Skip To Content

Athabasca University

Daphne Marlatt’s Mother Figure

by Marlene Wurfel, 2007

Ana Historic, by Daphne Marlatt

Daphne Marlatt’s poetry and fiction is not widely read. It is, however, closely read by an academic readership of feminist, post-modernist, post-colonialist, and other non-mainstream readers. Marlatt calculatedly and artistically creates rich fodder for deconstructionists and psychoanalysts. What Marlatt describes as “the upheaval of discovering feminist theory and writing, as well as coming out as a lesbian,” is followed by an increasingly prominent mother figure in all of her work (Harvey, 28). With the publication of Ana Historic (1988) Marlatt’s focus as a writer shifts towards articulating a lesbian erotic. She intentionally and self-reflexively deploys the mother to create a narrative space in which l’écriture féminine is possible. Marlatt is a deconstructionist in that her writing is decidedly critical of phallocentrism. She does not work towards a post-structuralist approach in which the author’s power to create meaning is destabilized. Rather, as a close reading of the mother figure in Marlatt’s writing reveals, she works to invert phallocentrism and to create meaning as a lesbian author.

In Daphne Marlatt’s body of writing, spanning from the late sixties to the present, we can trace a growing pre-occupation with the mother. Marlatt’s poetic quest to represent the mother figure begins in Zócalo (1977), a travelogue where she journeys through Yucatan with a male lover. In this series of travel poems, Marlatt visits her deceased mother in a dream. The phantasmic mother figure is at once Marlatt’s own mother and Mother Earth, a destroyer goddess who is deathly, suffocating and absolutely dark. In “The Month of Hungry Ghosts” (1979), a cycle of poems written about a trip to Malaysia in the wake of Marlatt’s own mother’s death, she remembers her “Mem,” the mistress of the colonial Malay house she grew up in before immigrating to Canada. How Hug a Stone (1983), another collection of prose poems, about a trip to England, or the colonial Mother Country, which was always referred to as “home” by Marlatt’s own mother, contains another mother-quest. In England Marlatt seeks and finds “my mother’s trace (...) these still-standing walls of home” (Ghost Works 141). She also searches for a pre-Christian Mother Goddess at the Neolithic stone henge of Avebury. These three collections of poems, Zócalo, How Hug a Stone and Month of Hungry Ghosts, were published together in Ghost Works (1993) by NeWest Press. In the forward to Ghost Works Marlatt describes the poems as: musings, written out of three trips to three different countries. Each time, i travelled in the company of different others but always, it turned out, in the company of my mother who had died in 1975, a few months before that first journey. (VII)

Ana Historic, Marlatt’s most widely studied novel, contains multiple themes and plots, one of which is the relationship between the narrator, Annie, and her mother, Ina. The entirely psychological plot is revealed via a series of interior dialogues between the two women. Throughout the dialogues Annie seeks to reconcile Ina as both a victim and perpetuator of patriarchy, colonialism, and history. The relationship between Ana and Ina is emotionally fraught. Ina disapproves of Annie’s divorce and of her feminism. Annie is angry at her mother for raising her within a patriarchal ethos, for teaching her “the feminine act” (Marlatt, Ana Historic 61). Throughout the narrative, the voice of Ina, the mother figure, is defensive, injured and censorious.

“(A)nd i suppose you see me as the monster hidden at the heart of it?” Ina demands of Annie (24).

“There is a monster, there is something monstrous here, but it’s not you,” Annie replies (24).

At the conclusion of Ana Historic the narrator defies her mother’s aspiration that she be a good, conventional wife. Instead she divorces her husband and acquires a female lover. Annie experiences a profound freedom in these acts. She becomes fully realized, finds the ending she has been searching for to her novel, becomes replete with words, and the author of her own fate. Ina, however, suffers a debilitating depression treated with electroshock therapy that empties her, “like a balloon at the end of a party” (Ana Historic 149). She is “a character flattened by destiny, caught between the covers of a book” (150). Marlatt’s message is not subtle: patriarchy ruins women and liberation from traditional definitions of womanhood is vital.

