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david lloyd
Posted on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 10:13 am:   

I really enjoyed your essay on the muses.
I've never actually been able to understand much of the White Goddess, but I think it was an influence on me through Ted Hughes.
I'm interested that as a woman you think it's a notion that has validity. Feminist writers usually, quite rightly, point out that it's just another form of misogyny. I remember reading Angela Carter saying just that, initially it's flattering to be seen in these terms (as earth mother or earth goddess or white goddess or black goddess)but that it ultimately always reflects some sort of discomfort with "the feminine".
Peter Redgroves "The Black Goddess" is very good.
But he's from that generation that could read D H Lawrence and not feel slightly uncomfortable. He could swallow it whole. Like Ted Hughes or Fowles.
Anyway, that's what I thought was great about your essay. You acknowledge all that, that it's a misogynistic idea, but still see it as having a sort of relevance.
It's useful to me because you can use the relationship between a man and a woman to talk about anything. Especially as you said to talk about the relationship between the sacred and the profane.The woman always stands for the sacred inmy paintings. Perhaps that's what the muse is when you boil it down. Using a gender as a symbol. Or using the relationship between the genders as a metaphor.
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liz hand
Posted on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 08:26 am:   

David, many many thanks. I'm a great admirer of your work, and so immensely flattered you liked the essay. It's a tricky subject -- is anything that deals with sex NOT tricky? -- but I certainly think it has validity on an individual basis. I didn't get enough into the whole notion of male muses; not enough time. But as I mentioned *en passant*, I have my own muses. And someone like Neal Cassady managed to fire up most of the (male) Beats. At some point I'd like to take on that subject. It's what I'm delving into in my new novel, so we'll see what I come up with.

I guess it comes down to whatever works for one as an artist. In a lot of ways, I'm not enthralled with Fowles' work, but he's one of the few contemporary mainstream writers who at least acknowledged that there's a sense of Mystery to life, even if he wasn't able to escape the straitjacket of his upbringing and culture to explore it more deeply, without all the condescending misogynist baggage. People don't always like to admit (without being judgemental about it) that sex can be scary and messy and weird and transcendent, but that's what I find fuels much of my work. I think political correctness in art (as opposed to the workplace or the political arena) can be as much of a straitjacket as misognyny and gender chauvinism were for an earlier generation. If you're reading Ted Hughes and looking for political correctness, maybe you shouldn't be reading him.

I think you're dead-on when you say that the muse -- male, female, transgendered, whatever -- stands for the sacred. Works for me, anyway.
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paulw
Posted on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 10:39 am:   

Liz, where can I find a copy of this essay?

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liz hand
Posted on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 12:43 pm:   

My cuz! I tried calling you in NYC, your answering machine's not picking up ....

It's posted on my website: "The Beckoning Fair Ones."

Great to see you, as always ...

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