and transforming responses to cultural history. This expansion will include careful consideration of individual poems by Rich, their relationships to Vygotsky's learning theories and to Rosenblatt's ideas about the reading transaction, as well as their relationships to Rich's (and other) feminist considerations. What is the power of culture in the active process of thinking and speaking, reading and writing? In what ways does Rich's language activity create and reflect, as well as transform her self both personally and politically within 8


her particular cultural history? How can as readers tell their own stories at the same time they listen to the story of a particular Rich poem? Cultural Interaction Between Thought and Language: Lev Vygotsky During the 1910s, 1920s, and early 1930s in Moscow, Lev Vygotsky studied and wrote about issues of psychology, philosophy, aesthetics, language, literature, and pedagogy in his attempt to develop an integrated (though incomplete) sociocultural theory of mind.l In his published studies of the relationship between thought and language which lie at the center of his theory, Vygotsky argues that "[v]erbal thought is not an innate, natural form of behavior, but is determined by a historical-cultural process ... ( T. and L. 94-95). In his later explorations of the sociohistorical nature of consciousness in Mind and Society (1978),2 Vygotsky emphasizes the higher mental and psychological functions of the mind which originate in social processes. To Vygotsky "higher psychological functions" and "higher behavior" refer to the processes of thinking which develop through the use of tools and signs which become connecting 1Vygotsky was only 38 when he died in 1934 of tuberculosis; he was immersed in his studies of psycholgy and consciousness at the time. The Russian establishment had just begun to criticize his work as anti-Marxist. However, his work was carried on by several other Russian psychologists who soon established a program in developmental psychology at Kharkov where they had more freedom to carry on Vygotsky's work (Kozulin, xliii-xliv). 2Due to political censorship, especially regarding his thoughts on pedology, Mind in Society was not published until 44 years after Vygotsky's death (Wertsch, 14). 9


points, or mediated activity, between individual and society.3 Vygotsky investigates the problem of internalizing symbolic psychological tools and interpersonal, social relations. The development of thinking and language skills in adolescents, Vygotsky argues, begins with the external (tools, such as language) rather than the internal (signs, such as inner speech); such development is prompted by the social milieu in which they live. That external process then becomes internalized: Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsycbological), and then inside the child (inrrapsycbological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relations between human individuals. (57) This transformation results from a series of activities which Vygotsky calls "developmental events." What develops tlrst is what Vygotsky calls the "gesture-in-itself'' (Kozulin xxvii). A child begins to point, with grasping motions, yet there is no connection between the pointing and any particular object. The gesture occurs in-itself before it begins to indicate aspects of the outside world. The gesture, as an elementary function, is neither active nor passive; it just is. Sartre, in his principal philosophical work, Being and Nothingness (1956), describes this aspect of being as "an immanence which can not realize itself, an affirmation which can not affirm itself, an 3john-Steiner and Souberman define Vygotsky's uses of the terms, signs and tools: ... signs are internally oriented ... a means of psychological influence aimed at mastering oneself; tools ... are externally oriented, aimed at mastering and triumphing over nature" (Afterword, M. inS. 127). 10


activity which cannot act, because it is glued to itself' (27). The gesture exists as human motion, a reaching outward from the self, but it exists only in-itselr, it has no relationship to the world outside itself. When another individual enters the scene, Vygotsky argues, the situation changes fundamentally. The second individual reacts to the child's gesture, and at this point the primary meaning of the unsuccessful movement is detennined by others. The child perceives a reaction and the gesture becomes a social act which reaches out and communicates with all that is at first beyond reach. This gesture, a higher mental function, becomes for-others. Vygotsky explains that later the child will link the gesture with another person and begin to know the gesture as pointing. Then the gesture becomes a movement aimed at another person and the child establishes relations with the social world. Meaning is created at first by an objective situation, Vygotsky explains, and then by the people around the child. The child internalizes the situation and makes the interchange its own. Through this process Vygotsky sees that the higher mental functions ,originate as relations between people. What occurs interpersonally becomes intrapersonal. Sartre describes this same action in his discussions of the pursuit of being: ... I need the Other in order to realize fully all the structures of my being .... The Other is a thinking substance of the same essence as I am, a substance which will not disappear into primary and secondary qualities, and whose essential structure I find in myself'' (303). To Sartre, the otberis 11


necessary to ontological development. Others begin to interpret gestures, turning them into communicative acts. An other perceives the gesture, interprets its meaning, and actively responds with a reciprocal gesture.4 Vygotsky believes that the child, together with the other, begins to develop social interrelationship, and it is that social interaction which in tum teaches the child about itself. In Sartre's words: "The act is everything" (4); both the other and doing become essential to being. Through interplay with the social environment, the child's thought develops.S The gesture becomes language which becomes a mediating tool between the processes as well. as self and other. Through activity and language, the child expands his thinking processes. As the child continues to use signs and tools to gesture and communicate, Vygotsky explains, the resulting thought effects language which in tum expands thought. Soon the child begins to perceive the self. At that point the gesture becomes for-itself which is the being of consciousness. 4The French feminist Simone de Beauvoir looks at the question of the other from another vantage point, taking the concept to another plane: Beauvoir delineates a history of women which reveals that for a man, woman is a significant other. She is object, not subject; and a man begins to define himself in terms of woman as other: "History has shown us that men have always kept in their hands all concrete powers; since the earliest days of the patriarchate they have thought best to keep woman in a state of dependence; their codes of law have been set up against her; and thus she has definitely been established as the Other. This arrangment suited the economic interests of the males; but it conformed also to their ontological and moral pretensions. Once the subject seeks to assert himself, the Other, who limits and denies him, is none the less a necessity to him: he attains himself only through that reality which he is not, which is something other than himself" (139). 5 john-Steiner and Sou berman emphasize that to Vygotsky the concept of play is essential to a child's cultural development. The interaction, the activity and play initiate change and development (Afterword, M. inS. 123). 12


Vygotsky argues that an essential part of theory of development is that the child be the last to understand its own gesture. Meaning occurs only after interaction with the social and cultural world. First comes the gesture, then relationship followed by meaning. Identity and consciousness come as a result of interaction with the world outside the self. So it is with thought. First comes the word, then communication through speech, then the complexity of thought which rises to the center of being. Meaning develops out of the activity of social discourse for both the self and the other. Vera John-Steiner and Ellen Soubennan explain this singularity of being in their Afterword to Mind and Society. ... Vygotsky argues that because the historical conditions which determine to a large extent the opportunities for human experience are constantly changing, there can be no universal schema that adequately represents the dynamic relation between internal and external aspects of development. Therefore, a functional learning system of one child may not be identical to that of another, though there may be similarities at certain stages of development. ( 125) To Vygotsky each individual develops within its own system; there will be similarities but no universal stages of development. The sense of the word for each person comes from everything that it brings up to the surface of consciousness. It is complex and dynamic, filled with the possibilities within that person's experience and within the context of that person's life and knowledge. The sense of a word comes before meaning which comes before sentence which comes before word, both within inner speech and within external social communication. But it is the context in which this occurs that Vygotsky fmds of particular significance. 13


A true test of intelligence, Vygotsky argu,es, is a situation that presents problems beyond the capacity of the child and simultaneously makes adult help available. He calls such a test the "zone of proximal development" (T. and L. 187)--that place where a child's unorganized spontaneous concepts come into contact with scientific reasoning. This zone is as large as the difference between a child's actual mental age and the level of understanding the child can reach with assistance from an adult and/or other students. The sociocultural nature of the growth of higher mental functions increases through creative, interactive instruction which allows for the potential merging of spontaneous thought and scientific logic. Teachers do not give students knowledge, Vygotsky argues; teachers assist students through an interactive process in which teachers present scientific concepts to interact with the child's spontaneous concepts and in that way assist students to create their own meaning. Teachers "emphasize the creation of cultural contexts in which children actively learn to use, try, and manipulate language in the service of making sense or creating meaning" (Moll 8). Students learn within a particular setting at a particular time; they create knowledge through the activity surrounding thought and language. And much of this learning takes place in a situation in which self and other can exchange thought and speech, where thought can advance through speech, and language can develop through extended thought. In Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics (1929), Vygotsky's contemporary, Mikhail Bakhtin, expands Vygotsky's 14


argument: An idea does not live in one person's isolated individual consciousness-if it remains there it degenerates and dies. An idea begins to live, i.e. to take shape, to develop, to find and renew its verbal expression, and to give birth to new ideas only when it enters into genuine dialogical relationships with other, foreign, ideas. Human thought becomes genuine thought ... embodied in the voice of another person, that is, in the consciousness of another person as expressed in his word. It is in the point of contact of these voice consciousnesses that the idea is born and has its life. (71-72) Bakhtin argues that ideas are born when and where there is a living event between two consdousnesses--when they meet "dialogically." An idea wants to be heard, wants to be alive in the interplay between one and an other. Language, thought, and all kinds of mental activity interact dynamically to produce the material each of us knows. Vygotsky's theories developed through his work with children and adolescents; however, Bakhtin developed his theories of language and signs focusing on humans whose worlds were already saturated with words, humans who had matured beyond adolescence. Vygotsky examines developmental stages of growth; Bakhtin examines characters and ideas in literature and intellectual history. Yet their discoveries reflect those of the other thinker as they both discuss an individual's gradual accumulation of knowledge through continual mediating activity. Vygotsky assumes that we have consciousness (thought) before we acquire language, but self consciousness comes to us only after we enter the world of language and signs. To both Vygotsky and Bakhtin, to be is to be able to use language, to be able to use speech in our interactions with the world. As with Sartre, to 15


be is to be for the other, to reflect the other, anq to see the other in one's self. Relations as subjects and objects in the world come from that interchange between self and other. Bakhtin describes this phenomena by examining the edges, the boundaries between territories. Vygotsky's view of the higher mental functions appearing on the interpsychological plane before they appear on the intrapsychological plane is similar to Bakhtin's principle that the self is not completely internal but rather a boundary operation--the social gets inside the individual. Vygotsky looks first at the external world, and then to the individual. The movement is back and forth, but it begins with response from the outside. Neither Vygotsky nor Bakhtin believes that we are fully aware of what our actions mean or that everything we do and think comes from a conscious center. However, neither thinker looks to the unconscious but rather to a more diverse consciousness. According to Bakhtin, both self and society are vitally linked through dialogue and discourse. In her article the development of voice and value from within society's strictures in the poetry of Adrienne Rich, Mary Strine quotes an illustrative passage from Bakhtin: 'The realm of culture has no internal territory; it is entirely distributed along the boundaries, boundaries pass everywhere, through its every aspect, the systematic unity of culture extends into the very atoms of cultural life, it reflects like the sun in each drop of that life. Every cultural act lives essentially on the boundaries; in this is its seriousness and its significance; abstracted from boundaries, it loses its soil, it becomes empty, arrogant, it degenerates and dies.' (qtd. in Strine 25) Bakhtin's boundaries refer to sociocultural locations such as a society's art, 16


government, and schools, locations which create value and voice through cultural partidpation. Individual self-consciousness comes through cultural communication. Individuals emerge from the sociocultural atmosphere. They are never pure. Bakhtin sees, for example, poetic forms (like all art) as extensions and refinements of everyday speech which preserve a particular social resonance. Poems become sites of personal struggle within the larger sodal framework. Poems are dialogues with culture. To Bakhtin the word has a powerful will coming out of the will of society. The word never belongs to one individual alone, Bakhtin argues: The word in language is half someone else's. It becomes "one's own" only when the speaker populates it with his[her] own intention, his[her] own accent, when [s]he appropriates the word, adapting it to his[her] own. semantic and expressive intention .... the word does not exist in a neutral and impersonal language ... but rather it exists in other people's mouths, in other people's intentions; it is from there that one must take the word, and make it one's own. (The Dialogic Imagination 293-294) Dialogue to Bakhtin as well as to Vygotsky, is far more complex than two people talking together. Their inflections determine their character. Every word echoes all its uses over centuries each time it is used. The situation becomes more and more complex as time passes and as location changes. Both Bakhtin and Vygotsky focus on historical and cultural factors, and because Bakhtin emphasizes the nature of dialogue and Vygotsky the significance of mediating activity, they continue to deal with the framework of self, other, and language. If thinking and behavior are governed by the soda! milieu, by 17


interaction between self and other, an adolescent's thinking process develops through dynamic activities that promote social interaction and language processes: reading, writing, listening, talking. Vygotsky, who unlike Bakhtin, focuses on psychological development and education, explains in Thought and language that "[t]he tasks with which society confronts an adolescent as [s]he enters the cultural, professional, and civic world of adults undoubtedly become an important factor in the emergence of conceptual thinking" (108). An adolescent needs ample opportunity to work with the material of his/her being and to direct his/her own mental processes with the aid of words and signs in order to get at meaning. Activities involving thinking and language skills are invaluable in this process. Reading, writing, talking, listening, making, imagining, creating, rewriting, re-creating, re-naming, re-visioning become the activities of the process of learning. Exercising language shapes an adolescent's life; learning to use language of its own is a way of gaining control of life within a particular social milieu. An adolescent must perceive movement and power in transaction with things written; an adolescent must be in process, in action in order to keep meaning and interpretation fluid. Vygotsky argues, "If the milieu presents no such tasks to the adolescent, makes no new demands on him[her], and does not stimulate his[her] intellect by providing a sequence of new goals, his[her] thinking fails to reach the highest stages, or reaches them with great delay" (108). It becomes the teacher's task to provide the rich environment in which 18


reading transactions, writing opportunities, and listening experiences and activities involving a great deal of talking within and about the process can take place. Such an environment will come out of experience within an interactive classroom and/or community (John-Steiner and Souberman 129-131; Moll1-23; Reid and Golub 82-94). Reid and Golub explain: Students talk with each other and with the teacher and learn through a series of experiences .... Vygotsky supports learning through language use when he says that our language shapes our thought rather than reflects it and when he emphasizes the social nature of learning. Donaldson stresses the importance of writing to construct meaning. "We do not just sit and wait for the world to impinge on us. We try actively to interpret it, to make sense of it. We grapple with it, we construe it intellectually, we represent it to ourselves."6 (83) External tasks have a relationship to the internal development which occurs in each human being. These tasks stimulate the juices that produce new and challenging thought. The activity of the adolescent provokes both the method and the content of thought. The adolescent learns to direct the mental processes with help from words which represent individual as well as social meaning. As the content and context of a word changes, so does the sodal reality which is reflected by that word. Vygotsky presents education as a fundamental and dynamic activity which stimulates both the personal and sociocultural development of the mind. Vygotsky also argues that art provides rich soctal experience to the life of a human and should be an integral part of any person's education. 6Margaret Donaldson, Children's Minds (New York: Norton, 1978) 67. Qtd. in Reid and Golub 83. 19