In an interview following the publication of her 1996 novel, Taken, Marlatt says:

... when I finished writing Ana Historic I realized that I wanted to go back and talk about the mother figure. I felt that she was too much a victim figure in Ana Historic and that there wasn’t enough of her past to explain why she was like that. (Kossew 50)

Marlatt’s subsequent novel, Taken is a re-imagining of an expecting and new mother’s life in WWII Australia during the Japanese invasion of Malaya. In Taken, the contemporary narrator reconstructs her mother’s life via snippets of memory, imagination, told stories and described photographs. It has the feel of autobiography. Marlatt’s own mother was stranded in Australia where she did give birth to Daphne (née Buckle) in 1942. Marlatt’s deceased mother, Edrys Buckle, however, is not Taken’s Esme. Marlatt assures us is in her acknowledgements that:

[t]he personages in Taken are characters, fictionalized beyond the ordinary fictionalizing “memories” assume. They do, however, have their roots in family stories as well as documentary.... (131)

Marlatt’s poetry and novels are semi-autobiographical psychological prose poetry, or a genre she calls “fictionalysis.”

Autobiography is not separable from poetry for me on this ground i would call fictionalysis: a self-analysis that plays fictively with the primary images of one’s life, a fiction that uncovers analytically that territory where fact and fiction coincide. (Readings from the Labyrinth 124)

Taken, by Daphne Marlatt

In every rendering by Marlatt of a mother figure autobiography, fiction, mythology, and history are deeply complicit. In Marlatt’s oeuvre the mother figure goes by many names: in How Hug a Stone she is Tino. In Ana Historic she is Ina and in Taken, Esme. Most often though, the narrative addresses the mother in the second person: “you” or “you, Mother.” In every work the mother figure shares the autobiographical context of Marlatt’s own mother’s life. She is an English expatriate living in Malaysia and then Vancouver. Though very present in Marlatt’s writing, the mother is always deceased. In Zócalo and Month of Hungry Ghosts she is sometimes a Goddess of the underworld or of long ago, and sometimes a historical person remembered.

“I like rubbing the edges of document and memory/fiction against one another,” says Marlatt. “I like the friction that is produced...” (Kossew 55-56). The blurring of fact and fiction, or story and autobiography, that is so characteristically Marlatt draws attention to the constructedness of such categories and in turn, emphasizes Marlatt’s authorial power in picking and choosing whether or not to observe the “rules” of writing within those categories.

Critics Green and LeBihan aptly say of Marlatt that, “(h)er writing is always a blend of what one might call, on one hand, fiction or poetry and, on the other, theoretical treatise (6).” Marlatt, a proponent of the French feminist school of thought, certainly has theoretical imperatives for making the mother figure so prominent in her work. Says French feminist, and psychoanalytic theorist Luce Irigaray:

In our societies, the mother-daughter, daughter-mother relationship constitutes a highly explosive nucleus. Thinking it, and changing it, is equivalent to shaking the foundations of the patriarchal order. (50)

Marlatt is an Irigarian and one reason she writes about the mother figure is to conscientiously answer Irigaray’s call to imbue the oft-neglected mother-daughter relationship with the power both women feel it deserves. As a female author, Marlatt’s act of writing about the mother-daughter relationship at all is understood, from an Irigarian perspective, as heretical, subversive, and profoundly feminist. Because Marlatt writes for an academic readership she can reasonably expect her readers to recognize this intention as part of her “theoretical treatise.” 

Besides the theoretical imperatives Marlatt has for writing about the mother-daughter relationship, personal reasons for delving into it in her later writing must also exist. It is after the death of her mother that Marlatt’s work becomes very mother-centric.  It is certainly not unusual for the mourning of a loved-one to profoundly affect an author’s writing. Coming out as a lesbian and becoming a feminist, another self-described “upheaval” in Marlatt’s life, followed the death of her mother. It is interesting, and very human, that Marlatt is compelled to reconcile her coming out with her deceased mother throughout her later work.

In a letter published in Readings from the Labyrinth, Marlatt muses about:

an area i’ve been investigating for some time now, mother-daughter relationships, particularly fraught when the daughter is lesbian & the mother committed to self-definition through conventional notions of femininity. (214-215)

The mother figures in Ana Historic and Taken criticize the narrator/daughter for rejecting the conventional notions of femininity that they tried to inculcate in her. Likewise, the narrators/daughters criticize their mothers for trying to foist this constructed, sexist version of femininity on them. These representations seem to point to the writer grappling with her own sense of guilt for letting her mother down by not becoming what she had hoped she would be, as well as an anger towards the mother for trying to force her to be anything less than what she is, that is, a fully realized woman instead of a proper wife and lady. “Proper, she says, Lady capitalized, and it is barely sounded, the relationship between proper and property” (Ana Historic 32). Says Marlatt:

The struggle for psychic survival is, and often and not least at the hands of our mothers who cannot accept our deviancy from the narrow path they trod. (Readings from the Labyrinth  45)

There is another sense of guilt in Marlatt’s novels whereby the daughter/narrator feels she has failed her mother by not being able to salvage her from the sexist milieu in which she existed. All this guilt smacks of authenticity – perhaps because it is real in an autobiographical sense, and certainly because Marlatt’s fiction is well written. The mother-daughter relationship is tense because the two women have different objectives and values: they are opposites, and not repeated characterizations of essentially the same woman.

A feminist, psychoanalytic critique of Western culture is that it is predicated on the symbolic murder of the mother by her daughter. The mother-daughter relationship is systematically ignored by masculinist culture, because, as Irigaray points out, every daughter must sever ties with her mother in order to replace her in the Freudian sphere of desire for the father. It is thusly that a patriarchal social order is repeated and reinscribed through generations of women. The silencing or ignoring of mothers by mass culture constitutes a type of symbolic matricide that is crucial to the construction of patriarchy (Kelso 13-14).

In Ana Historic the narrator describes, “my mother ... soft breast under blue wool dressing gown, tea breath, warm touch ... gone” (10). “I-na, I-no-longer [...] she. a part struck off from me. apart. separated” (11). The mother is irrevocably severed from the daughter, silenced and trapped in a (I-na) story with an unhappy ending, “caught between the covers of a book” (150).

At first glance, the narrative reinscribes precisely the patriarchal violence feminists are so critical of upon the mother figure who is irrevocably “struck off” from her daughter, shut-down and shut-up. But Marlatt’s rendering of this story does several things. Instead of ignoring the symbolic murder of the mother the text draws the reader’s attention to the brutality inherent in patriarchal culture where “they erased whole parts of you, [Mother,] shocked them out” (148). Also, paradoxically, in describing Ina’s absence, the mother figure becomes very present in the narrative. “soft breast under blue wool dressing gown, tea breath, warm touch ...” (11). Marlatt’s writing teems with vivid descriptions of mothers who, like Ina, are very present in their absence.

One essential and recurring tension in Marlatt’s work is that she wishes to disavow all the patriarchal conditioning handed down to daughters by mothers, “o the cultural labyrinth of our inheritance, mother to daughter to mother ...,” without disavowing the mother entirely, without robbing her of agency, and without silencing her (Ana Historic 24). As a staunch and vocal supporter of the patriarchy that ultimately erases her, Ina was an active player in her own demise. To deny the mother’s part in the plot would be as effective as any other sort of symbolic matricide. According to Marlatt it is her mother who, in regards to patriarchy:

...not only taught the formulae but defined herself and would define me according to the rigidities of those conventions. Mother as first love and first source of love; mother as first model of how to be someone marked female. (Readings from the Labyrinth 221)

Marlatt strives to abdicate “the formulae” that her mother, and fictional mothers, defined themselves by, and tried to define their daughters by, without abdicating the mother herself. This is tricky territory to navigate and tensions are further convoluted by Marlatt’s relationship to language. Like the mother figure, language is fundamental to Marlatt yet, because it is rife with patriarchal biases and violence, is also highly problematic.

