The Ghost of the Father

Part of the Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics book series (MPCC)


Alongside the maternal associations of identity, speech, and inheritance discussed in the previous chapter, there runs in Howe’s work an appraisal of ideas of law, authority, and patriarchy. Often the two currents are intertwined, and I do not wish to suggest a schematic division of the work along maternal and paternal lines any more than I would wish to separate the writing into discrete clusters of ‘Irish’ and ‘American’ work. Alongside the exploration of the marginalized feminine in The Liberties, for example, law is represented through an insubstantial paternal figure, a composite that superimposes Swift on Lear and the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Further in the background lies Howe’s own father. In this chapter, I explore some of the poems in which a paternally coded set of associations is strongly evident. In this work, Howe explores the notion of an aporetic origin of authority. Through this motif, which is central to her work, Howe addresses concepts including social authority, regicide, paternity, negative theology, and deconstructive thought.


Religious Experience Social Authority Poetic Language Negative Theology Paternal Authority 
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© Will Montgomery 2010

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