The twentieth-century feminist project included a reappraisal of classical and biblical myths in order to ‘re-vision,’ as Adrienne Rich phrased it (1975: 90), both texts and the cultures that created them. This re-visioning also had the goal of reinvigorating old forms or developing new ones to open up the possibility of alternative knowledges. Women writers have continued to embrace the long poem, poetic sequence or hybrid verse novel as a vehicle for discovering, rewriting or reclaiming history and thereby asking what can be learned by retelling it from alternative perspectives, as demonstrated in two case study narratives set in colonial Canada and Roman London: Margaret Atwood’s The Journals of Susanna Moodie and Bernardine Evaristo’s The Emperor’s Babe. Metaphors relating to vision or re-vision speak to questions of identity that the central characters (both of whom can be characterised as writers) ask themselves in relation to a hegemonic culture that seeks to control, restrict or subdue a full expression of their natures. Comparing these two writers also reveals how, in the twenty-first century, the feminist project of reclaiming history encompasses perspectives of ‘the other,’ marginalised because of race and status as well as gender.
Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo revisioning the past