This essay examines Claudia Rankine's long poem Plot (2001) in light of its status as one of a number of postsixties poetic texts authored by women that explore complicated questions surrounding the relationships among maternity, the female body, and innovative poetics. Plot intervenes in two overlapping conversations. On the one hand, it continues a tradition of women's poetic experimentation that seeks to revalue pregnancy and motherhood as viable topics for poetry while resisting sentimentalized and restrictive narratives through formal innovation; on the other, it continues and extends feminist poetic traditions that emphasize both the physical and biological and the linguistic and cultural by crafting a long poem whose structure is necessarily “female” through its reliance on an individual woman's mental, temporal, and bodily/biological experiences as formal determinants. This essay argues that Plot is unique for the way it not only uses the biological as a formal determinant but also uses this focus to blur the lines between the physical and the textual body, in the process questioning both cultural narratives of pregnancy and the construction of poetic genre (specifically in terms of the long poem) in addition to traditional tropes that co-opt gestation as a synonym for (typically masculine) literary production.
Caitlin E. Newcomer; Casting a Shadow from Flesh to Canvas: Claudia Rankine's Plot and the Gendered Textual Body. Genre 1 December 2014; 47 (3): 357–377. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-2797213
Download citation file: