This dissertation explores the interconnectedness of language and related cultural texts and women’s subjectivity. The poststructuralist feminist enterprise of examining and critiquing language and signifying practices for the ways in which they impose social values and of interrogating and undermining the fixity of meanings in cultural texts will serve as my primary frame. Concerned with the individual (gendered) consciousness, poststructuralist feminist theory of subject formation posits that while language, along with ideologically biased texts of the culture, construct subjects, language and the cultural texts also serve as sites of resistance for the deconstruction and reconception of individual and collective subjectivities. Because for many poststructuralist feminists, the language of poetry serves as the vehicle par excellence for the revisioning of language, texts, and subjectivity, a study of the way language relates to subject formation can find fertile ground in a focus on the language of poetry.
I center my discussion on the role of language and cultural texts in subject formation around the poetry of Diane Wakoski, who experiments with postmodern parody, linguistic intertextualization, and remythologization. Wakoski’s intertextualization and remythologization of cultural texts enables the revisioning process of reconceiving the possibilities of women’s subjectivities. Wakoski, through recursive postmodern parody, installs, explores, undermines, and remythologizes a pastiche of texts: traditional, biblical, personal, and cultural myths; cultural icons from history and popular culture; scientific treatises and commentary on art; the architecture of the casino and the landscape of the desert; elements of personal biography, memories, and letters.
I interrogate and remythologize Wakoski’s texts by recursively visiting key stories, myths, allusions, and themes to demonstrate how Wakoski’s poetic language and intertextual technique reflect the process by which women can be both victimized by cultural texts bent on determining their identities and liberated by a renovation of the defining parameters of language. I analyze Wakoski’s poetry to discern ways women have been interpellated through language to set roles, relationships, performances, self-perceptions, and even bodies. Language and the cultural texts themselves serve as sites where women can contest the ways in which their subjectivities have been conceived and where these subjectivities can be revisioned.