Chapter 6 The Return of the Voice: Holocaust and Jewish Roots in Adrienne Rich’s Testimonial Poems

In: Jews in Dialogue
Tian Zhang
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Adrienne Rich, one of the most accomplished American poets, lesbian feminists and critics, has published more than fifteen volumes of poetry and several collections of essays. A persisting feature in most of her works is the interweaving and interaction of poetry, history and politics. She was not so “political” in her early writings in 1950s as in her mid and late writings. Her radical lesbian-feminist voice was prevailing in her writings of 1970s like Diving into the Wreck (1973), Of Woman Born: Motherhood as an Experience and Institution (1976), and The Dream of a Common Language (1978). And in the 1980s, the central themes of her later poetry are the problems of national and ethnic identity (especially Jewishness), history, death and the passing of time. As a daughter of a Gentile mother and a Jewish father who is not so willing to acknowledge his Jewish identity, Rich’s poems and her own life experiences are mostly bound around conflicting themes of identity and assimilation. Indeed, she discusses the political, historical and biographical realities in her poems. Rich regrets the muteness of Jewishness in her family and she suffers from a sense of guilt and fury with the absence of Jewish education in her family. This article shows how Rich’s biographical experience, her Jewish roots and the Holocaust are displayed in two of her testimonial poems “Sources” and “Contradiction.”

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Jews in Dialogue

Jewish Responses to the Challenges of Multicultural Contemporaneity. Free Ebrei Volume 2

Series:  Studies in Jewish History and Culture, Volume: 61 and  Free Ebrei, Volume: 61


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