The primary questions which he sets up early in his career in The Psychology of Art (1925) are concerned with aesthetic problems: What does an artistic creation do? What transfonns an artistic creation into a work of art? Vygotsky argues that in order to analyze a work of art we must include an analysis of the internal activity that occurs within an individual who interacts with a particular work of art. What is the emotional response generated by the art and what happens during the response? Through art experience humans realize their potential and respond to a metamorphosis of the work itself as well as to any transformation that occurs within themselves. Vygotsky believes "that artistic enjoyment is not pure perception, but that it requires the highest psychic activity. Artistic emotions are not collected by the psyche as if they were a handful of seeds thrown into a bag. They require a process of germination and growth ... (205-206). We actively experience a work of art, feeling something growing within us. This "growth" is an aesthetic response to an event, to something that happens in a particular place at a particular time. The experience prompts us to new action which emerges from the interaction between thought, language and sociocultural history. The work of art represents aspects of our world; if we respond, we produce new activity which will in turn cause metamorphosis. Vygotsky quotes Tolstoy for illustration: 'The activity of art is based on the capacity of people to infect others with their own emotions and to be infected by the emotions of others .... Strong emotions, weak emotions, important emotions, or irrelevant emotions, good emotions or bad emotions--if they 20


contaminate the reader, the spectator, or the listener-become the subject of art.'7 (24D-241) Interplay happens between artist and object, object and participant, thought and language whether the person is viewing, reading, or listening. That which is significant and truly develops an individual's mind is active. It involves play, doing, thinking, creating, remembering, re-visioning. Vygotsky believes that content is in "intimate conflict" with fonn. Content and fonn are resonant with each other, and they are both integral to the metamorphosis that occurs. Content and fonn are inseparable because there is continual exchange of energy between them (215). Vygotsky focuses his critique of form, content, and response to art on interaction with works of literature (e.g. Tolstoy, Shakespeare). Language is his center, and he often uses poetic images to expand his psychological ideas. Alex Kozulin, in his introduction to Thought and Language, says that Vygotsky was particularly interested in "the poetic treatment of the agony endured when thought seeks, but cannot find expression in, words" (xiv). Vygotsky becomes fascinated with the creative energy that comes out of the opposing tensions in art and in life as well as in language. What happens when words cannot express the thought? As a result, Vygotsky examines the "opposition of feelings" that occurs in response to a work. Two kinds of emotion travel in different directions, he argues, creating tension within the work and within an active response to 7L. N. Tolstoy, Collected Works, Vol. 30 ( N. p.: n.p., n.d.) 64-65. Qtd. in Vygotsky, The P. of A. 240-241. 21


the work. Vygotsky uses the classic term, "catharsis," to describe this phenomena, but he selects his own definition for the term (to expand Aristotle),8 describing it as the resolution of a "certain" personal conflict which also reveals a more general, human truth; emotion and imagination come together (P. of A. 200-215). Transformation is the result: the human changes as a result of the aesthetic experience. Vygotsky argues that "art complements life by expanding its possibilities" (247). Art opens up the world and discharges energy; it promotes activity in adolescents and all humans: Art is the social Within us ... and even if its action is performed by a single individual, it does not mean that its essence is individual .... The melting of feelings inside us is performed by the strength of social feeling, which is objectivized. materialized, and projected outside of us, then fiXed in external objects of art which have become the tools of society .... Art is the social technique of emotion, a tool of society which brings the most intimate and personal aspects of our being into the drcle of social life. It would be more correct to say that emotion becomes personal when every one of us experiences a work of art; it becomes personal without ceasing to be social. (249) Between the world and the human being stands the social milieu which guides the development of the individual. There is no way of detaching ourselves from the environment in which we live and create. Vygotsky, who regarded education as "the quintessential sociocultural activity" (Molll), believes there are two parts to the educational significance of art. On the one hand there is criticism as a 8Aristotle, from Poerica: tragedy imitates an important and finished action of a certain magnitude, with a speech whose every part has a different ornament, or with action, not narration, that performs a purification of such affects by means of pity or fear." Qtd. in Vygotsky, P. of A. Zl3. 22


social force. It opens the door to the art experience and evaluates the art, bringing it to our attention. Vygotsky believes that only half of the job of criticism is truly aesthetic, while the other half is pedagogical and public. The critic serves as an organizing force. The other job of criticism (and education) is to preserve art as art (P. of A. 253-254). Some Russian colleagues of Vygotsky believed that art should not be studied in schools; poetry should not be read. Vygotsky says that art is a creative act that cannot be recreated merely by conscious activity. The act of artistic creation cannot be taught but the educator can cooperate in the forming and creating of the experience. Vygotsky argues that art has always been a means of education: "a long-range program for changing our behavior and our organism" (253). He believes art experience is important to general education as a means of engaging the subconscious through the conscious: Psychological investigation reveals that art is the supreme center of biological and social individual processes in society, that it is a method for finding an equilibrium between man and his world, in the most critical and important stages of his life. . since the future has in store not only a rearrangement of man[woman]kind according to new principles, not only the organization of new social and economic processes, but also the "remolding of rnan[woman]," there seems hardly any doubt that the role of art will also change. (259) The role of art will change, man will change, woman will change, teachers, students, society will change-all through the activity of art and language experience and the interplay between thought and language. It all becomes a part of the dynamic activity of sociocultural transformation. 23


"Man's mental functioning is a product of history," Jerome Bruner says in his "Prologue to the English Edition" of The Collected Works of L. s., yet "it is the systematic productivity of man's language use that makes it possible for him to rise above history and even alter its course ... (16). Cultural Interaction Between Reading and Response: Louise Rosenblatt literary critic Louise Rosenblatt examines the art of literature through the eyes of the reader who, she believes, becomes a participant in the aesthetic experience of creating the work of art. She explores the activity of the literary transaction between a reader and a text. In an aesthetic reading, Rosenblatt argues, the reader comes to a text open to the idea of possibility and the excitement of active involvement. Aesthetic readings focus frrst of all on the personal; a reader taking the aesthetic stance does not read for information but rather to experience the book as a personal project. The reader becomes a performer of the text. In The Reader, the Text, the Poem Rosenblatt compares the reader to a pianist: a reader performs a written text just as a pianist performs a sonata (28). When the text happens within the reader, the project becomes a personal, inward production of the text. Rosenblatt believes that "[i]n aesthetic reading, the reader's attention is centered direcdy on what (s)he is living through during his[her] relationship with that particular text" (italics in original, 25). There is one, and then an other; and an event comes out of 24


their combined experience. The reader lives through the experience of reading the text. The coming together of reader and text produces the coming together of thought and language. In What Is literature? ( 1965) Sartre discusses a similar existential interaction between text and reader: "The reader must invent ... all in a continual exceeding of the written thing. To be sure, the author guides him[her], but all [s]he does is guide him[her]. The landmarks [s]he sets up are separated by the void. The reader must unite them; [s]he must go beyond them. In short, reading is directed creation" (39). The reader's subjectivity in interaction with the text creates the poem. For Sartre both the reader and writer are free to collaborate in the discovery of meaning. Without the reader, Rosenblatt and Sartre argue, there is no creation, no poem. Rosenblatt claims that during the actual transaction between the text and the reader, all that acts in the reader plus all that acts in the author of the text comes together within the text and all of its possibilities. The event becomes, as in Sartre, the discovery of meaning and a collaboration of possibility. Meaning then emerges out of this matrix of both internal and external experience to produce the poem, the work of art. We fonn the poem: forming becomes the mind in action. language becomes thought which, in turn, provokes further language. In her discussion of the processes of reading and writing, The Making of Meaning, Ann Berthoff contends that forming is "what we do when we learn; when we discover or recognize; when we interpret; when we come to know. 25


Fanning is how we make meaning" (5). The imagination is active: it forms; it does; it creates; it is process. The mind composes in order to form thought. "Composing is what the mind does by nature," Berthof explains: "Composing is the function of the active mind. Composing is the way we make sense of the world: it's our way of learning" (36). As we read, we compose meaning even as we compose when we write. The transaction between thought and language within the reader produces the poem which becomes meaning. To begin with meaning is to begin with the imagination, Berthof argues; imagination is a natural power which brings fonns to consciousness. Imagination generates more meaning. Berthof quotes a student who upon examining a marble one day exclaimed, "If you think hard enough while your [sic] looking in, you can see what you are thinking" (40). This boy saw the key to the relationship between language and thought and constructing knowledge. Every poem will be different for each reader, dependent upon the network of experience of that reader. The experience is dependent upon differing forces coming together to create new experience: What are the sensations, the relationships, the ideas, the things which the work brings up for the reader? What kinds of tasks and situations will stimulate the reader to construct meaning from the particular text? Sartre perceives that both writer and reader have infinite freedom in the process of reading, but a text can only go as far as a reader's generosity: ... what the writer requires of the reader is not the application of an abstract freedom but the gift of his[her] whole person, with his[her] 26


passions, his[her] prepossessions, his[her] sympathies, his[her] sexual temperament, and his[her] scale of values .... And as activity has rendered itself passive in order for it to better create the object, vice-versa, passivity becomes an act; the [ wo ]man who is reading has raised him[her]self to the highest degree. (W. Is L.? 45) In what manner and in what form will all of these assumptions and perceptions from the stream of the reader's life result in the poem, the singular work of art? In The Reader, the Text, the Poem Rosenblatt delineates the process: To produce a poem the reader ha[s] to pay attention ... to the sound, and rhythm of the words in the inner ear, attention to the imprints of past encounters with these words ... to the overtones of feeling, the chiming of sound, sense, idea and association. Sensing, feeling, imagining, thinking under the stimulus of the words, the reader who adopts the aesthetic attitude ... concentrate[s] on the complex structure of experience that [s]he is shaping and that becomes for him[her] the poem, the story, the play symbolized by the text (26). Thought develops within this transaction between reader and text. Rosenblatt argues that both within the experience and in response to experience students have opportunities to respond, grow, transcend, and transform reality. Activity leading up to a transaction and taking place within the experience, she explains, can stimulate students to re-create and re-vision their worlds. As early as 1938 Louise Rosenblatt first began to lay out her ideas concerning the cultural and social aspects of the reading event in literature as Exploration. She asks readers to be alert to the cultural and historical assumptions underlying the language of their texts. She wants individual readers to be alert to these assumptions, as well as to examine their own assumptions (which in tum come out of culture and 27


consciousness), to avoid being completely manipulated by a text Rosenblatt is very aware of the effects of culture on our lives even as she talks about students and books within a psychological framework: The behavior, the emotional patterns, the ideas and dominant drives that make up a personality, are seen as the result of a process by which the particular mental and emotional habits are, so to speak, learned. Thus, a particular temperament or a particular action cannot be judged in itself. It has to be seen in relation to the whole stream of the individual's life, the various influences to which [s]he has been subjected, the situations and events through which [s]he has passed. (L. as E. 146) A child develops its self from the immediate environment, including physical behavior, gestures, language, emotional behavior and responses.9 The child has will, yet the world encroaches on that will in thousands of ways. Rosenblatt warns us that texts incorporate codes which are natural products of social history and culture. Psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, historians, linguists, feminists, all work at revealing cultural asswnptions behind these codes. Rosenblatt believes that teachers and student writers need to read with an awareness of these codes. Sociocultural codes effect the personal meanings we construct: We may borrow from the anthropologists or the sodologists their classifications of the many different codes or mores or systems of ideas and values that apply to the world evoked by the reader. Some of the most usual are assumptions about the universe, about "human nature," about the structure of society, about the roles of men and women, children and adults, about moral and social and religious imperatives. The text presents us with a whole network of such codes, embodied explicitly or implicitly in its personae and its 9Rosenblatt mentions one particular illustration of how the ideas and attitudes of society affect the child's development as being "the acquisition from the environment of ideas masculine and feminine. These mold the individual's own behavior and his expectations concerning the behavior of others" (Las E. 146). 28


situations. The reader draws on his own internalized culture in order to elicit from the text this world whic,b. may differ from his[her] own in many respects. Moreover, the text may yield glimpses of the personality and codes of the author. The literary transaction may thus embody ... an interplay between at least two sets of codes, two sets of values. Even when author and reader share the same culture ... when they live in the same social group at the same time, and the text directly reflects that culture, their uniqueness as individual human beings would insure this interplay. (The R., the T., tbe P. 56) Dynamic dialogue is stimulated through the interplay between reader and text, but thousands of codes sneak into this stream of thought. The text reveals assumptions of both the authors and the milieu out of which they come. Readers also bring their own assumptions to the text. Our vision of the world is dependent upon what we bring to that world. The text is the stimulus which touches the reader's experience and activity, both with literature and with life. And the text also serves as a guide, regulating whatever comes to the reader and representing the cultural codes of the writer and the society within which the text is written. The text becomes both freedom and constraint. The "event" of the writer, the text, and the reader corning together emerges from the experience and assumptions of all participants. The text becomes a part of "the ongoing stream of life" (12); the text produces additional experience in the world, serving as a stimulus to the dialogic. Concepts of cultural patterns are especially rich in the study of literature. Through reading we are constantly thrown into contact with past as well as differing cultural patterns. Often literature portrays a feeling, spirit or behavior valued by society-or it might portray elements 29


of the social life which is on the boundary between the external and the internal, the area Bakhtin focuses on in his commentary. literature cannot be examined without regard for the social if we like Vygotsky, that values come through our sociocultural world into us (rather than moving in the opposite direction). Our lives are complex. As a result, Rosenblatt argues, the text "embodies an interplay" between at least two sets of codes and values. Yet this interplay of differing codes and values has the potential to promote and honor individual growth and transformation. The author directs the reader's attention to the text according to what (s)he puts in and what (s)he takes out. Rosenblatt explains: The author has looked at life from a particular angle of vision; [s]he has selected out what [s]he hopes will fulfill his[her] aim . to make you see, to make you hear, to make you feel. The reader, concentrating his[her] attention on the world [s]he has evoked, feels him[her]self freed for the time from his [her] own preoccupations and limitations. Aware that the blueprint of this experience is the author's text, the reader feels him[her]self in communication with another mind, with another world. (The R., tbe T., the P. 86) Rosenblatt clearly perceives the effects of environment. She follows Vygotsky's footsteps in saying that meaning is dependent on the ways in which codes and values come together out of differing social environments. "Any individual born into a society," Rosenblatt argues, "must somehow learn not only its language, its gestures, its mechanics, but also the various superstructures of ideas, emotions, modes of behavior, and moral values that this society has built on the basic human relationships" (L. as E. 188). 30


