When the Muse Looks Back: Picturing the Poetess

16 Jan ‘15


5.30PM - 6.30PM

Venue: Rooms C1-C2, Pathfoot Building, University of Stirling

In this talk, Dr Sarah Parker (Impact Research Fellow, Division of Literature and Languages) will discuss her current research project, which focuses on photographic representations of the woman poet from the period 1880-1930.

The advent of photography as a means of self-representation and promotion in the nineteenth-century brought about major changes in women poets’ constructions of poetic identity. Photography had the potential to transform the woman poet’s image in the public imagination – presenting an important opportunity, given women’s struggle to attain and assert poetic identity, which was conventionally still viewed as a privileged male occupation. By adopting the pose and accessories of the visually-recognisable poet (by dressing as Sappho, or posing with a book or a pen) a woman poet could literally embody her creative vocation in an arresting image. However, becoming visible as a woman poet also meant negotiating the gaze, avoiding the dangers of objectification and sexualisation that threatened to undermine her work, and shaking off residual associations of female celebrity with prostitution and the body on the market

In order to highlight these issues of gender, creativity, celebrity and the gaze, Sarah has worked alongside three photographers, Catriona Munro, Johanna Samuelson and Anna Buchanan, who have created original photographs inspired by nineteenth-century photography and poetry. Their images will reinterpret photographs of women poets, photographs by women photographers and the words of particular poems, bringing a contemporary awareness of queer and feminist theory to these images. In this sense, these new images will reveal what happens when the muse looks back.

Sarah’s talk will be followed by the exhibition launch and a drinks reception.


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