Lorine Niedecker, Simone de Beauvoir, and the Sexual Ethics of Experience

G. Matthew Jenkins, University of Tulsa
Vol. 23, No. 2 (Fall 2004), 311-337

This essay argues for enlarged attention to the ethical in women’s writing. The argument focuses on a particular woman poet, Lorine Niedecker, who has remained relatively unknown despite her overtly ethical and stylistically innovative poetics. The essay shows how Simone de Beauvoir’s feminist ethics can contribute to understanding Niedecker and how Niedecker departs from a Beauvoir-ian ethics. Sharing with Beauvoir a focus on particularity and singularity, Niedecker nonetheless also embraces otherness and alterity where Beauvoir rejected them. Yet for Niedecker, otherness is also not constituted by dialectical opposition to the self or subjectivity, but rather exists beyond such binaries. Thus Niedecker finds an opportunity for freedom in sexual difference, and a sexed body that is intimately infused with an infinite alterity.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]