In Ana Historic Marlatt describes:

the sins of the mothers.  hating our bodies as if they had betrayed us.  but the words for our bodies betrayed us in the very language we learned at school:  ‘cunt,’ ‘slit,’ ‘boob’ (‘you boob, you dumb broad’) ...‘got the curse,’ ‘falling off the roof.’ catastrophic phrases we used that equally betrayed us. handed down from friend to friend, sister to sister, mother to daughter. hand-me-downs, too small for what i really felt. (62)

Language, like the mother-daughter relationship, is highly charged and full of anti-feminist implications that are passed down to women by women. Poetically, Marlatt fuses these dual problems into one as she compares being bound in, created by, and dependent on language to being bound in, created by, and dependent on the mother both physically and psychically. Marlatt deploys the term “mothertongue” to emphasize this relationship and insists that “like the mother’s body, language is larger than us and carries us along with it. it bears us, it births us, insofar as we bear with it” (Readings from the Labyrinth 11).

Marlatt, like any author, has a deep love and respect for language. She clearly enjoys playing with double-meanings and etymology. But at the same time language is problematic because it can never belong solely to the author and suit precisely and only her purpose. Says Annie to her mother, Ina: “my very words. // impasse: ‘my very words’ were yours” (Ana Historic 23). And she understands language to be, like the mother figure, traitorous: “words, that shifting territory. never one’s own, full of deadfalls and hidden claims to a reality others have made” (Ana Historic 32).

Taken, by Daphne Marlatt

Another layer of complexity tensioning Marlatt’s relationship with the mother figure and with language, or the mothertongue, is Marlatt’s discomfiture with her mother’s Englishness, which she associates with imperialism. Marlatt’s narrator in Ghost Works visits England, her (the narrator’s and Marlatt’s) mother’s homeland and the colonial Mother Country. There, the narrator voices a desire:

to rip out of myself all the colonialisms, the taint of colonial sets of mind. That’s why as kids we hated everything “English”—not because it was English but because we equated what was English with a colonialist attitude.
(Ghost Works 92)

England and the English language are guilty of contemporary and historical violence, both sexist and imperialist, which Marlatt condemns. She is unable to denounce “English” and “Englishness,” however, without implicating her mother and her self. English is, after all, to Marlatt:

the beginning: language, a living body we enter at birth [...] placental [...] that body of language we speak, our mothertongue.  it bears us as we are born in it, into cognition. (Readings from the Labyrinth 9-10)

And of course, the very tool she uses to condemn Englishness is English. As Annie bemoans to her English mother: “impasse: ‘my very words’ were yours” (Ana Historic 23).

Marlatt’s work never resolves tensions between the narrative/narrator and the mother figure or the mothertongue. Her narratives, instead, multiply, convolute, and exacerbate such tensions. Her portrayals of the mother-daughter relationship are not utopian; they are highly tensioned. 

Luce Irigaray urges feminists to create public and “beautiful images of that natural and spiritual couple, the mother-daughter” in order to counter the masculinist symbology in which the daughter must always and necessarily sever herself from or “kill” her mother in order to take her place and continue the patriarchal social order (Irigaray 189). In critique of Irigaray’s desire for beautiful and utopian renderings of the mother-daughter relationship scholar Amber Jacobs asserts:

Idealization of the mother-daughter relationship is just as dangerous as its systematic denigration; it remains within the same paradigm that functions in accordance with the male imaginary that appropriates the maternal as the mute grounding of the very possibility of its discourse. (Jacobs 6)

Marlatt’s depictions of the mother-daughter relationship are hardly “beautiful” in a utopian sense. They are complex and tense. One of Marlatt’s primary tactics is to create a flawed narrative of flawed constructs and one such is the relationship between two flawed characters, a mother and a daughter. This tension ensures that Marlatt’s mother figures are not a mute backdrop upon which the old story, the symbolic murder of the mother so that her daughter may take her place in the sphere of desire for the father, plays out. Marlatt’s lesbian heroines cannot be said, in any reading, to enter into the sphere of desire for the father. In fact, it is the mother for whom they are ardently searching, with whom they desire to reconnect, who they work to reinvent, and remember:

to write her, reach her, bring her bodily out of the nothing which is not nothing because she is there, leaning against me on the other side of a thing membrane that separates, so thin we communicate, but not in words. (Taken 21)

