The Themes Of Estrangement And Alienation English Literature Essay

Introduction/ Background

Carol Ann Duffy, Sujata Bhatt and Eavan Boland – the three writers are from different part of the world and hence belonging to different cultures. But what is worth looking at is that despite their dissimilar cultural settings their poetry give vent to certain issues some of which are primordial and others construction of culture. It is not that the construction of gender division has entirely silenced the voice of women but the fact is as, pointed out by feminists, the white women’s voice after their emancipation represented black women’s voice. But I am making a more general point that individual identity cannot be conceived within homogeneous form of representation. The three writes coming from Britain, India and Ireland respectively have different outlook to English poetry as a medium of expressing emotion. But again their emotion are nor identical, nor they can be. We can well conceive that if poetry is a medium of self-expression, poetry becomes a manifesto of identity politics. But when women writers get an unthinking consumerist audience, their poetry, as a discourse on marginalization further perpetuates their alienation.

Aims & Rationale

The proposed research is intended to focus on the themes of estrangement and alienation in relation to the complex issues of gender, identity, and ethnicity in the poems of three contemporary women writers-Carol Ann Duffy, Sujata Bhatt and Eavan Boland. Modernist poetry was overtly an invention of a masculinity group of poets including T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and the like of them. In the second half of twentieth century, there has been a gradual process of deconstructing the ideologies behind modernist poetry. It is, however necessary to note that modernist poetry itself was a nostalgic mourning for the loss of integrity, homogeneity and purpose. In my analysis high modernism will be alluded to because of the perception that the language of discourse created by them cannot be suitable for expressing the particular emotions of women. Waugh observes, “femininity is not just the opposite of masculinity, because of the very idea of structured opposites comes from masculine logic and the will to divide, categorize and form hierarchies” (Waugh, 336). Waugh observes that according to French feminists like, Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray, the language of women are pre-oedipal-they are unconscious articulation of feelings and emotions that are specific to women. Ecriture Feminine is such a form of language that can communicate the unconscious emotions of a woman. As opposed to masculine set pattern of language, the feminine language lacks all the syntactical coherence and thus disruptive, which is suitable to articulate the emotions that had been kept suppressed throughout history.


For the purpose of showing how the poems of Duffy, Boland and Bhatt can be related to identity politics and assertion of their individual self, how the poets use digressive sentences that are in a way a refusal to accept the male world of imagery and poetry of overflow of powerful emotion. In addition to that, their language is an instrument that can help them in expressing their views, which are not auxiliary to the male views. Borrowing the arguments of Butler, I will also try to show how subjectivizing norms on a person her sense of gender can be evoked because according to Butler gender is not inherent but it is rather a social construct. She goes even so far as to affirm that gender nay be constructed in lyric poetry (Martin, 112). In the poems of Boland, Duffy and Bhatt, the sense of this alienation within the artificial fabric is apparent. Rowland and Michelis think that “Duffy is perfectly aware of the constructed nature of her linguistic devices: hence the gardens are “invisible, / Sweet if they had a scent” (Michelis and Rowland, 66)

Chapter Structure

I shall be presenting the research in three chapters.


In the first chapter I shall discuss the theme of estrangement as it is found in all the three writers although in three different contexts. In Duffy’s poem, alienation is considered as a “positive states of being as the very state of identity” (Michelis and Rowland, 89). Boland is more engrossed with the representation of female stereotype. In her poems “she focuses on the estrangement involved in the traditional representations of physical female body, and the alienating effects of its anatomization” (Borch, Knudsen and Leer, 354).

National and ethnic identity

The second chapter will be dedicated to a discussion of poetry as a vehicle of expressing national and ethnic identity. Because, poetry, as an artifact, is often a medium of expressing cultural views that define one’s national identity. Boland’s sense of deprivation from the socius as a result of gender construction has been compounded with her perception of the deprivation of women from literary tradition as a whole. According to Lawrence, “Boland laments that the Irish poetic tradition is devoid of women writers” (Lawrence, 177). As for the poetry of Sujata Bhatt “her poetry evidences those tendencied and attitudes, which shape the imagination of poets of Indian diasporic” (Sahu, 22).


In the last chapter, I shall analyze the appropriation of Mythology by them. The contemporary women writes are stranded in the super-imposed social norms and fantasizes female utopia where they can celebrate their immanent femininity. A shall also refer to Barthe’s Mythology to analyze, how women have been estranged from history and myths. Even when they have been given place in Myth, they have been projected as the manifestation of male desire.


In the postmodernist literature this sort of breaking away of norms are not surprising as it is a form of acquiring one’s identity that was shadowed by the heterophobia of West. In the poetry of the above three writers, their quest for identity and self has been interpreted in terms of this new accommodating impulse of plural perception of nationality, ethnicity and gender. They have not only rejected the prevalent language that looks into the male assumption for its semiotics but also has ventured on a pattern of occult imagery metaphors that I am going to discuss in my research paper. One thing must be touched upon that critics like, Showalter, Moi are of opinion that an alternative to the male cultural tradition has always been there but it was not given due audience. Perhaps that alternative female tradition can offer us a good background for a comprehensive understanding of the poets we are going to deal with.

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