When Daughters Leave: Essay Writing and The Fugitive Subject

Kirsty Gunn (Lead / Corresponding author), Gail Low (Lead / Corresponding author)

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    Following Paul Heilker’s suggestion in his book, The Essay: Theory and Pedagogy for an Active Form (1996), that we should think of the essay as ‘less than a thing than it is an action, less an artifact than an activity, less a noun than a verb’, this paper eschews conventional academic forms of critiques and imagines a more open form that makes room for the personal, the subjective, the conceptual and the creative, thus writing critique as a rhetorical, textual and creative performance. Reading and writing about two poems that draw on the myth of Demeter and Persephone, and threaded through by other writers and theorists, and experiences, ‘When Daughters Leave’ performs a ‛tableau vivant’ of subjectivity on the page by employing two individual ‘I’ voices who function both separately, neither a ‘we’ nor an ‘I’, to highlight the porous quality of that first person pronoun. The essay also explores the textual and affective terrain of mothers and daughters as subjects and objects of writing, and as metaphors for thinking about subjectivity in an essay about essay writing.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalWriting in Practice
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


    • Essay
    • Subjectivity
    • Mothers
    • Daughters
    • Persephone
    • Demeter
    • Myth
    • Language
    • First person pronoun


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