• Nancy Spero: I Do Not

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    Nancy Spero: I Do Not

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Abstract

This paper examines Nancy Spero’s tripartite engagement with the modernist poet H.D. and, in particular, the artist’s turn to the quasi-epic poem Helen in Egypt. Foregrounding three works on paper completed in 1979 – Perhaps She Was Right, H.D. Fragments and Notes in Time – all of which draw quotes from H.D.’s poem, I ask what H.D. bequeaths Spero at a pivotal moment in the career of an artist who, following the completion of Notes in Time, would altogether reject the voice and image of man in her artistic practice. Looking at these three works in relation to H.D.’s poem, my argument is twofold. Firstly, I argue that Spero’s turn to H.D. marks a moment of thinking with the writer, an Irigarayan exchange between two that allows Spero to generate a vocal space where woman becomes protagonist and narrator of her own history. Secondly, theorising Spero’s move, I emphasise that Spero turns rather than returns to H.D., a semantic shift with both temporal and spatial implications which circumvents an Oedipal model of influence to reach for a multidirectional series of relations. Spero’s gesture, her turn to H.D., begins a mode of expression-with another which generates a space of possible encounters and multiplicity, a decisive move away from what Irigaray has theorised as a male libidinal economy founded upon an exchange of the Same. The artist brings H.D. with her and this turn, this horizontal glance announces the stride into the beyond as a collective endeavour.

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Published on
02 Dec 2020
Peer Reviewed