The tension that this interplay creates is the tension that can result in the transformation of assumptions, codes, and attitudes. The patterns of metaphor are often cues to the text-yet they are driven by the reader who brings his/her own perceptions, his/her own images to the text. Metaphors are keys to transformation, Rosenblatt explains1 "metaphor ultimately derives from or depends upon the capacity of readers to hold disparate ideas or images and their ovenones or associations in the focus of attention and to create from this a qualitatively unique state of mind" (The R., the T., the P. 95). Metaphor piques the reader's imagination and creates response. It also requires the aesthetic stance, the personal. What can the reverberations tell us about ourselves? The challenge of the text is to allow its images and metaphors to take hold of the reader in order to produce the most activity from the reader. The reader must allow the metaphor to work, and, Rosenblatt argues, we cannot find the meaning of a metaphor solely in the text. Meaning comes through outside experience with language and images; meaning emerges from our total life experience: A basic requirement is that there should exist the conditions for a particular kind of process in which the reader, attending to and selecting from his[her] responses to the individual elements, fuses these thoughts and feelings or transcends them in a qualitative "meaning" not susceptible of direct statement. (95) It is within this process of interplay between the metaphors of a text and the experience of the reader that dynamic, active thinking results in construction of knowledge, the making of meaning which stimulates transformation. The human creature is not separated from the world but 31


rather embedded in the world. The individual must continually create and re-create his/her response to the world based on individual response to texts which come out of a matrix of culture and history. The task is always to think actively. Rosenblatt believes teachers of literature have a responsibility to provoke the growth of a student's capacity for meaning and knowledge. Texts are grounded in the world of the writer but they come alive only When read. However, teachers cannot assume students will come to a text with personal experience in mind. In his article, "Can literature Be Rescued from Reading?" Alan Purves speaks directly to teachers as the ones responsible for creating what he calls "habits of mind." Students need to be taught how to read aesthetically (Farrell and Squire 88). In the same book, Transactions With literature: A Fifty-Year Perspective, Stephen Dunning discusses the ways in which his memory of Rosenblatt's work on reading transactions centers on the kinds of followup activities a teacher creates. QJ,lestions should not carry "preordained conclusions" but rather open the work and be generative of new activity (Farrell and Squire 47-56). The situation in which students read and respond to literature determines "habits of mind." Responses emerge from both the particular situation surrounding the transaction and the complexity of sociocultural experience. Rosenblatt comes to the reading of literature as an activity: it is dynamic; it moves; it leaps about. In her preface to the first edition of literature as Exploration, she says: 32


Since the varied powers of literature cannot be confined within a single phrase, the title of this book should be understood as a metaphor, not as a limiting defmition. The. word exploration is designed to suggest primarily that the experience of literature, far from being for the reader a passive process of absorption, is a fonn of intense personal activity. (x) We explore the literary work, go down the road, use a map, or no maps, if we wish. Eventually we come into new territory on our own. We explore the text and its sociocultural context The nature of the language in which an author is writing, and the literary and cultural conventions [s]he is either following or modifying, play an important role. Beyond this, the very emotions and thoughts ultimately expressed through the text may have undergone a development or even transformation. (The R., tbe T., tbe P. 49) We feel the process of reading asactive personal experience. Perhaps the text will speak to us; perhaps we will hear a cultural voice; perhaps it will slip on by us. What we want to do is read it actively as part of our on-going lives. Rosenblatt suggests that teachers go into a text with their students as expeditions taken together and the experience will be the same. The same, only different because each of us as discrete individuals takes his/her own journey through his/her own perception in a particular place at a particular yet we can begin from the same (only different) situation. Rosenblatt refers to T.S. Eliot in her explanation of the process: 'In one sense, but a very limited sense, he [the poet] knows better what his poems "mean" than anyone else; he may know the history of their composition, the material which has gone in and come out in an unrecognizable form, and he knows what he was trying to do and what he was meaning to mean. But what a poem means is as much what it means to others as what it means to the author; and indeed, in the course of time a poet may become merely a reader in respect to his own works, forgetting his original mearilng, or without 33


forgetting, merely changing.'10 (120-121n) The most important aspect of reading is the lived-through experience. The event becomes one more transaction, one more chance to expand the world. Where is the dynamic interplay? Where is the dialogic? Where is the poem? Cultural Re-Visioning: Vygotsky. Rosenblatt. Rich As a result of my own process of thinking about the work of Vygotsky and of Rosenblatt, especially in regard to the relationships between their ideas and the work of Adrienne Rich, I believe that their theoretical concerns have affiliations with feminism. Vygotsky's concerns come out of a broad range of psychological and humanistic interests. He sees the significance of individual human development emerging from the relationship between thought, language and historical/ cultural process. Vygotsky says that the "development of behavior [is] governed essentially by the general laws of the historical development of human society" ( T. and L. 95). Adrienne Rich, an ardent feminist, extends this idea in her 1986 introduction to Of Woman Born (1976), her book on the experience and institution of motherhood: Some ideas are not really new but keep having to be affirmed from the ground up, over and over. One of these is the apparently simple idea that women are intrinsically as human as men, that neither women nor men are merely the enlargement of a contact sheet of genetic encoding, biological givens. Experience shapes us, randomness shapes us, the stars and weather, our own accommodations and rebellions, above all, the social order around 10'f.S. Eliot, The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (New York: Barnes, 1933) 129130. Qtd. in Rosenblatt, The R., the T., the P., 120-121n. 34


us. (xv) Each individual develops as discrete and separate and deeply affected by social structures as well as by individual experience and randomness. Each of us comes into the world equal in every way to every other who comes into the world. Male or female makes no difference at that moment. Difference develops as both the individual and the social order evolve. As critic Wendy Martin says in an article about ethos in Rich's work: "Feminism, for Rich, is a commitment to a nurturing ethos and to a comprehensive vision of life which honors all people .... Rich urges women to honor the truths of their capacity for bringing forth and sustaining life-and to extend this perspective to the entire cosmos" (Cooper 163-164).11 Feminism becomes all-encompassing, including males, females, all ages, all races, equal rights, equal resources. Simone de Beauvoir says in her chapter on childhood in The Second Sex "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman. No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society; it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature ... (267). Beauvoir goes on to describe the ways that children perceive the universe through their senses rather than through their sex organs. Society molds her, and his, shape; it is in large part the otberthat 11ln an interview with Wendy Martin, Rich expresses the need and possibility for ultimate equality on every level: '"I simply believe that human society is capable of meeting the fundamental needs of all human beings: we can give them a minimum standard of living, we can give them an education, we can create an environment which is more healthy to live in, and we can provide these things for everybody in the society. We're not doing it, and I don't think there is any male system that is going to do that'" (Martin 227). 35


determines who we will be. Echoing Beauvoir, Rich explains: The power of difference is the power of the very plenitude of creation, the exhilarating variance of nature. Every infant born is testimony to the intricacy and breadth of possibilities inherent in humanity. Yet from birth, in most homes and social groups, we teach children that only certain possibilities within them are livable; we teach them to hear only certain voices inside themselves, to feel only what we believe they ought to feel, to recognize only certain others as human. (Of Woman Born xxxii) The society into which a child is born controls the conditions under which that child develops. If Vygotsky were to investigate the individuality of development within our current western intellectual climate, he would see the ways in which men and women (as well as individual men and women) have been effected by the context within which they develop, clearly within an historical sociocultural matrix. No one can assume that any of us develops like any other of us. Vygotsky believes that intellectual growth is contingent on language which is the social means of thought, and according to both Beauvoir and Rich, sexism is built into our thought, language, and the sociocultural process. In her poem "Ghazals: Homage to Ghalib" (1968) Rich writes, "When they read this poem of mine, they are translators. I Every existence speaks a language of its own" (Leaflets 61). Each of us has a voice which emerges from our individual lives within a particular sociocultural historical frame. Word meaning, which is a dynamic union of word and thought, a living cell, a natural organic process, according to Vygotsky, is constantly in the process of changing because it is contingent on the interplay between thought and language. If thought develops out of language and 36


language out of social interaction, historical patriarchal attitudes become a part of human consciousness. Rich sees "a new space" on the boundaries of patriarchy-where women writers can use the history of women (in relationship to men) to see anew. She suggests that women (and feminists --female and male) can re-vision and re-name what has been with them since the beginning; they can look at the past, the present, and the future with fresh eyes. To Rich it has been a "question of associations with words and of the history of words, and how they come down to us and how we go on with them" (Montenegro 7). She sees no need to perpetuate traditional patriarchal patterns embedded in words and therefore, in thought. Vygotsky does lay ground for feminist thought when he delineates his ideas about the relationship between thought and language. He contends that growth emerges from an historical complex which cannot escape the past but rather continually reflects the past. The past saturates both our thought and language; there is no way to escape what has come before. No act, no word, argues Vygotsky, can be pure and truly free of history. Also perceiving this synchronous relationship, Rich says in her poem "North American Time" (1983), "Poetry never stood a chance I of standing outside history. I ... I We move but our words stand" (Your Native Land, Your Life 33). Continuing his discussion of the relationship between language and history, Vygotsky says: ... in the historical evolution of language the very structure of meaning and its psychological nature also change. From primitive generalizations, verbal thought rises to the most abstract concepts. It is not merely the context of a word that changes, but the way in 37


which reality is generalized and reflected in a word. (T. and L. 213) Feminism grows out of these ideas about historical process and the word as reflection of reality because these ideas recognize process and change in generalized thought as it becomes generalized word. Word meaning, and the attitudes and assumptions which it carries, emerges from the experience of verbalized thought which in turn is embedded in cultural history. Women-and language about women which reflects thoughts about women-become enmeshed in past patriarchal views which fill the pages of history and literature. Rich says in her 1968 poem "The Burning of Paper Instead of Children" (1968), in a voice directed toward her soon estranged husband: What happens between us has happened for centuries we know it from literature still it happens (The Will to Change 17) There seem to be powers that are far greater than our day-to-day dealings with one and an other. We can, however, examine and change what we are given; we too are involved in the making, and language can help us to understand and make new. In her essay "Toward a Woman-Centered University" (1973-74) Rich says that feminists, women, must not only question tradition, canon, and all past assumptions about both women and men but also examine the work of teachers. She refers to sections of a particular college syllabus for a course entitled "The Education of Women in Historical Perspective," sections which she believes come out of what she calls a "feminist teaching style" where 38


there is more dialogic, more attempts at bias-free exploration, less "pseudo objectivity," and more active and direct student involvement. The instructor of the course includes this final statement to the students: We will look at all questions and issues from as many sides as we can think of; but I am inescapably a feminist .... You must question my assumptions, my sources, my information; that is part of learning to learn. You should also question your own assumptions. Skepticism about oneself is essential to continued growth and balanced perspective. (On L., S., and S. 145) We always need to ask questions. Because sexism is ingrained in our society and language and we are immersed in it, Rich believes women need to work hard to educate themselves, to become self-aware, and also to explore our connections to all women, past, present, and future: "For the sake of poetry, at least I I need to know these things," Rich says in "North American Time" (Y. N. L, Y. L. 35). Diligent learning and should be active andongoing, she argues; we need to work to create our own education and our own lives as well as the lives of all women. Rich believes that education requires "acting" rather than "being acted upon." In the essay "Claiming an Education" (1977) she says that we should no longer "receive" education in a traditional context but rather "claim" an education, making it our own (On L., S., and S. 231). Feminism, as an idea and as an activity, can help us to see the contexts of the development of attitudes toward ourselves rather than allowing ourselves to adapt to the attitudes of the other in history and culture. Feminism can follow from Vygotsky's presentation of the interrelationships between thought and language--and from the 39


transformation he sees possible in the movement from inner (for self) to external (for others) speech (T. and L. 225). An adolescent woman can begin to formulate connection within her inner speech, and as such connection is realized in her life, her inner voice can develop into an outer voice which is representative of the relationships she perceives. Thoughts connect one thing to another, creating relationship both with the self and between self and other. Women are primarily interested in connectedness and in relationship, Rich argues. They wish to find ways in which they can explore their relationships to other people, to objects of knowledge, and to themselves. That is women's project, according to the research of the authors of Women's Ways of Knowing. The authors of Woman's Ways of Knowing come to the conclusion that women are interested in learning out of our experience, of making meaning as we live our lives. Rather than receive knowledge given to us, we learn from experience and construct knowledge out of what we do. We listen to other people, to the larger world, and to ourselves. Erica, one of the research subjects, describes her understanding of the process of constructing knowledge as an act of creation: "We are creating the world at the same time we think about it" (Belenky et al. 132). She perceives that as we think, we open ourselves to a larger range of possibilities, and in that process we create what we know. We open ourselves to listen to the world from where we are standing, and we begin to develop individual voice. Rich describes this process of fmding language that is one's own in a poem 40


written as a response to seeing a Godard movie," Pierrot Le Fou" (1969). She is interested in telling a story here in which "the people went wrong" but feeling, the "nervous system," had it right. Sometimes that happens, and Rich wants to hang on to what might be right about something that seems wrong on the surface of things: To record in order to see To record in order to forget To record in order to control To record for that is what one does if you know how the story ends why tell it the surface is always lucid my shadows are under the skin the eye of the camera doesn't weep tears.of blood climbing your stairs, over and over I memorized the bare walls This is my way of coming back (The Will to Change 27-28) Rich records what she sees and what she might forget in order to keep hold of her life. And then we realize that the only action that counts in the end, is "to record I for that is what one does." She wants to cover the bare walls with new images in order to come back to consciousness. She cannot just steal images from the movies; she must create her own. And in so doing she creates her individual voice. 41


