Date of Award

May 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Member

Walt Hunter

Committee Member

Walt Hunter

Committee Member

Maya Hislop

Committee Member

Jamie Rogers


This project reveals the ways in which contemporary women poets return to and embrace the senses. Sensory expression has long been a source of shame, especially for women. Our fear of embracing our bodies and their situation in the world is symptomatic of misogynistic tropes and the phallocentric order. By prioritizing the body, poets like Jorie Graham, Carolyn Forché, and Morgan Parker subvert the patriarchal order and make space for women in the literary canon. They also challenge us to recognize sensuality as a valuable facet of poetic expression, a locus of untapped information, and a great source of power. Taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound offer glimpses into spirituality, mortality, heredity, fear, pain, and love. By incorporating theorists like Audre Lorde, Hortense Spillers, and Helene Cixous, I support these poets in their mission to treat the senses like stepping-stones for self-discovery or self-actualization. It is through this expression that women succeed in what Cixous calls “writing women”– a process that is radical, deconstructive, and always political.



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