Transgressing Male Boundaries: The Poetic Works of Anne Finch
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Anne Finch, the Countess of Winchilsea, is a prolific writer who lived in the period between late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Although she wrote about different subjects in various literary forms, she rather comes into prominence with her poetic works. She represents political and social issues of her time in her poetic works; however, her major concern is to criticise the secondary position of women in society, particularly in the literary tradition. Although she belonged to a privileged class of her society, in her poetic works, she reflects the problems of women in general regardless of their social classes. Besides, in her poems, Finch’s criticisms of the secondary position of women in society and in marriage are interwoven with her criticisms of the position of the female poet in the poetic tradition. Finch also criticises the gender roles which are allotted to woman through gender stereotyping, particularly the roles that put her in a subordinate and secondary place in art and life. Although other female poets of the period dealt with similar issues in their poetry, Finch’s authenticity lies in her poetics and the way she directs her criticism. The major concern of this study, therefore, is to analyse and discuss Finch’s poetics and style within the frame of these issues. In her poetic works, Finch criticises the (use of) myths that silenced woman. Therefore, in the first chapter, Finch’s strategies of revising and correcting the myths are discussed. In her poems about mythological characters, Finch aims at reinterpreting the myths that metaphorically imprison woman. In the second chapter Finch’s critical strategies in her fables are discussed. Finch brings a female viewpoint to the fables by identifying the gender of the male characters in La Fontaine’s fables as female. In her fables, she challenges stereotypical gender norms by representing strong female characters and weak male characters. Besides, she also adapts La Fontaine fables to current social and political events of her time, therefore, contributes to the development of the English fable tradition. In the third chapter, Finch’s metaphorical employment of the nature elements is discussed. In her nature poems, Finch ascribes new metaphorical meanings to the elements of nature in order to present the plight of the female poet in the poetic tradition. She turns the pastoral shade into a feminine space where the female poet can raise her voice without any restriction; therefore, she delivers a solution to the problem of female poet’s secondary position in the poetic realm. She also builds analogy between the female poet and the bird figure and discusses the significance of freedom for the female poet. In her poetic works, particularly in her nature poems, Finch does not resent the female poet’s exclusion from the poetic tradition, but rather appreciates it because she believes that it enables the female poet to express herself freely without restrictive conventions of the tradition. After an in depth analysis of her poetic works, it is concluded that despite all the restrictions, Finch manages to raise her voice as a female poet and metaphorically becomes an “intruder” in the poetic tradition providing new perspectives to the myths, literary genres and traditions that so far excluded or silenced woman.