This process of constructing and transforming also happens in the process of reading a text. Vygotsky's ideas about the relationship between thought and language and social process become underpinning for Rosenblatt. In literature as Exv{oration. written more than flftv aeo ...... Rosenblatt reveals a sensitivity to the roles society has assigned to both male and female. She discusses ways in which reading literature becomes a way for adolescents to see the roles of men and women as infinitely more expansive than what they observe in their day-to-day lives. Rosenblatt suggests: The young girl may need to be liberated from the narrow view of the feminine role imposed by her milieu .... The adolescent worry over the need to conform to the culturally dominant pictures of the temperamental traits, types of work, and modes of behaVior appropriate to each of the sexes can be lessened through a wide circle of literary acquaintances. (203) The more an adolescent reads, Rosenblatt argues, the more life experience (s)he will have. Through active reading adolescents will discover all the possibilities available to them, and they will begin to recognize possibilities in themselves as well. Later in The Reader, the Text, the Poem Rosenblatt expands her argument: Readers may bring to the text experiences, awarenesses, and needs that have been ignored in traditional criticism. Women ... are finding their own voices as writers and critics, as are the ethnic minorities and special cultural groups .... Some of these groups have felt the dominant literary ethos to be so alien to them that they have reacted with the ... claim that ... only women could speak about women in literature, or only blacks understand the works written by blacks. This ... negates the capacity of the literary work of art to enable the reader to transcend personal limitations, whether of temperament, sex, race or culture. The aim should be to widen the range of critical voices-not to reject the contributions of the 42


professional students of literature but to strengthen the affinities between them and ordinary readers. (142-143) Rosenblatt believes that language is a socially-generated public system of communication; yet language is always internalized by an individual in his/her transactions with society--its institutions and literature. The individual needs a wide range of critical voices to open up the literary landscape, to broaden experience in order to see the self more clearly. language embodies all our assumptions, attitudes and expectations about the world. "We make meaning, we make sense of a new situation or transaction," Rosenblatt argues, "by applying, reorganizing, revising, or extending elements drawn from, our personal linguistic-experiential reservoir" ("Writing and Reading: The Transactional Theory" 10). The larger the reservoir, the larger the experience; individual voice will perceive more options for individual choice. In her article "Women as Reader-Response Critics" Elizabeth Flynn says that early in The Reader, tbe Text, tbe Poem Rosenblatt speaks about the individual "subject" as the center of activity, the mediator between language and meaning. Yet in Rosenblatt's view the reader is not merely an individual but also a member of various social groups, each carrying its own sociocultural assumptions. The reader mediates between social code and individual meaning; the reader makes his/her own meaning through the reading transaction. Flynn believes that feminist literary criticism can stimulate the questioning of traditional assumptions, promoting attitudes which are more inclusive than exclusive. A reader needs to be 43


aware of gender issues as [s]he reads, Flynn argues in order to find individual meaning: Feminist literary criticism reminds us that all reading is gendered reading and can be analyzed as such. We can only do so, though, in tenns of transactions, contexts, processes, positions. The gender of the reader-a myriad of experiences, attitudes, ideas, memories, and feelings before the reading event--is reconstructed in the act of reading. The reader becomes a woman as the text is encountered. That becoming can take multiple forms .... If the text is one that should be resisted, becoming can mean either alienation or active resistance. If the text is one that should be embraced, becoming can mean either passivity or active acceptance. What we need to do is to teach male and female students effective reading practices, effective ways of constructing gender in the process of reading. ("Rosenblatt and Feminism" 173) Feminism can help a reader ferret out assumptions containing gender bias. We become as we read. We construct gender as we read. As a result we need to be aware of the limitations of texts as well as their possibilities. A reader can ask questions to make unconscious meaning and manipulation become more conscious. Because reading is a process, Rosenblatt argues, development and growth happen automatically; however, they do not necessarily happen consciously. Our thought comes through our experience, both conscious and unconscious, just as history develops through both conscious and unconscious world activity. Rosenblatt explains that the reading process may cause the reader to react critically to the words and thoughts (s)he reads. The text may also lead to questioning fanner sociocultural assumptions. But the reader will not always recognize the assumptions (s)he makes or the assumptions that reside in the text. Rosenblatt argues 44


that the reader will find meaning in the text, but (s)he also might find meaning for the verbal symbols in him[her]self (The R., the T., the P. 14). If a poem is truly an event, it is brought about through the process of interaction between text and reader; the dialogic is inherent to the situation. Rich sees the power of transformation of self a result of this interaction between author and text for both readers and writers. Once Rich writes a poem, she gives it up to the reader--even if that reader is herself. If transformation takes place as she creates text within her consciousness, that transformation can be different from any change that might occur as a result of her reading or hearing the poe.m later. The same goes for a reader coming to the text; transformation is dependent upon the transaction between text and reader, and each transformation that occurs might be of an entirely different character. The poem will not live except through that transactive, dialogic process as Rich imagines in these lines from "Shooting Script" (1969-70): We were bound on the wheel of an endless conversation. Inside this shell, a tide waiting for someone to enter. A monologue waiting for you to interrupt it. The dialogue that lasts all night or a whole lifetime. A conversation of sounds melting constantly into rhythms. A shell waiting for you to listen. 45


............................. A monologue that waits for one listener. An ear filled with one sound only. A shell penetrated by meaning. (TheW. to C. 53) Rich sees change happen with the rise and fall of the tide. It is a wheel, a cycle, "an endless conversation." All that we have lived as individual men and women plays a role in the transaction between reader and text and at the same time reflects our transactions with culture. Rosenblatt recognizes differences between cultures and differences within cultures as well as difference within each individual: ... within any one culture, we know that there are ... subcultures ... with very different yardsticks of literary value. And within such groupings we again encounter the fact of the uniqueness of the individual reader .... we must include within our purview the sharing of standards derived from a common western culture along with the wide range of diversifications due to the multiplicity of interacting social groups .... we must recognize the uniqueness that derives from the individual's particular selecting-out of elements from the cultural milieu, and the special value-demands due to the unique moment in the reader's life in which the literary transaction takes place. (The R., the T., the P. 153) literary texts present us with an other to help us to define both self and world. The text becomes a reflection of the culture which in turn can stimulate self-definition. But that definition will never be the same for more than one individual. Rosenblatt's transactional theory comes dose to an existential view: the transaction is the center, the experience, the place to express individual freedom; it is also the core which questions and 46


reflects the reader's possibilities. Through the reading transaction a teacher must treat both the reader and the text as Thou, in Martin Buber's terms, 12 honoring reader and text first of all in order to allow the reader to see possibilities in both the text and the self and to see opportunity for new action. There is a need for direct regard, one for the other. In The Reader, tbe Text, tbe Poem Rosenblatt describes the nature of this individual consciousness within reading activity: ... the transactional view, freeing us from the old separation between the human creature and the world, reveals the individual consciousness as a continuing self-ordering, self-creating process, shaped by and shaping a network of interrelationships with its environing social and natural matrix. Out of such transactions flowers the author's text, an utterance awaiting the readers whose participation will consummate the speech act. By means of texts ... the individual may share in the funded knowledge and wisdom of our culture. For the individual reader, each text is a new situation, a new challenge. The literary work of art, we have seen, is an important kind of transaction with the environment precisely because it permits such self-aware acts of consciousness. (172-173) Although she is aware of the impact of literature on the individual and that it is the interaction between the individual and the world that creates new activity, Rosenblatt does not go quite far enough. She has considered the individual, the power of the other in a text, and also the question of 12The jewish existentialist philosopher Martin Buber defines the relationship between two individuals as an /-Thou relationship: "If I face a human being as my Thou, and say the primary word I-Thou to him[her], [s]he is not a thing among things, and does not consist of things. "Thus human being is not He or She, bounded from every other He and She, a specific point in space and time within the net of the world; nor is [s]he a nature able to be experienced and described, a loose bundle of named qualities. But with no neighbors and whole in him[her]self, [s]he is Thou and fills the heavens. This does not mean that nothing exists except him[her]self. But all else lives inhis[her] life." Both reader and text give to the project of being free and responsive (Martin Buber, I and Thou, trans. Ronald Gregor Smith [New York: Scribner's, 1958] 8). 47


consciousness, but she does not investigate the negative effects of "the social and cultural matrix" on the individual. The individual "may share in the funded knowledge and wisdom of our culture," but the individual also must share in the lack of knowledge and wisdom that accompanies gender bias. To counteract the negative, French feminist Helene Cbmus says, "Woman must put herself into the text-as into the world and into history-by her own movement" (245). In her essay "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision" (1971)13 Rich attacks gender bias head-on in describing the process of livedthrough sociocultural experience in terms of "re-vision" which she defines as "the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text [even if that text be history or culture itself] from a new critical direction ... (On S., L., and S. 35). As a feminist, Rich focuses on the ways in which women have been treated by history and by male culture. She sees the task of re-vision as necessary to survival for women, necessary to 13Rich alludes to the title ofHenrik Ibsen's last play, "When We Dead Awaken," a play about the male artist's use and abuse of woman as muse and art object, an inspiration for man's great art. The artist Rubek comes to this realization in the last act "It suddenly struck me that this whole business about art-this cant about an artist's vocation, an artist's sacred mission-was a lot of hollow nonsense; basically unsound and meaningless." Maja responds, "What would you have instead?" and Rubek answers, "Life, Maja ... beauty, sunshine, life itself. Isn't that the all-important thing? Far more important certainly than burying oneself in a dark dismal hole, exhausting one's strength in a constant battle with lumps of clay and blocks of marble" ( 4 73). Later when he relates to Irene a similar attitude but also expresses hope for life during his remaining years, she replies: "But all desire for life is dead in me. Now I have arisen; I searched for you and found you. And I see that both you and life itself are dead-just as I was" (Henrik lbsen,"When We Dead Awaken," The Wild Duck and Other Plays, trans. and intro. Eva Le Gallienne [New York: Random, 1961] 498). Adrienne Rich wants women not to die under the weight of tradition but rather to awaken to the possibilities of life. 48


re-thinking history, re-creating a world in which women and women's contributions are very much alive: "Until we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched," she argues, "we cannot know ourselves" (35). Rich suggests going back to old texts in order to examine the codes which reveal "how we live, how we have been living, how we have been led to imagine ourselves, how our language has trapped as well as liberated us, how the very act of naming has been till now a male prerogative, and how we can begin to see and name--and therefore liveafresh" (35). Knowing what has come before leads to knowing our selves. Rich feels and communicates her exasperation with male-dominated institutions, among which she includes motherhood, heterosexuality, government, art, psychology, and education, the last three of which were a central focus of Vygotsk.y's scholarly studies earlier in the century. Rich believes that history, sociology, and culture have created maps to these regions, maps which she believes show a false, and very bleak, landscape. She asks women's questions. She speaks to women about women's issues, about children and houses, about childbirth and death, about sexuality and freedom, and she speaks to men about anger and betrayal. But what she concentrates on is language--language that does not send false messages or publish false maps; language that comes at things straight without shame or guilt or male dominance. Rich, like Vygotsky, understands that language effects, and also reflects, thought. Rich envisions a "common language," not one which tells false 49


stories and communicates false feelings, but one which is filled with images that reveal power, energy, independence, risk, sexuality, and new words in all their lusciousness and honesty as in the poem "Origins and History of Consciousness" ( 197 4): My bare feet are numbed already by the snow but the water is mild, I sink and float like a warm amphibious animal that has broken the net, has run through fields of snow leaving no print; this water washes off the scent--yet the warm animal dreams on of another animal swimming under the snow-flecked surface of the pool, and wakes, and sleeps again. No one sleeps in this room without the dream of a common language. (The Dream of a Common Language 7-8) In talking about women's need to "write the body" and to be fully aware of self as body and mind, Cixous says, "Her language does not contain, it carries; it does not hold back, it makes possible" (260). Her language is activity and movement; it is going inward in order to see the self within the world as much more than a shadow: But I can't call it life until we start to move beyond this secret circle of fire where our bodies are giant shadows flung on a wall where the night becomes our inner darkness, and sleeps like a dumb beast, head on paws, in the comer. (The D. of a C. L. 9) In other words, we cannot "call it life" until we get active and political. We 50


cannot just hide in our cozy den and hope the world changes on its This common language must have a purpose. In response to David Montenegro's question asking if she wished to begin a 1987 interview with politics or Rich begins by talking about language before politics because it is through language that she has become political. Rich responds, "It seems language can be a means of containment--loaded as it is with tradition--or it can be a means of liberation, if used as a probe. How do you deal with the double edge of language? What are your means of using language, without being used by language" (7)? Language has been her freedom. She believes that a major theme in her poetry has been this pull between freedom and constraint. She knows that through writing and reading women's texts, as well as re reading old texts in terms of women, women can use their powers to create ideas that are primary to women's culture and to a world filled with questions about gender, class, religion. A reader, female or not, Rosenblatt believes, also comes up against the openness and constraint of the text itself. The context guides the possibilities of the she says; as does the experience and awareness of the reader (The R., the T., the P. 75). Rich recognizes the power of language because it has been through language that she has transformed herself from a middle-class wife, mother, and academic scholar to a Jewish feminist, and social/political activist who is particularly concerned about issues of 51


gender, sexuality, and race. She sees the power to question as a woman's (and a human's) privilege, right, and duty. We (students, teachers, women, humans) have the power to transform and transcend; therefore, we need to use that power to "question, to challenge, to conceive of alternatives" in order to re-vision our worlds. For students (who, like women, often find themselves on the receiving end of things), the process of transformation begins within the process of inquiry--within the process of thinking, reading, writing, listening and talking about the poem. Rich contends that language is "this medium that we hand back and forth between us in all human relationships all of the time ... this coinage in which we keep trying to get ahold of each other or make ourselves clear" (Montenegro 14). Language creates relationship. Rich risks language in order to tum the tables, to change the view, to open a few windows into culture and relationships, and to upset tradition. In the poem "I Dream I'm the Death of Orpheus" (1968) in which her imagery comes from Cocteau 's film, Orfee, Rich chooses not to play Eurydice but to play the strong role, that of death herself. In this poem death is the strong woman whose life is among the shadows of the underworld. She is a real killer: drives a black limousine, has her own chauffeur, dresses in severe yet sensual black: I am a woman in the prune of life, with certain powers and those powers severely limited by authorities whose faces I rarely see. a woman sworn to lucidity who sees through the mayhem, the smoky fires 52


of these underground streets She is a woman in her prime ready to take on the world, understanding that language comes out of the "smoky fires" and "underground streets" of culture; hence, women (and by extension, students), must remain actively involved in reading transactions, in creating new texts, in interpreting both old and new texts, and in stretching the imagination, the language, and the thought in order to come closer to the truth of experience. She gives herself toughness: A woman with the nerves of a panther a woman with contacts among Hell's Angels a woman feeling the fullness of her powers (The W. to C. 19) She is tough but she is also "sworn to lucicUty," to being understood and to being ready. She re-defines in order to define; she re-creates in order to create; she re-visions in order to see. Rich thinks of herself not only a poet but also a teacher of language, when she is hooked into traditional fonns as well as when she is revisioning. She considers herself: ... someone for whom language has implied freedom, who is trying to aid others to free themselves through the written word .... I cannot know for them what it is they need to free, or what words they need to write; I can only try with them to get an approxiination of the story they want to tell .... people come into the freedom of language through reading, before writing ... differences of tone, rhythm, vocabulary, intention, encountered over years of reading are, whatever else they may be, suggestive of many different possible of modes of being. (On L., S., and S. 63) She knows that experience with texts, from both ends, as author I creator and as reader/re-creator, will yield tremendous transformational results; hence, she comes to see them, the students, first of all. Rich says, "Having 53


some relation with students [is] a marvelous thing for me" (Kalstone 58). Students help her to see the possibilities in other people and to fmd ways to provoke those possibilities through language. Rich knows language is power, but the particular students during her years of teaching at NYU were "young men and women who have had language and literature used against them, to keep them in their place, to mystify, to bully, to make them feel powerless" (On L., S., and S. 63). If language had been used against them, could not language also give them power? Rich says, "At the bedrock of my thinking ... is the sense that language is power .. (67); she wants the students to learn the lessons of language. She grew up in some ways privileged, as a "special woman"; she was white, middle-class, educated; she was nurtured by both mother and father (with particular attention from the father). Now she was among a group of teachers in the SEEK program at NYU, working with those much less advantaged: Most of us felt that students learn to write by discovering the validity and variety of their own experience .... we also found ourselves reading almost any piece of Western literature through our students' eyes, imagining how this voice, these assumptions would sound to us if we were they .... our white liberal assumptions were shaken, our vision of both the city and the university changed, our relationship to language itself made both deeper and more painful. (57) Rich learned with her students rather than handing the students received knowledge. They read, they talked, and they wrote together, creating their own senses of what it is to learn and to know. Her work with these students inevitably produced new knowledge about language for them and for Rich. 54


