The Female Homer opens with simple questions: Are there any women's epic poems? If so, what are the central characteristics of these epics, and how do they relate to the traditional vision of epic poetry as male-authored and masculinist, as powerful and patriarchal? The book explores relations among women's epic poems over a great span—from the ancient Sumerian Descent of Inanna to Rita Dove, from the oral epics of the Russian bylinists to contemporary "language" poets. Through brief, accessible chapters, the book opens up the mythic structure of women's epic, developing its relations with feminism and patriarchy, with religion and democracy, with the personal and the political, with its literary grandmothers and its grandfathers. The Female Homer, though aware of the divergences, focuses on bringing together the strong affinities between these diverse epic voices. In doing so, it charts—for the first time—the otherwise invisible tradition of women's epic. Jeremy M. Downes is Associate Professor of English at Auburn University.
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