Desire for the mother is a major theme in Marlatt’s feminist works. A subtle, but surely intentional eroticization of the Mother becomes evident in her poetics. Paraphrasing the ideas of French feminist writers whose work Marlatt is very familiar with, including Kristeva, Irigaray, Cixous and Wittig, Rosalind Jones describes an important component of l’écriture féminine as resistance “in the form of jouissance, that is, in the direct reexperience of the physical pleasure of infancy and of later sexuality, repressed but not obliterated by the Law of the Father” (2).  Jouissance, or a “blissful infantile fusion with [the mother]” is certainly a trope in Marlatt’s Taken where love-making and infancy are conflated throughout the text (Jones 2).  In Taken, the narrator refers to both her absent mother and her absent lover in the second person as “you.” It is up to the reader to discern from context which “you” (mother or lover?) she is addressing but not always possible to do so with certainty. The text contains several descriptions of intimacy: “How could i plant my hand around your breast, suck your nipple into grandeur as we spilled into luxuriant time” (Taken 38). But all such descriptions could be read as either the intimacy between two women making love or between a breastfeeding mother and infant. “I want to sink beyond place, lost, in the “o” my lips make around the smooth berry of your nipple.” (Taken 8).

Conflating lovemaking and mother/infant bonding is as much a theoretical tactic, for Marlatt, as a poetic one. Desire for the mother, not the father, is essential to Marlatt’s work of inverting the Freudian formula so that lesbian instead of heterosexual desire is produced.

Marlatt’s protagonists often claim to be breaking the patriarchal scripts. The narrator of Taken tells her female lover that they are “(b)reaking the marriage script [...]we each were meant to perpetuate” (77). But she also concedes that “so many strands of the old scripts that compose us wove the narrative” (77). She insists that the women “carry marriage stories in our blood, our mothers’ stories shadowing the ones we’re trying to invent” (47).  There is a sense that an entirely clean slate is not within the realm of possibility. The only recourse “when you’re so framed” is to “step inside the story and open it up” (Ana Historic 56). But, “I’m reaching for another kind of story”, says Taken’s narrator, “a story of listening way back in the body” (25).

That desire for the mother is bodily, and that, like Irigaray and other French feminists who strive towards an écriture féminine, Marlatt’s entire poetics is grounded in the female body is one of Marlatt’s principal narrative tactics. As Jones describes the school of thought:

(T)he immediacy with which the body, the id,  jouissance, are supposedly experienced promises a clarity of perception and a vitality that can bring down mountains of phallocentric delusions. Finally, to the extent that the female body is seen as a direct source of female writing, a powerful alternative discourse seems possible: to write from the body is to re-create the world. (5)

Marlatt imbues her prose and poetry with erotic desire, “hot skin writing skin”, and more specifically with lesbian desire, to emphasize that the author is a she and that meaning is being constructed not by a phallocentric creator, but by a female body (Ana Historic,153). In her theoretical essay, “Musing with Mothertounge,” Marlatt asks:

how can the separate nouns “mother” and “baby” convey the fusion, bleeding womb-infant mouth, she experiences in those first days of feeding? what syntax can carry the turning herself inside out in love when she is both sucking mouth and hot gush on her lover’s tongue? (Readings from the Labyrinth 13).

