Engendering Identity: The Discourse of Familial Education in Anne Bradstreet and Marie de l'Incarnation

Hilliker, Robert J.

In her American Triptych, Wendy Martin epitomizes the traditional feminist criticism of Anne Bradstreet’s poetry when she identifies “An Author to her Book” as the moment when Bradstreet begins to “view her daily experience as a valid subject for her art.” Martin’s judgment reinforces a division, posited much earlier by Adrienne Rich, between Bradstreet’s early, purportedly masculine and derivative, verse and her later, more successful, domestic poetry. This division, since supported by numerous critics, draws its rhetorical strength from an equation of the vitality of Bradstreet’s later, domestic poems with their putative originality and authenticity, what Rich calls her “personal history [of] marriage, childbearing, [and] death.” Though the intent of such criticism is to claim Bradstreet as a proto-feminist whose work helped to establish female experience as a fit subject for poetry, this reads like a rather more sexist formula: women should write about the private world they know—family and household—rather than the public realm of politics and history.


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Early American Literature

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April 15, 2011