Objects Can Be Unintentionally Beautiful

Feminist Ekphrasis and Object-Orientation in the Poetry of Mary Jo Bang and Bernadette Mayer


In 1981, Laura Mulvey famously amended her original contentions in “Visual Pleasure” (1973) to introduce the notion of a “female gaze.” Through ekphrastic poems—lyric representationsof visual art—contemporary women poets have also questioned the plausibility of a (female) polyvocal viewing subject, especially when poeticizing photographic and sculptural material. This essay analyzes and compares Mary Jo Bang’s and Bernadette Mayer’s examples of ekphrasis, focusing on their feminist revitalization of the inanimate object through linguistic devices. In my close readings, I most notably propose a link between these poetic renderings and Katherine Behar’s ironic reinterpretation of Levi Bryant’s Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) in her book Object Oriented Feminism (2016). Following this rhetoric, I reflect on the poets’ blurring of the problematic subject/object dichotomy by means of formal experimentation. The oeuvres of both Bang and Mayer, all in all, highlight the efforts of contemporary feminist experimentalism to dismiss hierarchies and provide a space for the inbetween, anti-logocentric—and anti-patriarchal—poetic reality.

Author Biography

Paula Currás Prada, Universidade da Coruña
Paula Currás-Prada has degrees in English Language and Literature from the Universities of South Wales (2017) and A Coruña (2018). She is currently doing a PhD in North-American Literature, focusing on contemporary experimental poetry by women and is a member of the research group CLEU (Culturas e Literaturas dos Estados Unidos de América). Her research interests include feminist studies, American poetry and cultural studies.


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