She believes language activities--reading, writing, speaking--are essential "tools" and "weapons" for life in the world. In the poem "Letters: March 1969" she says, "When they ask my profession I say I I'm a student of weapons systems" (TheW. to C. 30): Language is such a weapon, and what goes with language: reflection, criticism, renaming, creation. The fact that our language itself is tainted by the quality of our society means that in teaching we need to be acutely conscious of the kind of tool we want our students to have available, to Understand how it has been used against them, and to do all we can to insure that language will not someday be used by them to keep others silent and powerless. (On L., S., and S. 68) To Rich teaching is a mission, a personal transformation, a new construction within her own understanding of language and of her self. There are always questions, Rich recognizes; that is how we construct knowledge, and the questions she is the most interested in are women's questions concerning re-visioning history, re-visioning women's lives, revisioning her own life, and creating cultural change. In her essay "Taking Women Students Seriously"(1978) Rich says that thinking like a woman is: ... listening and watching in art and literature, in the social sciences, in all the descriptions we are given of the world, for the silences, the absences, the nameless, the unspoken, the encoded-for there we will fmd the true knowledge of women. And in breaking those silences, naming our selves, uncovering the hidden, making ourselves present, we begin to defme a reality which resonates to us, which affirms our being, which allows the woman teacher and the woman student alike to take ourselves, and each other seriously: meaning to begin taking charge of our lives. (On L, S., and S. 245) What Rich wants to see is an equalizing effect on the use of language. She wants women, as she wants students, to take hold of the words they read, the 55


words they hear and speak, and the words they write to ailow them to come to the surface, each in her /his own voice rather than in the voices of traditional patriarchal pronouncements. like Rosenblatt, Rich wants the students to live through the literature they encounter. She knows this is possible because she has transformed her own voice from a voice that followed traditional form and universal subject to one that asks her own questions and presents her own images and metaphors from the life she lives and the lives of women she observes. Her syllables, words, sentences, poems, essays, books, all filled with language as essential as breathing (Keyes 71), can pass through time, step over boundaries, enter the lives of students and women and become part of the much larger panoramic map of our lives. Adrienne Rich: The Activity of Making Meaning Writing poems is Rich's way of knowing, stimulating her to focus and construct meaning: "poetry is a kind of condensation, it is very much the flash, the leap, the swift association .... I can't imagine not writing poetry. It is just in me and of me, it is a survival tool that I have to have" (Bulkin, Part I 62). Writing poetry is the center from which all else comes for Rich; it opens up the possibilities of speech from the self. Writing poetry clears her vision and helps her to bring thought and word together in such a way that she will be able to see the truth of her self, which can always only be an approximation. She says, "When a woman tells the truth 56


she is creating the possibility for more truth around her" (On L, s., and s. 191). But she also believes, "There is no 'the truth,' 'a truth' -truth is not one thing, or even a system. It is an increasing complexity. The pattern of the carpet is a surface. When we look closely, or when we become weavers, we learn of the tiny multiple threads unseen in the overall pattern, the knots on the underside of the carpet" (187). Whatever truth we may be thinking will be revealed by the intricacies of meaning on its underside. What counts, Rich believes, is the process and activity of transformation that happens as thought becomes articulate in the metaphoric language of the poem. In a taped conversation (1978) with critic Wendy Martin, Rich says that writing poetry is '"the process of going from the conflicts and strife of the unconscious into the sayable, into the actable"' ( 169). Her writing records process. Thought lives through the activity of putting the unconscious into conscious language. Thought lives by its metaphors and intricacies of meaning. She ends "Cartographies of Silence'' (1975), a poem about lies, about the insistence of language, (even silence, she says, ... has a history a form,") and about the necessity of words making meaning: what in fact I keep choosing are these words, these whispers, conversations from which time after time the truth breaks moist and green. (The Dream of a Common Language 17-20) For Rich language will always have to be heard and recorded; for Rich 57


writing is how she gives meaning to the world and to the self (which is always panting for more); poetry is what gives her life, "moist and green." Rich creates poems whose meanings, as Vygotsky would say, move from inner speech to the external speech that embodies internal messages. She develops her inner speech into words which, in transaction with a reader, become poems which represent the "truth" that comes through the metaphoric process. In her careful use of words which represent what she images, Rich can produce connections between self and world which she hopes will also open the view for her readers. In a 197 5 interview with the editors of The New Woman's Survival Sourcebook, Rich says: "It's not as interesting to me to explore the condition of alienation as a woman as it is to explore the condition of connectedness as a woman .... it doesn't lead to a static or a doomed notion of the universe" (Grimstad and Rennie 106). Rich sees hope in connectedness. She wants to see the world as whole rather than shattered through alienation. She does feel alienated from men, and sometimes her poems work with the anger of alienation, but she is always searching for connectedness in her attempts to bring inner voice to the surface. She considers the places where connections are being made to be "the point of intensest life" which is the point from which her poetry springs (Montenegro 9). Rich composes the poem "Paula Becker to Clara Westhoff' from such a point of intensity based on a reading transaction in which she responds personally to the event of reading some letters passed between the German painter Paula Becker and sculptor Clara Westhoff 58


after they had spent several seasons together both before and following their marriages, Paula to Otto Modersohn, Clara to Rainer Maria Rilke. They had been much more content together: Remember those months in the studio together, you up to your strong forearms in wet clay, I trying to make something of the strange impressions assailing me-the japanese flowers and birds on silk, the drunks sheltering in the Louvre, that river-light, those faces .... Did we know exactly why we were there? .... (The Dream of a Common Language 42-43) It does not matter whether they .know why they were there; they recognize the feeling. Later in the poem the narrative voice suggests, "maybe I married Otto to fill up I my loneliness for you." There exists a strong awareness of and desire for relationship with another woman that a marriage caii.not fulfill. Paula is married, pregnant, and her eyes constantly drift in search of new forms; it is those forms that she is drawn to, not to taking care of a child or a husband: "Marriage is lonelier than solitude," she says. She drifts off to speak about the men, Otto and Rainer, complaining about their feeding off women, yet her words feel strong when she asks: Which of us, Clara, hasn't had to take that leap out beyond our being women to save our work? or is it to save ourselves? . . . . . . . . Clara, our strength still lies in the things we used to talk about: how life and death take one another's hands, the struggle for truth, our old pledge against guilt. And now I feel dawn and the coming day. I love working in my studio, seeing my pictures 59


come alive in the light .... (43-44) The narrative voice finds strength in her womanhood and in her art. Rich feels the intensity of those moments when the two women are together; she also feels the love of woman for woman in her self. The women's art, their estrangement from men, their enjoyment of each other, all of this strong and growing inside Rich as well. These letters hit her in the very center of her being. Critic Charles Altieri views Rich's project as creating poetry that actively explores the interconnections between poetry and life. He believes that the power of Rich's poetry is not in the ideas of the poem but rather "in the poet's grasp of what it is like to try to live in accord with an explicit body of ideals and commitments" ( 180). He finds Rich's ideas sometimes simplistic but he finds poetic value in her insistence that a person (woman) can act out of ideals and create connections between what she what she does. Her poems are examples of living and writing within what history and ideals make possible. Her self-conscious search for identity comes out of her self as an historical being in relationship to historical others. What is possible? What is the role of the individtial in history? The Dream of a Common Language opens with the poem "Power" (1974), power that can be pulled out of both the reading transaction and cultural history: Today I was reading about Marie Curie: she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness her body bombarded for years by the element she had purified 60


She died a famous woman denying her wounds denying her wounds came from the same source as her power ( 3) Radium caused "cataracts on her eyes," "cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends," wounds certainly caused by the element. In the space of the last four lines Rich takes us beyond history and highlights all the wounds of all women from that deep place where power also lies. One can rebuild from what is broken. Westhoff and Becker find their power in their art, art that is taken away from them by tradition and culture; they find power in their time together, but that too is taken away-by their action, yes, they choose to marry and to separate but they do not know what that means. Becker dies soon after in childbirth, that first child she does not want to have: "The moon rolls in the air. I didn't want this child" ("P. B. to C. W." 42).14 Westhoff spends most of her time separated from Rilke; he stashes her away while he, the artist, moves about in order to continue to create: Rainer, of course, knows more than Otto knows, he believes in women. But he feeds on us, like all of them. His whole life, his art is protected by women. Which of us could say that? ( 43) Both women are deeply wounded because they separate from both their art and each other, both are wounded at their center, the place from which power comes. But neither woman is whole because they are not able to continue to use their power. 14In a note prefacing the poem Rich gives us a brief history of the relationship between Becker and Westhoff (The D. of a C. L 42}. 61


In her article on Rich and "organic feminist criticism" Marilyn Farwell identifies Rich's work as literary theory based on feminist philosophy. She argues that the key to Rich's essays and poetry is "wholeness," bringing together idea and language, text and artist, creation and relation, art and life, self and other, self and power toward creating a holistic ethical view of the world as she sees it ( 19 2). One of Rich's definitions for a feminist literary criticism appears in "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision": A radical critique of literature, feminist in its impulse, would take the work first of all as a clue to how we live, how we have been living, how we have been led to imagine ourselves, how our language has trapped as well as liberated us, how the very act of naming has been till now a male perogative, and how we can begin to see--and therefore live--afresh. (On L., S., and S. 3 5). Rich examines male and female relationship and comes up with opposition: the male principle focuses on separation and objectivity, Farwell explains; the female principle is relationship and subjectivity. Rich looks for, not the separation of these two principles, but rather the integration of objectivity and subjectivity, of separation and relationship; they represent a bringing together of the society and the self: "a composite of behaviors and stances by which any human being relates to others, nature, language, and the self' (Farwell195). The two principles brought together create action, "verbs instead of nouns," movement and change. What has been separate can be brought together, as a result, the poem can be experience rather than passivity; activity rather than submission. Activity and experience (event) bring poet and world together; creation and rela,_tion 62


are no longer separate. So a man's work, a woman's work can become a part of the act of creation; separation, on the contrary, is counterproductive. Farwell argues, "Rich's poet is one whose creative effort is both distanced from the individual self [universal] and yet intimately related to it (personal) because the poet's act is primarily communal, primarily a dialogue" (199). One of the ways in which Rich envisions this activity that is both "distanced" and "intimately related" comes with the activity of life she re creates in her poem, "Transcendental Etude." She continues to look for teeming green and lustrous, transcendent life: a dead elm raising bleached arms above a green so dense with life, minute, momentary life-slugs, moles, pheasants, gnats, spiders, moths, hununingbirds, groundhogs, butterfliesa lifetime is too narrow to understand it all, beginning with the huge rockshelves that underlie all that life. (The D. of a C. L. 73) Then she surprises us with the line, "No one ever told us we had to study our lives." life takes doing things, activity, investment, practice-over and over again--and daring "the leap into transcendence." But we are flung into life unaware, tom ... from a woman, from women, from ourselves I so early on" (75). We are never ready for what happens; therefore, we must take hold of the action, give ourselves movement ... cut the wires, I find ourselves in free-fall I ... I No one who survives to speak I new language, has avoided this" (75). We can slip away and begin "a whole new poetry": 63


