Throughout history the poetic muse has tended to be (a passive) female and the poet male. This dynamic caused problems for late Victorian and twentieth-century women poets; how could the muse be reclaimed and moved on from the passive role of old? Parker looks at fin-de-siècle and modernist lyric poets to investigate how they overcame these challenges and identifies three key strategies: the reconfiguring of the muse as a contemporary instead of a historical/mythological figure; the muse as a male figure; and an interchangeable poet/muse relationship, granting agency to both.
"This thoughtful, beautifully researched study looks closely at how lesbian poets created supple, variable relations with an inspiring muse in spite of numerous social and personal difficulties." -- Martha Vicinus, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Journal of Victorian Culture
"The book makes excellent use of queer theory to subtly point out the ways some contemporary criticism and biography fails to fully appreciate the complicated nuances of human sexuality, preferring to rigidly categorize female writers as specifically homo-, hetero-, or bisexual, rather than acknowledging the inherent fluidity of sexual desire." -- Jill Marie Treftz, Marshall UniversityEnglish Literature in Transition, 1880-1920
"Parker presents perhaps the most original full-length work on the figure, texts, and contexts of nineteenth-century female poets since Yopie Prins’s Victorian Sappho of 1999." --The Year's Work in English Studies
"The study highlights the importance of the muse to the creative process of poetry and poetic identity…makes an important contribution to current research into female same-sex desire and the female gaze in poetry." --Women: A Cultural Review
"Looks at the lyric poetry of a series of female poets working around the turn of the century, to investigate the ways in which these poets interacted with living muses." --Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900
Introduction 1. Historical Muse Figures, Imagined Ancestries and Contemporary Muses 2. Michael Field 3. Olive Custance 4. Amy Lowell 5. H.D. and Bryher Conclusion