'Said to be a writer' : tradition, gender and identity in the poetry of Charlotte Mew
This thesis studies the poetry of Charlotte Mew (1869-1928) and explores how this still relatively obscure poet, writing at the turn of the last century, has a key role in any discussion of poetic tradition and ideas of gender and female identity as these are configured in the early twentieth century. This thesis examines why Mew's work has been condemned to obscurity in spite of her comparative success during her own lifetime and goes on to suggest that the very reasons for her rejection from the literary canon - the critical approbation of her peers, biography and the problem of placement in literary culture - are the methods of exploring her true contribution to it. Chapters two to five study Mew's work from four different but related critical standpoints: the figure of the fallen woman, the Victorian women's poetic tradition, Modernism and impersonality and female Modernisms and ideas of the feminine sublime. One of the major problems in establishing Mew's work in the critical culture has been the difficulty in placing her as either a Victorian or a Modernist. This thesis studies her writing in both critical contexts suggesting that Mew's work challenges the absolute categories of the literary canon. The chapters are divided into a study of the critical arguments surrounding ideas of tradition and gender followed by a detailed textual study of her poems. Her poetry is compared to that of writers as diverse as D.G . Rossetti, Augusta Webster, Christina Rossetti, Robert Browning, T. S. Eliot and H. D. Through a constant balancing of Mew's individual voice and her place in the literary culture, I suggest that her work is integral to an understanding of literary tradition and that her work is central to discussions of gender poetics and female subjectivity in the twentieth century.