“Talking like Men”: Interpreting Revisionist Mythmaking in Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife
Abstract: Myths unravel an overwhelmingly patriarchal order in society and consequently validate the androcentrism of language. As cultural texts, they show and legitimize the victimization of women. “Revisionist mythmaking” is a process, suggested by Alicia Ostriker, which tends to subvert the patriarchal structure of the cultural elements and “correct” the gender stereotypes of women. Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife is a remarkable addition to the tradition of revisionist mythmaking in English literature. Almost all the poems focus on hitherto invisible and “silenced” female counterparts of mythical and quasi-mythical characters. The ending of the stories remains unchanged, but the perspectives change as Duffy subverts the male-subject position into a female one. This paper argues that here the female speakers attain superiority mainly through speech and considers it the main strength of the process of revisionist mythmaking. Duffy’s use of dramatic monologue, as the dominant genre in this collection, helps to capture the essence of “performance” through the speech in a brilliant way. The female-subject speakers give commands which are meant to be executed; they narrate acts of violence, stories of victimization, and experience of motherhood. They adopt colloquial language and masculine expressions which make the subversion more effective. Austin’s speech-act theory has been used to explain the locutionary effect of the speeches. The paper also draws upon Judith Butler’s notion of performativity, as it helps to theorize the revision of myth that occurs through subversion of the masculine discourse.
Keywords: act, gender, myth, revision, speech, subversion
View Full Text
Published in 2018