In the above excerpt, the points of view of mother, lover and infant are intentionally conflated. Further, the genital and oral acts of each are described in and just as importantly, as the same pen stroke. The genital acts of love-making and giving birth are, to Marlatt, poetically the same as the oral acts of speaking, drinking milk, and love-making. In Ana Historic Marlatt describes a woman’s genitals during childbirth as:

a mouth working its own articulate urge, opening deep – a massive syllable of slippery flesh sliding out the open mouth...What words are there?  If it could speak!  – As indeed it did:  it spoke the babe, and then the afterbirth, a bleeding mass of meat...mouth speaking this other language so difficult to translate. (Ana Historic 126)

Because Marlatt ascribes language to the act of childbirth, every human body (mother/infant/lover) becomes proof of women’s speaking presence. Since flesh is equivalent to language and birthing to speaking or writing, Marlatt’s poetics is a space in which mothers can never be silent or be silenced. It is a space where:

verbal communication (contact, sharing) is a link with the body’s physicality: matter (the import of what you say) and matter and by extension mother; language and tongue; to utter and outer (give birth again): a part of speech and a part of the body; pregnant with meaning; to mouth (speak) and the mouth with which we also eat and make love; sense (meaning) and that with which we sense the world; to relate (a story) and to relate to somebody, related (carried back) with its connection with bearing (a child); intimate and to intimate. (Readings from the Labyrinth, 11)

Marlatt’s relationship to language, to the mothertongue, is complex. She asserts that narrative and language is what violently binds women to traditionally confining roles; “break out before it buries us,” she urges, “stories can kill” (Ana Historic 163). But Marlatt also affirms that women’s writing and speech is ultimately liberating. She challenges women “to be free, have scope, do what you like, go at unnamed, walk unwritten, de-scripted, un-described.  or else compose, make it say itself, make it up” (Ghost Works 149). Language is the problem and the solution at once. Narrative is a powerful tool, one that can repress or redeem. These tensions and paradoxes are mirrored in Marlatt’s mother/daughter relationships. The mother is someone who tyrannizes, constricts, and enforces the patriarchal order, and also someone who loves and nourishes. Mother is both victim of patriarchy and architect of her own demise. The mother/daughter relationship is not resolvable in Marlatt’s poetics and this is of utmost importance because a lack of resolution is precisely what makes the mother/daughter relationship a locus of desire. Desire for the mother is one recurring element which fuels Marlatt’s narratives, which gives the narrative its urgency and necessity.

one word of no earthly use, “mother”— / you knew the dark, conspiracy, how they keep power in their hands, unnamed [...] you taught me fear but not how to fight. you, mispelled, gave yourself to the dark of some other light, leaving me here with the words, with fear, love, & a need to keep speaking. (Ghost Works, 128)

Green and LeBihan, in a 1994 essay published after Ana Historic but before Taken, argue that “the text [Ana Historic] resists easy assimilation into a pattern provided by any one psychoanalytic metanarrative” (4).  It does so, they argue, by insisting upon “(t)he labyrinthine quality of the mother-daughter relationship,” and by showing: “this relationship to be something that is difficult to navigate, something winding, intertwining, doubling back: an unmapped territory that marks out the threatening, fantastic, ultimately unrepresentable aspects of the matrix under patriarchy” (6). The complex nature of the mother-daughter relationship and the fact that “(f)or Annie, reconstructing her mother’s a painful process of both dutiful observance and rebellion,” is what enables Marlatt, Green and LeBihan affirm, to resist “the smothering of seamless identification with a single, all-embracing, maternal feminist theory” (4). I will certainly not argue that Green and LeBihan’s well-constructed and appealing argument is naive in respects to Ana Historic, however, considering the pattern that is established throughout Marlatt’s later work; in the travelogue and poetry cycles that make up Ghost Works; in Ana Historic; in Taken; and in Marlatt’s theoretical essays, especially “Musing with Mothertongue”; and even in her private communications made public in Readings from the Labyrinth (1998, also after the publication of Green and LeBihan’s essay), it becomes very apparent that the texts do create and recreate a repeating pattern of psychoanalytic metanarrative in which lesbian desire is articulated via the perpetual absence and longing for the mother figure. This pattern is not subtle and does not, I am certain, intend to be. It is precisely the absence of the mother that creates desire in Marlatt’s texts, that fills her work with “words, with fear, love, & a need to keep speaking” (Ghost Works, 128). 

