~AbanDoned X-preSsionz | Exploring Hypertext Journaling~ by Carla
Saturday, October 12, 2002

Clarity in Experimental Women’s Writing

In her essay “Feminist Poetics and the Meaning of Clarity,”{ Rae Armantrout } questions the role of clarity or legibility in experimental women’s writing. Armantrout takes issue with the way women identify themselves in their writings with regards to the Lacanian symbolic order which really excludes rather than include women whom, unlike men, do not possess the phallic organ.

For Armantrout, if women identify themselves within the symbolic order it would necessarily mean that they have to transform themselves into the phallic image (and to my own mind, become or write as men). Looked at in this light, a woman who subscribes to the Lacanian order has, to Armantrout, misrepresented herself and perhaps other women in general. I wonder...Is this done intentionally? There seems to be some confusion and perhaps this is why Armantrout asks the question: “Does so-called experimental writing seek a new view of the self?” (295).

I think the answer is “yes.” Armantrout seems to arrive at the same answer herself for as her essay preceeds, one becomes aware of her preference for women/writers who place themselves outside the Lacanian "order" for in doing so, they are in fact resisting patriarchal conventions. Her explication of Sharon Olds' poem
{ The One Girl at the Boys Party }
makes her stance clear. In Olds' poem, Olds has allowed the persona and daughter to enter the male dominated realm by, as Armantrout says, “using her daughter as a phallus.”

Clearly, Armantrout prefers exclusion from the symbolic order. Let us be “outsiders” then, she seems to be saying. One is also reminded of Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas in which Woolf asserts that women are indeed a community of outsiders. Only by being outsiders, that is, by resisting the symbolic order can women truly clarify themselves.

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