THE WORD WOMAN by Laura Jackson


and Other Related Writings
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 Laura (Riding) Jackson (1901-91) is being rediscovered with a vengeance: Within 18 months of her death, her early unpublished poems, her selected poems, a biography, and this collection of prose pieces (most previously unpublished) will have appeared. The central essays here, ``The Word `Woman,' '' takes up over half the volume. Written in Mallorca in the mid-1930's, the manuscript was abandoned there with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and returned to Jackson only in the 1970's. In the essay, she proposes to ``extricate'' woman from male mythological and historical perceptions of her, to examine the differences between the sexes to explain ``not only woman herself, but man as well,'' and to ``establish, finally, the unity of all being.'' Jackson is an arch dogmatist, proceeding by sweeping knowledge, uncorrupted by the historical realities, and her conclusion (``To be a woman finally is to be truth'') falls a little flat on a late-20th- century ear. But the essay does provide insight into her struggle as a woman writer against the effort of her long-time companion, Robert Graves, to capture her as his ``muse.'' Written decades after their breakup, her 1975 essay on Graves's treatise The White Goddess betrays the persistence of her effort to ``extricate'' her imagination from Graves's equally persistent mythologizing of ``woman.'' Also included here are an affected and unsatisfying short story, ``Woman as People''; a brisk parable, ``Eve's Side of It''; and a forbiddingly abstract 1974 piece entitled ``The Sex Factor in Social Progress.'' Unlike previous reprints of her stories and poetry, this collection exhibits neither the wit nor the genius that Jackson always claimed for herself, and that many others claim for her. For the cognoscenti only.

Pub Date: May 3rd, 1993
ISBN: 0-89255-184-4
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993