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On Hilda Doolittle’s Feminist Thoughts

Author WangZuo
Tutor NingMei
School Guizhou University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Hilda Doolittle Imagist poems feminine myth ecofeminism lesbianism
Type Master's thesis
Year 2009
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Hilda Doolittle is one of the famous American women poets in the 20th century. She began her literary career siging her poems simply "H.D., the imagiste." Her literary career spans forty-five years, and altogether she wrote more than 15 volumes in a variety of literary genres including poems, novels, essays, autobiographies and so on. She won the Harriet Monroe Prize in 1956. And she is also the first American woman writer to win the Gold Medal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1960. She has not only been highly praised by her contemporary writers, but also adored by her posterity.The precise, economic language and the concrete images H.D. creates are completely in accord with those three principles of good Imagist poems by Ezra Pound. At the beginning, she was widely praised and honored for her earlist Imagist poems. However, her poetic style changes later and the feminist theme hidden in her poems has gradually drawn people’s attention. This thesis investigates Hilda Doolittle’ thoughts in the light of feminist criticism. H.D., believing that language has been the device with which patriarchy oppresses women and that it is also the weapon with which women can fight back, is particular aware of the influence of female creative power. Her ultimate vision, therefore, is to create a myth that women can call their own.The whole thesis is composed of four chapters besides introduction and conclusion.Introduction gives a brief survey of Feminist Approach. Feminist literary criticism derived its original impetus from the Women’s Liberation Movement. It has been the most productive, radical and far-reaching body of work in literary studies. It exhibits a powerful political, social, and cultural orientation. Then an introduction is given to studies on H.D. and her work at home and abroad.Chapter one examines the literary development of H.D., who, after being nurtured on patriarchal, canonical literature, later confronted it. H.D.’s feeling was not simply that women find nothing congenial to their experience in the establishment literature, but also that women are stereotyped and seen as the Other in the dominant literature, texts and especially in mythic ones. Her early Imagist poetry conforms to Pound’s evaluation and possesses the distinguishing feature of "impersonality" advocated by T.S.Eliot. However, H.D. repeatedly considers imagism as an obstacle for her and her poetic style has greatly changed since 1940s. She began to focus on the feminist destiny and use language as a weapon to fight against the patriachal society. And the feminist theme enables her to break the limitation of the Imagist poetry.Chapter Two investigates H.D.’s rewriting of the Helen’s story, which she imbues with feminist overtones. The heroine in Helen in Egypt retold the story which has existed for a long time. And Helen’s seeking for her own identity is also H.D.’s doubt about being a woman poet. Many prominent feminist myth critics, including Annis Pratt, Adrienne Rich and Susan Gubar define myth as the key critical genre for women. Since most myths are constructed and studied by men and many female images are revised and distorted in male-centered discourses, thus the need is even greater for women’ creation of their own myths.Chapter Three aims to interpret part of H.D.’s poems through the viewpoint of ecofeminist criticism. Ecofeminists promote a biocentric worldview, respecting nature and all forms of life. They highlight the association of women with nature, and hold that patriarchy is the root cause of human oppression of women and nature. This chapter also discusses H.D.’s non-conventional conceptions of nature and body, exploring her projection of nature as the manifestation of female desire. H.D. refuses the fixed female images and tries to revise the description of sex in traditional male-centered cultural.Chapter Four starts from discussing H.D.’s lesbianism, and she later enlarges it as a female continuum in which two women are united in mutual devotion.Conclusion part summarizes the theme of H.D.’s feminist thoughts and points out that her Imagist poems although widely praised are only small part of her literary career. Her poems deeply expose women’s predicament while seeking truth in male-dominated society. Not only do her poems belong to the main stream of Modernist ones, but also belong to the tradition of women literature. And she is followed by many enthusiastic women poets who have found what they need in Doolittle’s poems. The thesis also aims to explore the artistic achievements and literature status of Hilda Doolittle in order to call for attention on her.

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