Author Date

2020-6

Degree Name

BA

Department

English

College

Humanities

Defense Date

2020-06-26

Publication Date

2020-07-06

First Faculty Advisor

Dr. Trent Hickman

First Faculty Reader

Dr. Rachel Cope

Honors Coordinator

Dr. John Talbot

Keywords

Mormonism, contemporary American poetry, women's writing, poststructuralism, embodiment, feminism

Abstract

Literary theorists like Hélène Cixous and other French feminists have written about l’écriture feminine, a deconstructive force which allows female writers more freedom from male-dominated areas. Because Christianity has been historically male-dominated, Christian women have long used this idea to great effect, using their writing as a space in which they are free to assert power and authority. Mormonism, which arose in the 1830s during the Second Great Awakening, has grown to reinforce a patriarchal model for both family and church leadership, making Cixous’ separate space of writing necessary for Mormon women of the twenty-first century. The Mormon poet Rachel Hunt Steenblik’s volume Mother’s Milk explores the idea of a feminine God, using poetry to teach theology with authority she is not afforded in traditional church spaces. Hunt Steenblik uses traditionally feminine themes alongside phrases and stories familiar to Mormon audiences to establish her authority as a Mormon woman. In doing this, she makes a space for theological ideas outside mainstream ecclesiastical authority, which is denied to women in the Mormon church. Hunt Steenblik’s poems explore the connection between femininity and God through the embodied experience of birth and a mother-daughter relationship to validate female religious authority as well as align the author with male prophetic leaders and mimic language from Mormon scripture to broaden the Mormon definition of divinity and leadership. Hunt Steenblik’s work asserts the need for redemption of humanity as a whole as well as of the feminine divine and female religious power.

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