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Uncovers heretofore overlooked influences and connections in the evolution of Frost's poetry

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Table of Contents:

  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction: "Plainly the most deceptive poet"
  • "The faded flowers gay": feminine Frost and the sentimental tradition
  • "The feminine way of it": Frost's homely affiliations
  • "Lightning or a scribble": bewitched by the mother tongue
  • "Button, button
  • ": becoming a man's man
  • "No sissy poem": reinventing the (lyric) poet
  • Coda: "An impregnable harbor for the self"
  • Notes
  • Index.


In spite of Robert Frost's continuing popularity with the public, the poet remains an outsider in the academy, where more "difficult" and "innovative" poets like T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound are presented as the great American modernists. Robert Frost and Feminine Literary Tradition considers the reason for this disparity, exploring the relationship between notions of popularity, masculinity, and greatness. Karen Kilcup reveals Frost's subtle links with earlier "feminine" traditions like "sentimental" poetry and New England regionalist fiction, traditions fostered by such well-known women precursors and contemporaries as Lydia Sigourney, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Mary E. Wilkins Freeman. She argues that Frost altered and finally obscured these "feminine" voices and values that informed his earlier published work, and that to appreciate his achievement fully, we need to recover and acknowledge the power of his affective, emotional voice in counterpoint and collaboration with his more familiar ironic and humorous tones.
Robert Frost and Feminine Literary Tradition also explores the links between cultural femininity and homoeroticism in Frost's work, and investigates the conjunctions and disjunctions between Frost and such modernist women poets as Amy Lowell and Edna St. Vincent Millay. The book contributes to ongoing debates about sentimentalism, regionalism, modernism, and the cultural construction of gender in American literature of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With its interest in popular magazines, folktales, gossip, and children's literature, the book also engages elements of cultural studies and popular culture.
"Kilcup demonstrates a remarkably thorough understanding of issues raised by feminist critics over the past few decades. . . . Fascinating and convincing." --Jay Parini, Middlebury College
Karen L. Kilcup is Associate Professor of American Literature, University of North Carolina, Greensboro.