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Literary Criticism Poetry

Seeing in the Dark

The Poetry of Phyllis Webb

by (author) Pauline Butling

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Initial publish date
Jan 2006
Poetry, Literary, Canadian
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jan 2006
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 1997
    List Price

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Poet Phyllis Webb initiated new ways of seeing into the cultural “dark” of Western thought. By blurring the axis between “light” and “dark,” she redefined in positive terms women’s subjectivity and sexuality, which are traditionally assigned “dark” negative values.

Seeing in the Dark includes perceptive discussions on a number of Webb’s collections, specifically Naked Poems, Wilson’s Bowl, Water and Light and Hanging Fire. Butling shows how Webb uses strategies of subversion, reversal and re-vision of prevailing traditions and tropes to facilitate “seeing in the dark.” She also provides a fascinating analysis of Webb criticism — tracing it over the past thirty years and revealing a shift in critical paradigms. A chapter on biography includes intriguing archival material.

Pauline Butling offers important new ways of reading one of Canada’s finest poets. Seeing in the Dark is essential introductory material for the general reader and provides provocative penetrating analysis for literary scholars.

About the author

Pauline Butling, professor emerita at the Alberta College of Art and Design, is the author of Seeing in the Dark: The Poetry of Phyllis Webb (WLU Press, 1997).

Susan Rudy is currently a professor of English at the University of Calgary (Alberta) and is the author of Women, Reading, Kroetsch: Telling the Difference (WLU Press, 1991).

Pauline Butling's profile page

Editorial Reviews

''Butling's careful readings of Webb's poems are nuanced and perceptive, and her argument that Webb's poetics enact a feminist politics of social change is persuasive. Her study represents a substantial contribution to the critical literature on the work of this fascinating and often quite difficult poet.''

Linda Lamont-Stewart

''[This] ... is one of the most important studies of contemporary Canadian poetry to appear in recent years. Phyllis Webb has long deserved such a careful, innovative, and challenging critique.... This is a necessary book.''

Douglas Barbour

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