Selections from reviews of Rachel Blau DuPlessis, The Pink Guitar: Writing as Feminist Practice and Blue Studios: Poetry and its Cultural Work
On Blue Studios: Poetry as Cultural Work (2006)
“DuPlessis revels in the contradictory quality of this “both/and thinking,” the kind of complex dialectic that keeps feminism, both in spite and because of current disidentifications with it, alive and at work. DuPlessis’ provocative readings of Lorine Niedecker and Barbara Guest thrive on the cusp of empathy and ambivalence…. The fact that ‘the I is cast as a character in this text’ allows DuPlessis to mingle the essay’s arousal with criticism’s scrutiny (8). Feminist reception ‘puts no limit on the nature of the work’ to be analyzed, nor should it ever, as these pieces subtly demonstrate, keep the critical play of identification and distance behind the scenes (166).”
Libbie Rifkin “Working the Between: Sociopoesis and a Writing Life” [Review of Blue Studios]. Contemporary Literature 48.3 (Fall 2007): 468-473.
“Blue Studios, then, is vital reading for anyone interested in feminist literary and cultural studies.”
Ann Vickery. “Blue Studios: Poetry and Its Cultural Work by Rachel Blau DuPlessis.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 33, 2 (Winter 2008): 478-480.
“DuPlessis maintains this mixture of registers throughout Blue Studios. Her style is personal, always self-reflexively grounded in her experience of reading and thinking. She does not shy away from playfulness in the form of puns and etymological games or from formal extravagances such as passages of lineated verse; and she offers both theoretical sophistication and a hard-nosed critical edge. She is, in short, doubly committed to complex formal analysis and ideological assessment. It’s an all-too-rare combination to find in the writings of a literary scholar, and almost as rare to find in an essayist.” Mark Scroggins. “Postmodernist Poetry’s ‘Blue Period.’” Twentieth Century Literature October 2009
“This giddy and densely satisfying mélange of scholarship and melos typifies DuPlessis’s best work. Rich hybridity is especially evident in ‘f-words; An Essay on the Essay,’ where she both asserts and performs the inherently transgeneric and transgressive nature of the essay itself. Here DuPlessis’s yoking of selves, aesthetic forms, and gendered identities cross-implicates her topics and their discourses. In this essay, more than in any other in the collection, her urgent language and condensed analyses propel us through her text, constantly reminding us of the indissoluble relationships among writing, representation, and thought. ‘f-words’ functions as a kind of ars poetica for much of the volume, certainly for the best of it.”
Catherine Taylor. “Open Studios. Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s Blue Studios: Poetry and Its Cultural Work.” Postmodern Culture http://www.iath.virginia.edu/pmc/current.issue/18.1taylor.html
On The Pink Guitar: Writing as Feminist Practice (1990 and 2006)
“What is particularly powerful about The Pink Guitar is the way its readings of prior texts are simultaneously a form of critical intervention and poetic evocation. […] In her writing, DuPlessis allows herself as much critical and emotional range as possible–of didactic statement, poetic evocation, theoretical pronouncements, emotional equivocation, polished writing, and flattened speech. […] The supreme quality of The Pink Guitar is how insightfully and thoroughly DuPlessis understands the ways that gender relations are embedded within signifying practices–and how a feminist writing practice must disrupt these practices on multiple levels, in multiple ways. The Pink Guitar establishes a powerful feminist writing practice not because of DuPlessis’s refusal of authority, transcendence, and singularity, but because of the ways she redeploys these.” (pp. 322 and 324) Jeanne Heuving, in Contemporary Literature XXXVII, 2 (1996): 315-332.
“Postmodern criticism is marked most of all by ‘self-reflexivity’, by the interweaving of autobiography and theory. Rachel Blau DuPlessis is a spectacular exponent of this postmodern technique. In her essays DuPlessis makes daring combinations of her poetry and extracts from her daily diary together with literary criticism, history and psychoanalysis.” (p. 162) Maggie Humm, A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Feminist Criticism. Brighton: Harvester, 1994.
“With the dazzling, sometimes breathtaking The Pink Guitar, Rachel Blau DuPlessis has produced one of the boldest, most enlightening, innovative, challenging, and knowledgeable works of feminist theory to grace the last couple of decades….” (p. 385) Martha Nell Smith, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 13, 2 (Fall 1994): 385-388.
“This is one of the most pleasurable works of criticism I have read for years. These essays fuse disparate voices, colloquial, theoretical, autobiographical. They intercut DuPlessis’ own words with those of other writers and poets. They draw together aspects of being usually sundered in criticism, without imposing systems or closure.” […] Poetry, fiction, works of art, criticism, theory all appear as different kinds of attempts to make and unmake meanings [in The Pink Guitar]. Rachel Blau DuPlessis’ book continually asks rather than answers questions, hazards provisional phrasings which she continually reworks. She draws on a wide range of current theory, and is, in her own way, a rigorous thinker, but she is concerned with practice, hers and other’s.” (pp. 171 and 170) Helen Carr, in New Formations 20 (Summer 1993): 167-172.
“In a highly polysemic and mobile style [DuPlessis] then attempts to actualize through readings of various poets, the relation between female writers, feminist theory and modernism. In ‘Otherhow,’ the title of one of her most interesting pieces, she addresses the ‘terrible inadmissible congruence of gender and poetry,’ by which she alludes to the male-gendered ‘poetic voice’ or ‘genius’ while seeking ‘another kind of textual space through which and one to which a plethora of “polygynous” practices teem’ as a plausible female practice of poetry.” (p. 31) “It is salutary that writers and critics such as Rita Felski, Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Nicole Brossard, for all their basic differences, are all operative in developing forms of writing that are wide and sophisticated enough to question the assumptions of deconstruction at its breaking-point with feminism, hence in developing a practice and critique utilizing arguments from both movements while remaining resolutely at their vanguard.” (p. 37) Caroline Bergvall, in fragmente 5 (1993): 30-38.
“The Pink Guitar is the freshest and most stimulating collection of critical writing that I’ve read in the last couple of years. …This is deft improvisation–a dance between the categories and tropes of the poetic and the critical much in the manner that Lennie Tristano reinterpreted the jazz tradition in his work.” (p. 9) Joel Lewis, in The Poetry Project Newsletter #141 (1991): 8-9.