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Meijer, M.J.H.

Meijer, M.J.H.

Maaike Meijer, born in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, in 1949. Ph.D. from Utrecht University. Professor of Gender Studies at Maastricht University.

Fellow (1 September 1998 – 30 June 1999)

To write my inaugural lecture. That part of my project is completed. This public lecture was delivered on January 22 1999 in Maastricht and published as Machtige Melodieën. Populaire teksten uit de jaren vijftig en zestig als bron voor cultuurgeschiedenis.

To work on a book on the theory and interpreta¬tion of poetry. I wanted to integrate gender in the theory of the lyrical genre, and test it on a variety of texts, including songs, which I consider to be integral part of the lyric.

I have written most of the necessary new chapters of this book (among which two in English, one on the work of Annie Schmidt and one on Hélène Swarth), and I have made considerable progress with the general framework. Gender turns out to be a very central category indeed. I have been building on the idea that the apostrophe — and the apostrophic communication-situation, in which the lyrical ‘I’ addresses an absent or abstract ‘other’ — is paradigmatic of poetry. I have explored a great variety of sub-genres, historical as well as contemporary, Dutch as well as non-Dutch, in which the male poet speaks to a silent or dead (female) beloved. The fact that the addressed ‘thou’ is radically absent or dead, makes her (him) into a mock-‘other’, a mere function of the self-exploration of the speaking subject. There is an uncanny preference for dead women in Western poetry by men. This led me to rereading the Orpheus-myth. Orpheus, the archetypal poet, looked back at Euridyce too early, and lost her once more to Hades, because he did not want to be re-united with her. His Fehlleistung could be read as the fulfilment of the wish to be separated from the addressee of the poem, in order to turn the addressee into a function of the self.

Most (not all) of the women poets try, each in their own way, to deconstruct this gendered lyrical model (which goes back to Courtly Love and Petrarchism), but also male poets (Paul Celan) subvert it. The leitmotiv of the book is clear now, and I hope to finish it by the end of 1999.