Green and LeBihan argue that Marlatt’s mother-daughter relationships are fraught so that she can resist the criticism du jour (circa the 1990’s), “the accusation of essentialism, that big ‘Baddie’ of contemporary criticism” (4). I am unconvinced that Marlatt is trying to evade being labelled essentialist; I don’t believe she does, or should give much credence to the charge. In a journal entry dated August, 1989, Marlatt writes:

& of course there’s the essentialism rap: that i’m stuck in “the conceptual frame of a universal sex opposition” –applied to what is, among other things, a coming-out novel! L. overlooks the real social context that coming-out occurs in (that gender-opposition frame so deeply engrained it constructs “woman”) ―& why it can be such a long struggle to own your lesbian desire. not to mention how owning it alters how you see that frame. (Readings from the Labyrinth 128)

Marlatt’s identity as a lesbian (someone who is, by definition, always a female) is crucial to her authorial self. In the above journal entry she reveals her belief that the act of coming-out, of declaring lesbian desire and of construing the world from within the context of that desire is an overtly and profoundly feminist act. Marlatt does not wish to write from a place where her lesbian desire and her position as a female author is irrelevant. Rather, she emphasizes her empowerment as someone who is “giving words, giving birth”, writing from a place that only women can, from the female body (Ana Historic 152).

Marlatt’s text is strewn with allusions to French feminist thought and psychoanalytic symbolism so that readers can engage with the material to discover how important and urgent it is for her to write from within a lesbian erotics and from within a space in which women cannot be silenced. By creating a recurrent pattern of the construction of lesbian sexual identity signified by desire for the mother, she is emphasizing the constructedness of sexual identity itself. In emphasizing the constructedness of sexual identity she also emphasizes her authorial power as a specifically female creator of sexual identity and meaning.  All of her later “fictionalysis” emphasizes the female-sexed position from which she is writing and perpetually and self-reflexively deploys the mother to create a narrative space in which l’écriture féminine is possible. Marlatt writes from a passionate belief that creating such a space in which “giving words” is akin to “giving birth”, that “hot skin writing skin”, can topple phallocentric discourse.

Works Cited

Green, Keith and Jill LeBihan. “The Speaking Object: Daphne Marlatt’s pronouns and lesbian poetics.Style 28.3 (Fall 1994).

Harvey, Roseanne. “Opening Out.” Ascent 35 (2007).

Irigaray, Luce. “Women-Mothers, the Silent Substratum of the Social Order.” The Irigaray Reader. Oxford: 1991.

Jacobs, Amber. “The Potential of Theory: Melanie Klein, Luce Irigaray, and the Mother-Daughter.” Hypatia 22.3 (Summer 2007): 175-194.

Jones, Rosalind Anne. “Writing the Body: Toward an Understanding of l’Écriture féminine.Feminist Studies 7.2 (Summer 1981): 247-263.

Kelso, Julie. “Representing Mothers.” Hecate 32.2 (2006): 4-20.

Kossew, Sue. “History and Place: an interview with Daphne Marlatt.” Canadian Literature 178 (Autumn 2003): 49-56.

Marlatt, Daphne. Ana Historic. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1988.

_____. Ghost Works. Edmonton: NeWest Publishers, 1993.

_____. Taken. Concord, ON: House of Anansi Press, 1996.

_____. Readings from the Labyrinth. Smaro Kamboureli, Editor. Edmonton: NeWest Press, 1998.

Works Consulted

Barbour, Douglas. “Daphne Marlatt (1942-).” ECW’s Biographical Guide to
Canadian Poets. Lecker et. all, Editors. toronto: ECW Press, 1993.

Bunting, Pauline and Susan Rudy. “A Conversation with Daphne Marlatt.”
POETS talk. Edmonton: The University of Alberta Press, 2005.

De Lauretis, Teresa. The Practice of Love: Lesbian Sexuality and Perverse
 Desire. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

Marlatt, Daphne. Net Work: Selected Writing. With an introduction by Fred Wah,
Editor. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1980.

_____. What Matters. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1980.

_____. Touch to My Tounge. Edmonton: Longspoon Press, 1984.

Updated February 12 2015 by Student & Academic Services

AU, CANADA'S OPEN UNIVERSITY, is an internationally recognized leader in online and distance learning.