... the musing of a mind one with her body, experienced fingers quietly pushing dark against bright, silk against roughness, pulling the tenets of a life together becomirig now the sherd of broken glass slicing light in a comer, dangerous to flesh, now the plentiful, soft leaf that wrapped round the throbbing finger, soothes the wound; and now the stone foundation, rockshelf further fanning underneath everything that grows. (77) It is that teeming life that is present, active among the spiders and moths and hummingbirds. It is that teeming life that wounds and repairs itself, endlessly, stone lying beneath it all. Rich creates a personal dialogue with the world, even the small world of insect and womanly activity, and in so doing, creates a going-back-and-forth between self and universe, between the poet and the work of art. In Rich's response to an essay by poet Galway Kinnell, she articulates this idea: "Kinnell believes, and I believe with him, that we desire a poetry in which the 'I' has become all of us, not simply a specific suffering personality, and not an abstraction which is also an evasion of the poet's own specificities" ("Poetry, Personality and Wholeness" 225). Kinnell asks for "the full weight" of existence and its relationship to writing. For both Kinnell and Rich the "I" comes first; the universal follows if the poet has remained connected to the world, or according to Rich (and Kinnell), "the poet would speak to us in his own voice, but having gone 'so deeply into himself ... that he finds he is everyone'" (qtd. 64


in Rich 225).15 It is this level of ethical action Rich requires in herself as poet. Again the key word is action, Farwell argues, the poem as a verb rather than a static noun. The poem is process and dialogue; it is never final but rather a conversation with language and with the larger world. Rich comes to believe that a woman must invent new shapes for her self, construct her own consciousness and her own knowledge about her self. She says in her poem "Leaflets," ( 1968) .. I am thinking how we can use what we have I to invent what we need" (Leaflets 56). She recognizes that women need to move beyond the past, to break the double consciousness of tradition in order to break new (critical) ground. Rich extends this idea in Of Woman Born: "Truly to liberate women ... means to change thinking itself: to reintegrate what has been named the unconscious, the subjective, the emotional with the structural, the rational, the intellectual ... (81). Rich is committed to the idea of changing "thinking" as we know it. She wants to connect the unconscious and the conscious intellect; to create dialogue .. Such a commionent gives her the power to use language to reveal metaphoric understanding of a woman's life. Rich celebrates power and looks for new metaphors to express what she experiences. What has my life been? What might it be? How can I use 15Rich is not as happy with Kinnell's treatment of women in his work. There is no imagination of what a woman might be feeling. Rich says, "On the one hand, woman is Muse, Goddess, Ufe Force; on the other, she is simply an accessory to his life, whose presence helps make his creation possible in a thousand practical ways .... Later in the article she articulates what she sees as the problem of Kinnell and other male writers: "To become truly universal he will have to confront the closed ego of man in its most private and political mode: his confused relationship to his own femininity, and his fear and guilt towards woman." The man must do what she believes she is doing in bringing the personal and political together ("P., P. and W." 227, 230). 65


my inner knowledge and language as a mediwn for the growth of my self and also to do, say, and be something beyond what we know as traditional (male) cultural history-in such a way that my readers will do, say, and be within the history they are now creating? And from "Ghazals: Homage to Ghalib": "I can't live at the hems of that traditionI will I last to try the beginning of the next?" (Leaflets 69). In a sense Rich believes she can steal aspects of history that have been misused against women and create her own truth of that past. She can converse with that past, create a dialogic between self and other. In her essay on Levertov, Rich, and Rukeyser in Shakespeare's Sisters Rachel DuPlessis discusses the nature of history and myth in women's poetry. She believes that Rich, for example, replaces female archetypes with feminist prototypes. Instead of historical patterns of story, action and character, Rich creates new images of women re-inventing her self. DuPlessis defines prototype as "original, model forms on which to base the self and its action--forms open to transformation, and forms, unlike archetypes, which offer similar patterns of experience to others, rather than imposing these patterns on others" (299). A prototype is always fluid and forward-moving, whereas an archetype is unchanging and cyclic. Archetypes are unconscious and become culturally repressive and limiting because they remain embedded within a limited history. The concept of prototype, however, opens windows to conscious transformational possibility (300). One of Rich's prototypes appears in her breakaway poem, "Diving into the 66


Wreck" (1972): I put on the body armor of black rubber the absurd flippers the grave and awkward mask. I crawl like an insect down the ladder and there is no one to tell me when the ocean will begin. my mask is powerful it pumps my blood with power the sea is another story the sea is not a question of power I have to learn alone the thing I came for. the and not the story of the the thing itself and not the myth (Diving into the Wreck 22-23) She is the woman who dares to explore the deep waters. She wishes to fmd truth and she plays with the idea of androgyny-perhaps there need be no separation. Perhaps the truth is "I am she: I am he." What becomes important in this poem is her putting on the rubber suit and diving beneath the surface of her life and of history into the subconscious in order to find out what else history can teach us. What else can we discover in this transaction? She knows that she must re-vision all that has been and is in order to even approach truth, and she knows that most of the work is done inside the self. Vygotsky describes inner speech, which comes from the subjective and holds the seeds of the unconscious, to be speech "almost without words" (T. and L. 244). For Rich, poetry comes from that wordless place, a place she 67


is unsure of but often moves with and creates from in the attempt to understand and to know. Rich contends that when she understands something, she writes prose, but when she is having difficulty making connections, she writes poetry, using the process to construct meaning: ... poems are like dreams; you put into them what you don't know you know" (Kalstone 57). She sees this process as connected to increasing consciousness, believing that "[c]onsciousness is always going beyond the point where it meets its equal in words or in any art form" (Grimstad and Rennie 107). Poetry becomes for her a way of translating inner speech into words. She recognizes (and certainly does it herself) that people turn to poetry in extreme situations just "because "poetry's got that incredible connection with speech" (Kalstone 58). Rich transforms her thought into words, into external speech, and in so doing, she transforms her thought for her self, and also for the other women who read and respond to her poems--the poem comes into existence through them. In the poem "Through Corralitos Under Rolls of Cloud" ( 1989-90) she pictures two women after one woman's bout with the flu: she sees the one who dies and the other one who must wash the corpse. This one survived "uncertain who she is or will be without you," without the other to serve as a mirror. But Rich tells her to take the mirrors and "read your own face in their outraged light": iv That light of outrage is the light of history springing upon us when we're least prepared, 68


thinking maybe a little glade of time leaf-thick and with clear water is ours, is promised us, for all we've hacked and tracked our way through: to this: What will it be? Your wish or mine? your prayers or my wish then: that those who love be well, whatever that means to be well. Outrage: who dare claim protection for their own amid such unprotection7 What kind of prayer is that? To what kind of god? What kind of wish? (An Atlas of tbe Difficult World 49) We cannot avoid the light of history; we must rather re-vision the past and the present and ask hard questions in order to make meaning for our selves. The two "women" watch each other, the one taken into death, the other transformed: v She who died on that bed sees it her way: She who went under peers through the translucent shell cupping her death and sees her other well, through a long lens, in silvered outline, well she sees her other and she cannot tell why when the boom of surf struck at them both she felt the undertow and heard the bell, thought death would be their twinning, till the swell smashed her against the reef, her other still fighting the pull, struggling somewhere away further and further, calling her all the while: she who went under summons her other still. (50) Reading the face is like reading history and seeing our reflections in an other. And sometimes the answers can be only questions. The poem is the exploration of both personal and cultural history, all in an attempt to see the larger picture of self. Critic Betty Flowers argues that Rich's poetry expresses the individuation process which requires us to experience the opposites before 69


we have conscious wholeness: "Just as we can see our eyes only by projecting an image of ourselves onto a mirror and observing its reflections, so we can see the unknown in ourselves only by looking at the images we have projected, whether in dreams, fantasy or literature" ( 17). Rich recognizes the selves of which she is created; and she creates metaphoric language to come to terms with those selves and to realize her unified integrity of self. It is that honest integrity that she touches with her words that gives her power. In the poem she titles "Integrity" ( 1978) she says, but really I have nothing but myself to go by; nothing stands in the realm of pure necessity except what my hands can hold. Nothing but myself? ... My selves. After so long, this answer. As if I had always known I steer the boat in, simply. (A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far 89) She recognizes that one is never one. One is both "anger and tenderness;" we need the multiple reflections: Anger and tenderness: the spider's genius to spin and weave in the same action from her own body, anywhere-even from a broken web. (89) We can only hold what we can hold and spin where we might, but we must hold and spin nevertheless. In The Aesthetics of Power critic Claire Keyes focuses on the nature of Rich's sense of power. She argues that Rich is not always in control of 70


her power; sometimes her being woman and poet come into conflict, yet she continues to explore new definitions and new possibilities in her continual attempt to bring the personal and the political together. Keyes believes that Rich's primary weapon in this ongoing struggle is the process of language; Rich knows that language can change reality. She has seen it happen. "If language is the quintessential human activity," Keyes contends, "then exercise of language is what makes us more fully human: the shapers of our lives rather than the victims of forces beyond our control" (113). She believes Rich has found that center for herselfthe personal liberty that comes through language. In her essay "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision," Rich chooses to use herself as an example of awakening consciousness. She recognizes the danger of self-reference because she recognizes all the women that excludes, those washing dishes and caring for other women's children, for example. She may appear to these people to be a "special" woman--an academician, a writer who sees the world intellectually but does not understand their lives, a woman who does not have to participate in the workaday world. But with this awareness Rich speaks to all women, believing that only an inclusive attitude can help women to progress. She wishes to see all women "dead awaken": "Our struggles can have meaning and our privileges-however precarious under patriarchy-can be justified only if they can help to change the lives of women whose gifts or abortedand whose very being-continue to be thwarted and silenced" (On L., s., and 71


S. 38). Rich considers herself lucky-to have grown up in a house full of books and an encouraging father. Yet for twenty years she wrote for her father and later for male teachers and writers. Even in the process of her education at Radcliffe, she had only male instructors and read only male poets. Her only poetry reading transactions were with texts written, and praised, by men. Her response was to imitate those traditional forms. Rich is a poet and a woman "susceptible to language," yet she had no female mentors. Through time she saw women, herself, go "to poetry or fiction looking for her way of being in the world .. looking eagerly for guides, maps, possibilities .... What she first found was the persuasive force of the male and the female who had been created in man's image. What she didn't find was the "absorbed, drudging, puzzled, sometimes inspired creature, herself, who sits at a desk trying to put words together" (39). She found a culture into which she, as a woman, did not fit. Writers may write about the importance of the individual and his/her transactions with the world and with literature and language, but as a general rule, they did not write about the lives of individual women within a culture that included them as Thou rather than she who comes after he. The brief poem "An Unsaid Word," from her first volume of poetry published in 1951 when Rich was twenty-two years old is telling: She who has power to call her man From that estranged intensity Where his mind forages alone, Yet keeps her peace and leaves him free, And when his thoughts to her return Stands where he left her, still his own, 72


Knows this the hardest thing to learn. (A Change of World 51) The structure is formal, the thought revealing of an unconscious feminism yet to become conscious two volumes later. Where is the Thou? When Rich goes back to her early volumes of poetry, those written under male tutelage and in traditional forms, she recognizes the split between the girl who wrote poems and the girl who had relationships with men. Both roles are self-defined; both are present in the poems. She married early, had children before she was thirty and was convinced that she could also teach and write poetry and have it all, a "full woman's life." But she discovered that there was no time to write and that women were frustrated and isolated from each other. She became frightened with what she calls "the sense of drift, of being pulled along on a current which called itself my destiny, but in which I seemed to be losing touch with whoever I had been, with the girl who had experienced her own will and energy almost ecstatically at times ... (On L. S. and S. 42). Somehow the culture within which she lived was eating up that will and energy. She cared for her husband and children, but there was no care for herself as an individual separate from them, no care for her life as writer. She learned (by not having space and time) that for a poem to grow, to come together, to "coalesce," there has to be an "imaginative transformation of reality which is in no way passive. And a certain freedom of mind ... freedom to press on, to enter the currents of ... thought like a glider pilot, knowing that ... motion can be sustained, that the buoyancy of ... attention will not be suddenly snatched away" (43). She wanted to be 73


allowed to ride those currents and to be actively involved in the construction of her own meaning. She was no longer willing to accept the culture she had been given as she expresses in part ten of her turning point-poem, "Snapshots of a Daughter-in-law" (1958-60): she's long about her coming, who must be more merciless to herself than history. Her mind full to the wind, I see her plunge breasted and glancing from the currents, taking the light upon her at least as beautiful as any boy or helicopter, poised, still coming, her fine blades making the air wince but her cargo no promise then: delivered palpable ours. (Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law 24-25) We take a leap back to Beauvoir in her conclusion to The Second Sex where she describes women coming to the surface from remote regions and ages: "she is a helicopter and she is a bird; and there is this, the greatest wonder of all: under her tinted hair the forest murmur becomes a thought, and words issue from her breasts" (729). Rich and Beauvoir celebrate this surfacing and the originality of women and of all things female at the same time they celebrate language. For the frrst time Rich uses the word ours to represent herself and other women. Reading has taken Rich directly to the power of the word which she then uses to define her thought. During the fifties and sixties Rich became more aware and involved in questioning male power through her work in the civil rights movement, 74


. her partidpation in anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, and her involvement in the feminist movement. Through her direct activity in the political turbulence of the times, she became more and more aware of herself in relation to the rest of the world. Through questioning situations and reading the world she experienced as text, Rich began to question this world, to question herself and to think for herself. She was drawn to the activity of political change; it was necessary to her life. She read, wrote on scraps of paper, and generally probed for clues; she activated her existential energy to discover her own freedoms and constraints. Rich began to think about the problems in her own close relationships as well as in larger political situations. She participated in the dialogue, always probing for interconnections? "I began at this point," Rich says, "to feel that politics was not something 'out there' but something 'in here' and of the essence of my condition" (On L., S., and S. 44). Through her political activity Rich became aware that her personal life and her political life were not separate-nor should they be. She began to write about herself as a woman for the first time-consciousness "stuff' that was not "universal" or "nonfemale" in the way of poetry as she knew it. Women need not be "womanly, maternal, altruistic"--almost divinefearsome and desirable as defined by male culture. With the poem, "Planetarium" (1968), she finally merges the person writing the poem and the person in the poem; they become one. She writes the poem in response to a visit to a planetarium where she discovers Caroline Herschel, an 75


astronomer who had been "buried" behind her husband, William. The "I" of the poem emerges in the last section: it is Caroline Herschel and it is herself: I have been standing all my life in the direct path of a battery of signals the most accurately transmitted most untranslatable language in the universe I am a galactic cloud so deep so invo-luted that a light wave could take 15 years to travel through me And has taken I am an instrument in the shape of a woman trying to translate pulsations into images for the relief of the body and the reconstruction of the mind. (The W. to C. 13) Rich re-visions, "lucidly and passionately," that she is an instrument of a language that she can control; she can create images that present feminine power and female action in which both female body and mind can exist and exert themselves. This is the first of several poems in which Rich celebrates individual women, many of them in an historical context, many of them women in her personal life. Marianne Whelchel discusses many of these poems in "Mining the 'Earth Deposits': Women's History in Adrienne Rich's Poetry." Whelchel says, "She celebrates individual women and offers them to us for inspiration and models. As she restores and validates the experience of unnamed women who have collectively made our history, she looks closely at their lives to understand how they shape our own" (Cooper 69). She speaks to all the hundreds of woman who make our American history as in the poem "From an Old House in America": I am an American woman: 76


