Women writers and the avant-garde's fascination with science

By Harriet Staff

Helen Hajnoczky writes on her blog about the intersection of gender politics and science in terms of poetry. She argues that because so many young women are pushed away from these areas of study, the renewed interest in the sciences in experimental poetry implicitly shoos women away from the avant-garde:

I am becoming increasingly curious about the gender implications of the increasing popularity of computer, math, and science as subject matter in experimental writing…There are two reasons I think the seemingly neutral subject matter actually carries a lot of gender baggage. The first reason has to do with the place of women in computer sciences, engineering, sciences, and math, and the second reason has to do with women’s alienation from their bodies.

Hajnoczky goes on to argue that the alienation women experience necessitates a feminist writing of the body, which may be antithetical to more space-age abstractions:

The increased popularity of a poetics of alienation in the internet age rubs up against this problem. Being alienated from your body is not particularly new for women. A poetics of math, science, and computers can risk a level of abstraction and alienation from the physical world that rejects women’s continued struggle to appropriate their bodies.

Originally Published: March 10th, 2011