Elizabeth Bishop, The Unhomely, and the Unaccommodated Other

Dr Terri K Borchers
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Homi K. Bhabha raises a most important issue with regard to the application of post-colonial theory to Bishop’s poetry when he writes about the characteristics of a text produced by the “epic intention of the civilizing mission” (Fountain 297). In Questions of Travel and Geography III, Bishop positions herself as a woman who writes about this civilizing mission, about colonialism and the conundrums of class politics, even though women never have been allowed, according to the prescriptions of a male-dominated canon, the authority to take on such quintessentially male subjects (Friedman 1-3). Bishop addresses these issues of culture and identity, too, as one of the unhomely, as Bhabha describes, as one of those who cannot easily be accommodated in the familiar divisions of social and cultural life (Bhabha 9). As Bhabha helps the reader to understand, Bishop’s poems so very often share that “intervention of the beyond,” that “estranging sense of a relocation of the home and the world,” as well as the “unhomely moment” that requires the poet to take the measure of her dwelling in a state of “incredulous terror” (Bhabha 9). The meticulous detail of Bishop’s liminal poetics that constantly “skirt” or deconstruct the boundaries between public and private, personal and political, self and other also so very often disclose the terror of such estranging moments through recognition – a re-cognition or rethinking of the constantly shrinking, constantly changing global community that cannot adequately be mapped in a way that separates self from other, or a reader’s or writer’s present from the past, in a discursive and performative post-modern world in which “Everything’s only connected by ‘and’ and and” (Bishop 58).

Keywords: Post-colonialism, Feminist Criticism, Globalism, The Unhomely, Marginalized Other, Discursive Formation, Performative Self and Identity
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies, Globalisation, Ethnicity, Difference, Identity
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: Elizabeth Bishop and the Unhomely

Dr Terri K Borchers

Assistant Professor, Humanities, Medaille College

Ref: H06P0059