Foot-slogging through the Bering Strait jumping from the Arbella to my death chained to the corpse beside me I feel my pains begin I am washed up on this continent shipped here to be fruitful my body a hollow ship bearing sons to the wilderness sons who ride away on horseback, daughters whose juices drain like mine into the arroyo of stillbirths, massacres Hanged as witches, sold as breeding-wenches my sisters leave me (Poems: Selected and New 238-239) The poem is filled with the imagery of womanhood and hardship, ordinary life of women and extraordinary life of women. And there is always isolation. Rich ends the poem with the line, "Any woman's death diminishes me,"16 her fmal statement. She is of all women. In history she finds the sources of our oppression, but she finds there, as well, alternatives to oppression. She invites us to use these alternatives so that we may reshape our futures and, thus, "reconstitute our world" (69). She writes about Euryclea, Odysseus' nursemaid; of Emily Dickinson "in danger"; of Russian poet Natalya Gorbanevskaya; of scientists Diane Fossey, Caroline 16Rich steals from john Donne a line that sticks in the mind, even as Donne's did before women started paying attention: "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind ... ("Devotions upon Emergent Occasions: Meditation XVII," Seventeenth Century Prose and Poetry, second edition, eds. Alexander M. Witherspoon and Frank j. Warnke [New York: Harcourt, 1963] 68). n


Herschel and Marie Curie; of women architects and archaeologists and the Russian mountain climber, Elvira Shatayev; of Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Barrett and Ellen Glasgow. The named and the unnamed women of the world appear over and over. Rich finds the necessary buoyancy to not merely receive the knowledge that institutions of culture have given her, but to recognize that she has paid dearly for culture's gifts and that now she can create her own meaning out of the life she lives as an individual woman in the world. She can create her own map of the world, a map that includes her thoughts and her language and her day-to-day reality: ... if the imagination is to transcend and transform experience it has to question, to challenge, to conceive of alternatives, perhaps to the very life you are living at that moment ... nothing can be too sacred for the imagination to tum into its opposite or to call experimentally by another name. For writing is re-naming. (On L., S., and S. 43) Through her action in the world and her continuous writing Rich comes to realize that she could not be the traditional wife and mother, because "to be with a man in the old way of marriage, requires a holding-back, a putting aside of that imaginative activity" (43). She does not say that a woman who wishes to think and to write should be unavailable to others, but that to be a female trying to fulfill traditional roles is in conflict with the "subversive function of the imagination" (43). Rich's project is to find the ways in which "the energy of creation and the energy of relation can be united" (43). Her poems become guides and maps to her new "psychic geography," rather than that of the society at large. Her poems become text for other 78


readers to stimulate our own senses of possibility. In her taped conversaton with Wendy Martin, Rich describes how a poem comes to life for her: 'A poem can't exist without form, but it should be the result of a dynainic or dialogue between what is coming out of the unconscious and what is coming out of experience. This dialogue is expressed through the medium of language, and everything that meansrhythm and sound and tone and repetition and the way words ring off each other and dash against each other.' (169) Can writing poetry transform the ways she, as woman and as poet, constructs knowledge? Can she transform the ways in which experience and knowledge become "built into society, language, [and] the structures of thought" ( 49)? Can her poems initiate change and create power in other women? She knows that the key is in that word, the word itself, "language." Women's power originates in the same sources as her words. In a sense, Rich believes that she can create power by re-visioning aspects of history that have been misused against women and creating her own "truth" of that past. She can have a conversation with the past, creating a Bakhtinian dialogic between self and other. Critic Mary Strine, who discusses Rich's relationship to Bakhtin, says that the self comes through "dialogue and discursive interaction" (25). As Vygotsky also describes this process, the self develops through language between two. Voice is the expression of self, but it develops through two. Strine finds Bakhtin's dialogic theory helpful in her exploring the dynamic relationship between voice and value and between discourse and culture in Rich's poetry. The dialogic happens on the boundary: 79


'The very being of [wo]man (both internal and external) is the deepest communion. To be means to communicate. Absolute death (non being) is the state of being unheard, unrecognized, unremembered .... To be means to be for another, and through the other, for oneself. A person has no internal sovereign territory, [s]he is wholly and always on the boundary; looking inside [her]himself, [s]he looks into the eyes of another or with the eyes of another.' (qtd. in Strine 25) Boundaries are sites of cultural production (art, government, religion, etc.) where self and other come together dramatically. An idea does not live in one person's isolated individual consciousness, Strine explains, but rather emerges through communicative interaction. In her poems Rich images herself and other women as she sees and values self and other women. Bakhtin names the image for social interaction needed for full awareness heteroglossia: "the image of diversified voices engaged in free and open dialogue" (Strine 25). Individuality is expressed through intonations, attitudes, and utterances within particular soctallocations. In dialogic theory, self-understanding and awareness and cultural life achieve coherence within particular sociocultural circumstances. To Bakhtin, Strine argues, poetic forms are "artistic extensions and refmem.ents of speech genres taken from everyday life" (26). Each word is saturated with cultural meaning. As a poet and theorist Rich works against cultural convention. Strine believes that re visioning for Rich becomes a struggle of values. Rich's goal as a poet, Strine says, is "to re-combine culturally fragmented aspects of human experience in order to 'de-naturalize' the patriarchal hierarchy of values, and to promote an alternative model of community life founded on mutual 80


openness and dialogue" (27). Lorrie Smith also addresses Bakhtin in her essay on dialogue and the politics in Rich's poetry, saying that for Bakhtin, all language is basically dialogic: "every utterance takes place within a specific social matrix and in relation to others, and thus is invested with ideological and moral significance" (157). This dialogue can happen in literary discourse; poetry is such a dialogue with the reader. The reader/text transaction is the place of production of the dialogue. For anything to come of such a dialogue, there must be shared invesunent. Rosenblatt would certainly concur. Smith argues that the language of poetry, even when subjective, is incorporated in political and social systems. Meaning is continually generated,. expanded, and refined in the dialogic: "The aim of politically explicit poetry is not transcendence, epiphany, or confession," Smith says, "but a fuller and imaginative grasp and elucidation of the relations between self and society"(157). Dialogue appears as a wide open space to test voice and value and to connect with readers as in the last of what Rich calls her "Tracking Poems" (1983-85): You who think I find words for everything this is enough for now cut it short cut loose from my words You for whom I write this in the night hours when the wrecked cartilage sifts around the mystical jointure of the bones when the insect of detritus crawls from shoulder to shoulder to elbow to wristbone remember: the body's pain and the pain on the streets are not the same but you can learn from the edges that blur 0 you who love clear edges 81


more than anything watch the edges that blur (Your Native Land, Your life 111) Both text and reader enter this open space to create the poem. They talk with her as she talks with them, thinking about the body's pain, the pain of relationship, and the pain of violence on the streets, all the while contemplating those "edges that blur," knowing that once again Rich and reader are making meaning as the words pass before their eyes. In her preface to the The Fact of a Doorframe Rich talks about the importance of dialogue: Over the years it has seemed to me ... the desire to be heard, to resound in another's soul-that is the impulse behind writing poems, for me. Increasingly this has meant hearing and listening to others, taking into myself the language of experience different from my own-whether in written words, or the rush and ebb of broken but stubborn conversations. I have been changed, my poems have changed, through this process, and it continues. (xv-xvi) The poet is the person who is open to dialogue with the world, not an inspired genius off in a remote cottage writing his life. Rich sees the activity of writing poetry "a criticism of language" (On L., s., and s. 248). The writer gives each word, each syllable careful critical attention, looking for whatever is most precise in meaning; that activity produces the necessary language, the metaphoric power of the poem. "In setting words together in new configurations, in the mere, immense shift from male to female pronouns, in the relationships between words created through echo, repetition, rhythm, rhyme," Rich explains, "it lets us hear and see our words in a new dimension" (248). P.oems spotlight comers of transformational activity-places of intensely lived life. Poems become "a 82


concentration of. the power of language," which she connects to a relationship with the universe. Rich supports the idea of women (students) taking charge of what they know and revealing the inner power in the activity of relationship and creation. She is not looking for the right answers or new answers because as she says in her poem "Sources" ( 19811982), "Everything that has ever I helped me has come through what already I lay stored in me ... (Y. N. L., Y. L. 4). The process produces the energy of production that emerges through interaction between the words and the world. It is all that "stuff' in the heart and the soul. Writing poetry can be an activity of letting go of constraint and prior assumption and looking at our very own being. What if we examine all assumptions that come from the outside, that come from an other, whether that be a man, a leader, a book, an artistic object, a corporation, a political figure, a teacher? What if we drop tradition and fashion and clear our slate, give ourselves a kind of tabula rasa from which to create? What if the power of poetry can take us into our best selves, as we know our selves? In an address that she gave at a feminist studies symposium in 1981, Rich explains this activity of creation and its connection to the self: ... it may be action that leads to poetry, the deed to the word ... words can help us move or keep us paralyzed, and ... our choices of language and verbal tone have ... a great deal ... to do with how we live our lives and whom we end up speaking with and hearing ... we can deflect words, by trivialization ... but also by ritualized respect, or we can let them enter our souls and mix with the juices of our minds" (Blood, Bread, and Poetry90-91).Rich recognizes what language can do; she knows what it has done and is 83


doing, and she fights against the messages which harm: "I felt more and more urgently the dynamic between poetry as language and poetry as a kind of action, probing, burning, stripping, placing itself in dialogue with others out beyond the individual self (181). She feels the need and the benefit of the dialogic, the conversation with the world, in working her way through her thoughts and words. By generating activity, Rich can create that link with the world outside herself which also becomes necessary to her project as a poet. Her poems remain grounded in everyday life and it is through that everyday life and the structures of nature that result in transcendence for Rich. Wendy Martin believes: For Rich, transcendence means the dissolution of artifidal categories that obscure the multidimensionality of experience ... transcendence ... means the possibility of living in harmony with nature, a commitment to growth, not destruction-life, not death. This understanding .and acceptance of the profound connection between nature and human life peimits a vision that overcomes the habitual separation of mind and body, self and other .... (216) Rich is able to bring the dichotomies together, Martin argues, in such a way as to remain firmly grounded in her feminist ideology and at the same time, f'trmly grounded in day-to-day active living. Transcendence comes with the power of the dialogic between thought and language, between artist and text, text and reader, and between re-vision and response, and she says in her poem "Final Notations" (1991) in her latest volume: it will not be simple, it will not be long it will take little time, it will take all your thought it will take all your heart, it will take all your breath it will be short, it will not be simple (An A. of tbe D. W. 57) 84


Conclusion As Barbara Charlesworth Gelpi and Albert Gelpi say in their preface to Adrienne Rich's Poetry, using Rich's poetry in their work on American college campuses, working with freshmen to graduate students (and I project that it would be true of high school students as well): ... students feel an exdtement and engagement so unusual in reading poetry that it sometimes startles them .... The magnetism of her presence and of her work comes partly from the sense of personality which has centered and freed itself in a way that few of us have ... of her personality which in the very process of self discovery finds the language to describe the process, reaches us with a voice, and so helps us to reach ourselves. (ix) What better way to challenge students than to take on the aesthetic project of reading and responding to Adrienne Rich's poetry, to create out of that poetry, following similar patterns in order to perceive, use, and learn from the rich complexity of her work-all in the process of moving toward personal definition of self and world? What better way to challenge students than to give them a chance to collaborate with Rich and with other students like themselves in order to discover individual voice, to evolve their own patterns of work, to construct their own thoughts and language, and in so doing, to transform themselves? Discovering voice, patterns of work, and meaning in the self is the learning project. The authors of Women's Ways of Knowing include a chapter on "connected teaching" in which they examine the nature of the learning project which is congruent with "women's ways of knowing." They see the teacher as a midwife who assists students "in giving birth to 85


their own ideas, in making their own tacit knowledge explicit and elaborating it" (Belenky et al. 217). Students want assistance but they do not want teachers to do thinking for them. Vygotsky's "zone of proximal development," which is different for each student, is the range in which teachers can assist students to stretch forward and develop thought through the process of reading, speaking and writing. Mid-wife teachers can support the emerging consciousness of the individual, the evolution of individual thought, and the development of individual voice. "Midwife teachers help students deliver their words to the world, and they use their own knowledge to put the students into conversation with other voices--past and present-in the culture" (Belenky et al. 219). Students develop their own ways of looking at the world, seeing the self, and developing voice through interaction with poem, self, other students, and teacher. Dialogic happens between reader and text in a literary transaction in which the reader plays an active part; it happens during the. process of speaking with the other in order to more clearly see the self; it happens during the process of composing thought as the student writes. None are simple processes because they all involve the culture and history that came before and surrounds us now. Questions are asked by all participants; thoughts are worked out in private and in public. Cultural assumptions and traditions are explored. Teacher and student form a partnership in which attention is paid-one to the other: ... educators can help women[students] develop their own authentic voices if they emphasize connection over separation, understanding 86


and acceptance over assessment, and collaboration over debate; if they accord respect to and allow time for the knowledge that emerges from firsthand experience; if instead of imposing their own expectations and arbitrary requirements, they encourage students to evolve their own patterns of work based on the problems they are pursuing. (229) Teachers can assist students to form "habits of mind" that will allow them to give birth to their ideas. Rich also promotes the midwife image in her poetry: "The midwife is an important figure in Rich," says critic Alida Ostriker, "because she lacks social status, lacks partriarchal apparatus, and comes from a buried, barely surviving tradition of powerful working females. By rediscovering this tradition, women will grow strong" (104). Working with midwife-teachers, students will grow strong. Giving birth to our ideas is giving birth to our selves. Rich describes this process of the birth of the self in her poem "The Mirror in Which TwoAre Seen As One" (1971): your two hands grasping your head drawing it down against the blade of life your nerves the nerves of a midwife learning her trade (D. into theW. 16) She does not pull any punches; she approaches the task head-on. Rich sees as a midwife sees: she sees the moment of emergence and she assists the emergence, but the woman[student] is the one who gives birth to ideas and self. I believe such birth-giving activity is the lesson of Adrienne Rich's poetry. I propose presenting poems by Adrienne Rich to open up possible ways of being for adolescent students in an interactive literature and writing classroom. The first readings of the poems should be aesthetic 87


