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This article is taken from PN Review 211, Volume 39 Number 5, May - June 2013.

Time and Space in Contemporary Women's Writing Gwyneth Lewis
In this essay I want to consider some ways in which a usual view of literary tradition has come to seem inadequate and to suggest a more workable way of engaging with the past and future. I'll be looking closely at women's writing, especially Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh, but there's no reason why this kind of quantum perception of time should be confined to one gender or the other.

In his essay on Wagner, Baudelaire wrote about the important moment of transition when what comes easily to a young poet no longer serves his or her purpose:

All great poets naturally and fatally become critics. I pity those poets who are guided by instinct alone: I regard them as incomplete. But in the spiritual life of the former a crisis inevitably occurs when they feel the need to reason about their art, to discover the obscure laws in virtue of which they have created, and to extract from this study a set of precepts whose divine aim is infallibility in poetic creation. It would be unthinkable for a critic to become a poet; and it is impossible for a poet not to contain within him a critic.

Snooker players know that watershed as the time when their instinctive stroke no longer serves and they need to demolish their natural style and rebuild it again - more subtle, stronger, better. There is, of course, no guarantee that you won't be left without your ...

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