‘Who are we when we read?’: Keats, Klein, Cixous, and Elizabeth Cook’s Achilles

Vanda Zajko

in Laughing with Medusa

Published in print January 2008 | ISBN: 9780199237944
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191706455 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

‘Who are we when we read?’: Keats, Klein, Cixous, and Elizabeth Cook’s Achilles

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This chapter examines the part that identification plays in specifically feminist engagements with texts and how it has enabled mythical characters to provide such a potent resource for women. It uses a Kleinian model of identification to understand the trans-historical power of myth. In particular, it looks at the phenomenon of cross-gendered identification and explores its manifestation in a variety of poetic and theoretical contexts. The chapter focuses on one mythological character, the Homeric hero Achilles, and four very different texts: Elizabeth Cook's poetic novel Achilles; a letter of the poet John Keats in which he explains to his brother and sister-in-law why he hopes he will never marry; the French feminist theorist Hélène Cixous's ‘Sorties’ section of The Newly Born Woman; and Melanie Klein's extension of Freud's concept of phantasy, particularly as it relates to the unconscious.

Keywords: myth; identification; feminism; Achilles; Elizabeth Cook; John Keats; poetry; Melanie Klein; Hélène Cixous; phantasy

Chapter.  9062 words. 

Subjects: Religion in the Ancient World

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