readings (Rosenblatt The R., the T., the P. 22-30); the first activities should invite aesthetic response (Anderson and Rubano 6-25). Within the framework of the project and through the process of student/text, student/student, student/teacher interaction, a student can develop his/her own language, patterns of thought, and singular voice. The project is process; there need be no final product. The poems can be explored within multiple contexts and from multiple points of view: thematically; historically; within a feminist context; within a series of works by American writers; within the structure of an American history class; as a part of an intensive study of poetry; within a context that explores relationships between language and culture; within the structure of a world literature class; within a class organiZed around contemporary issues; or perhaps iii a humanities seminar. The poem, "Harper's Ferry" from her 1989 collection, Time's Power,17 is one of Rich's poems that has particular potential for student aesthetic response. It is rich in imagery and meaning and can produce insight into a singular inddent from America's Civil War; into relationships between black and white and between male and female; into 170ther Rich poem possibilities for use in discussing culture, thought, language, and response: "Aunt jennifer's Tigers" (A C. of W.); "Euryclea's Tale'.' (S. of a D.); "'I Am in Danger-Sir-"' (The F. of a D.); "For a Russian Poet" (L); "Planetarium," "I Dream I'm the Death of Orpheus" (The W. to C.); "When We Dead Awaken," "Diving into the Wreck," "For a Sister," "Meditations for a Savage Child" (D. into theW.); "From an Old House in America" (P: S. and N.); "Power," for Elvira Shatayev," "Paula Becker to Clara (D. of a C. L); "Culture and Anarchy," "For Ethel Rosenberg," "Heroines," "Grandmothers," "Frame," "Turning the Wheel" (A W. P. H. T. M. T. F.); "North American Time," "Education of a Novelist," "Emily Carr" (Y. N. L., Y. L). 88


poetic structure and imagery; into the discovery of individual conscience and individual voice. I present here some possible steps in the process of knowing this poem and its relationship to self: 1) Give students isolated, resonating lines from the poem to repond to individually in free verse or diary fonn: "Running away from home is slower than her quick feet thought" (38); "There are things overheard and things unworded, never sung" (40); or "There is no quarrel possible in this silence" (41). 2) Following this initial writing, read the poem aloud; try different options (oral readings by teacher, student, pairs of students, male, female, choral, etc.) that will result in everyone's hearing the poem at least two or three times; perfonn the poem as a community effort. 3) Read the poem again, section by section, while students collect images (in word and/ or drawing) from the language of the poem. What do they envision while they listen? 4) Then talk about the poem in small groups, each group tape recording its discussion to produce a record of its thinking process. What is the historical/sociocultural background for this poem? What questions can be answered? What questions remain? How does the group construct its own meaning? 5) Each group can share its observations, meaning, and questions with the other groups during a community discussion. 89


6) At this point each individual student can follow up by exploring the poem individually from within the poem, using imagery from the poem to extend and write beyond the poem. What is the subtext of lines such as: .... The men are dark and sometimes pale like her, their eyes pouched or blank or squinting, all by now are queer, outside, and out of bounds and have no membership in any brotherhood but this: where power is handed from the ones who can get it to the ones who have been refused . . ( 3 8) or maybe these: But this girl is expert in overhearing and one word leaps off the windowpanes like the crack of dawn, the translation of the babble of two rivers. What does this girl with her little family quarrel, know about arsenals? EVerything she knows is wrapped up in her leg without which she won't get past Virginia, though she's running north. (39) 7) After the students (and the teacher) extend and write, they can talk with each other again, focusing on their new discoveries and always reminding each other to remain true to the language of the poem. 8) Each student can use his/her individual voice to write an exploratory essay in response to the foillowing passage from the poem. Adrienne Rich begins the poem by asking a question: "Where do I get this landscape?" Trace her thought through the landscape that she presents, moving from the specific to the general, from the young girl and her particular situation to Rich's scenerio: ... the white girl understands 90


what I understand and more, that the leg tom in flight had not betrayed her, had brought her to another point of struggle that when she takes her place she is clear in mind and her anger true with the training of her hand and eye, her leg cured on the porch of history ready for more than solitary defiance .... ( 41) 9) Finally the student must ask, what does all this have to do with me? Each student chooses his/her individual way of responding to this question, creating, re-naming, re-visioning. Both individual meaning and group meaning will come out of the interactive process of working with this poem. The key is activity--active thinking, discussing, reading, writing. Through active responding to the poem and to other voices, the individual can find his/her place in cultural history. In her review of the Rich's 1989 collection of poems, Marilyn Hacker asks the question that emerges for her from "Harper's Ferry": "What can a white woman learn from, and give back to, the liberation strUggles of people of color?" ( 464) This poem is a recounting of the events leading up to the Harper's Ferry insurrection led by John Brown in 1859 from the point of view of a young and abused white runaway girl who fmds herself on the porch of Brown's rented farmhouse. What does she know of history? What is her landscape? Hacker says that this poem "is not really the girl's individual story, it is the story of the awakening of conscience to the situation of others, and how that awakening leads the individual ... to envision new possibilities for herself' ( 466). Taking students into the poem can involve them in an historical 91


situation as well as in their own contemporary situations in relationship to sociocultural history, black/white relations and male/female relations. What can we learn about culture and language and ourselves from our own responses to literature? How can we re-vision history and tradition? Adrienne Rich says, we can tell our own stories, each of us in a separate and individual voice, all the time becoming more aware of the effects of culture on thought, thought on language, and language on the creation of individual voice. Socially meaningful activity generates consciousness, and consciousness has a context. Human thought and language evolve through social interaction, through dialogic, through all the voices that come out of culture. Bakhtin says: All words have a taste of a profession, a genre, a tendency, a party, a particular work, a particular person, a generation, an age group, the day and hour. Each word tastes of the context and contexts in which it has lived its. socially charged life; all words and forms are populated by intentions. Contextual overtones are inevitable in the word. (The D. I. 293) Yet the word is what we have, and with our careful attention, the word can lead each of us to further cultural, and individual, consciousness. 92


Works Cited Altieri, Charles. "Self-Reflection as Action: The Recent Work of Adrienne Rich." Self and Sensibility in Contempora.zy American Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984. 165-190. Anderson, Philip M., and Gregory Rubano. Enhancing Aesthetic Reading Response. Urbana: NCTE, 1991. Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: The U of Texas P, 1981. Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics. Trans. R. W. Rotsel. N.p.: Ardis, 1973. Belenky, Mary Field, Blythe McVicker Clinchy, Nancy Rule Goldberger, and Jill Mattuck Tarule. Women's Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind. New York: Basic, 1986. Berthoff, Ann E. The Making of Meaning: Metaphors, Models, and Maxims for Writing Teachers. Upper Montclair: Boynton, 1981. Bruner, Jerome. "Prologue to the English Edition." The Collected Works of L. s. Vygotsky. Vol. 1. Ed. Robert W. Rieker and Aarons. Carton. Trans. Norris Minich. New York: Plenum, 1987. 1-16. Bulkin, Elly. "An Interview with Adrienne Rich." Conditions: One I (April 1977): 55; Conditions: Two I (Oct. 1977): 53-66. Cixous, Helene. "The Laugh of the Medusa." New French Feminisms: An Anthology. Ed. Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtvron. New York: Schoken, 1981. 245-264. Cooper, Jane Roberta, ed. Reading Adrienne Rich: Reviews and Re-Visions, 1951-81. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1984. de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. 1952. Trans. and ed. H. M. Parshley. New York: Vintage, 1989. DuPlessis, Rachel Blau. "The Critique of Consciousness and Myth in Levertov, Rich, and Rukeyser." Shakespeare's Sisters: Feminist Essays on Women Poets. Ed. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1979. Farrell, Edmund J., and James R. Squire, eds. Transactions with IJterature: A Fifty-Year Perspective. Urbana: NCTE, 1990. 93


Farwell, Marilyn R. "Adrienne Rich and an Organic Feminist Criticism." College English 39 (Oct. 1977): 191-203. Flowers, Betty S. "The 'I' in Adrienne Rich: Individuation and the Androgyne Archetype." Theory and Practice of Feminist lJterary Criticism. Ed. Gabriela Mora and Karen s. Hooft. Ypsilanti: Bilingual P, 1982. 14-35. Flynn, Elizabeth A. "Rosenblatt and Feminism." The Experience of Reading: Louise Rosenblatt and Reader-Response Theory. Ed. John Clifford. Portsmouth: Boynton, 1991. 165-175. "Women as Reader-Response Critics." New Orleans Review 10 (Surnmer-Fall1983): 20-25. Gelpi, Barbara Charlesworth, and Albert Gelpi, eds. Adrienne Rich's Poetry: Texts of the Poems; The Poet on Her Work; Reviews and Criticism. A Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 1975. Grimstad, Kirsten, and Susan Rennie. "Adrienne Rich and Robin Morgan Talk about Poetry and Women's Culture." The New Women's Survival Sourcebook. Ed. Kirsten Grimstad and Susan Rennie. New York: Knopf, 1975. Hacker, Marilyn. "Begin to Teach." Rev. of Time's Power, by Adrienne Rich. The Nation 23 Oct. 1989: 464-467. John-Steiner, Vera, and Ellen Soubennan. Afterword. Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. By Lev Vygotsky. Ed. Michael Cole, Vera John-Steiner, Sylvia Scribner, and Ellen Souberman. cambridge: Harvard UP, 1978. 121-133. Kalstone, David. "Adrienne Rich: Face to Face." Five Temperaments. New York: Oxford UP, 1977. 129-169. Keyes, Claire. The Aesthetics of Power. London: U of Georgia P, 1986. Kinnell, Galway. "Poetry, Personality and Death." A Field Guide to Contemporary Poetry and Poetics. Ed. Stuart Freibert and David Young. New York: Longman, 1980. 203-223. Kozulin, Alex. "Vygotsky in Context." Thought and Language. By Lev Vygotsky. Trans. and ed. Alex Kozulin. Cambridge: MIT P, 1986. xi-lxi. Martin, Wendy. An American Triptych. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1984. 94

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Marting, Janet. "'The Disenfranchisement of Composition Students." Teaching English in tbe Two-Year College 15 (Oct. 1988): 157-164. Moll, Luis C., ed. Vygotsky and Education: Instructional Implications and Applications of Sociohistorical Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990. Montenegro, David. "Adrienne Rich: An Interview by David Montenegro." American Poetry Review January/February 1991: 7-14. Ostriker, Alicia. Writing li.k.e a Woman. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1983. Reid, Louann, and Jeff Golub. "An Interactive Approach to Composition Instruction." Composition and Resistance. Ed. C. Mark Hurlbert and Michael Blitz. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1991. 82-94. Rich, Adrienne. An Atlas oftbe Difficult World: Poems 1985-1991. New York: Norton, 1991. Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose 1979-1985. New York: Norton, 1986 A Change of World. New Haven: Yale UP, 1951. Diving into tbe Wreck: Poems 1971-1972. New York: Norton, 1973 . The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977. New York: Norton, 1978. The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems Selected and New 195D-1984. New York: Norton, 1984 Leaflets: Poems 1965-1968. New York: Norton, 1969. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. Tenth Anniversary Edition. New York: Norton, 1986 On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978. New York: Norton, 1979 . Poems: Selected and New 1950-1974. New York: Norton, 1975. --. "Poetry, Personality and Wholeness: A Response to Galway Kinnell." A Field Guide to Contemporary Poetry and Poetics. Ed. Stuart Freibert and David Young. New York: Longman, 1980. 224-231. 95

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. Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law: Poems 1954-1962. New York: Harper, 1963 Time's Power: Poems 1985-1988. New York: Norton, 1989 A Wild Padence Has Taken Me This Far: Poems 1978-1981. New York: Norton, 1981. The Will to Change: Poems 1968-1970. New York: Norton, 1971. Your Nadve Land, Your life: Poems. New York: Norton, 1986. Rosenblatt, Louise M. literature as Exploration. 1938. Rev. ed. New York: Noble and Noble, 1968 . The Reader, the Text, the Poem. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1978 . "Writing and Reading: The Transactional Theory." Reader 20 (Fall, 1988): 7-31. Sartre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness. Ed. and trans. Hazel Barnes. New York: Washington Square P, 1956. -. What Is literature? Trans. Bernard Frechunan. New York: Harper, 1965. Smith, "Dialogue and the Political Imagination in Denise Levertov and Adrienne Rich." World, Self, Poem: Essays on Contemporary Poetry from tbe 'jubilation of Poets.' Ed. Leonard M. Trawick. Kent: Kent State UP, 1990. 155-162. Strine, MaryS. "The Politics of Asking Women's Questions: Voice and Value in the Poetry of Adrienne Rich." Text and Performance Quarterly 1 (1989): 24-41. Vygotsky, L S. Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Ed. Michael Cole, Vera John-Steiner, Sylvia Scribner, and Ellen Souberman. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978 The Psychology of Art. Trans. Scripta Technical. Cambridge: MIT P, 1971. -. Thought and Language. Trans. and ed. Alex Kozulin. Cambridge: MIT P, 1986. Wertsch, James V. Vygotsky and the Social Fon:itation of Mind. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1985. 96

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Works Consulted Bennett, Paula. My life a Loaded Gun: Female Creativity and Feminist Poetics. Boston: Beacon, 1986. Byers, Thomas B. "Adrienne Rich: Vision as Rewriting." World, Self, Poem: Essays on Contemporary Poetry from tbe 'jubilation of Poets."' Ed. Leonard Trawick. Kent: Kent UP, 1990. 144-152. Clark, Katerina and Michael Hoquist. Mikhail Bakhti.n. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1984. Clifford, John, ed. Tbe Experience of Reading: Louise Rosenblatt and Reader-Response Theory. Portsmouth: Boynton, 1991. Code, Lorraine. What Can She Know?: Fem.i.nist Theory and tbe Construction of Knowledge. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1991. Diaz-Diocaretz, Myriam. The Power of Language: The Poetry of Rich. Utrecht, Neth: HES Publishers, 1984. Flynn, Elizabeth A. "Composing as a Woman." College Composition and Communication 39 (Dec., 1988): 423-435. Gilligan, Carol. In a DiHeren.t Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1982. Murphy, Kathleen V. Feminist Pedagogy and Student Constructions of Knowledge and Female Authority. ERIC, Mar. 1992. ED 345 234. Ostriker, Alicia. Stealing tbe Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America. Boston: Beacon, 1986. Rich, Adrienne. The Diamond Cutters. New York: Harper, 1955. Spinner, Bettye T. Re-Vision: The Student as Poet. ERIC, Nov. 1986. ED 290 170. Toulrnin, Stephen. "The Mozart of Psychology." The New York Review of Books 28 Sept 1978: 51-57. Williams, Meredith. "Vygotsky's Social Theory of Mind." Harvard Educational Review 59 (Feb. 1989): 108-125. 97