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“The
Light
Is
in
Us”:
Susan
Griffin’s
Method
in


Woman
and
Nature:
The
Roaring
Inside
Her



It's
not
to
see
myself
in
everything
I
want,
but
to
find
everything
at

home
in
me.

Robin
Morgan,
"The
Duel"


In
Woman
and
Nature:
The
Roaring
Inside
Her
(1978),
one
of
the
most
unusual

books
produced
by
the
women’s
movement,
Susan
Griffin
reconstructs
from
within

the
voice
of
the
patriarchy,
demonstrating
its
evasions,
its
pontifications,
its

cognitive
dissonance,
its
metaphysical
dishonesty,
its
hidden
agenda.
The
genius
of

this
unclassifiable
book—part
scholarly
treatise,
part
narrative,
part
poetry—is,
as
I

will
argue,
its
polyphonous
method.


Chronology
(“It
is
decided
that
.
.
.”)

In
the
table
of
contents
we
are
told
that
Griffin’s
first
chapter,
“Matter”
will

reveal
“man’s
ideas
about
nature
and
his
attitudes
toward
women
.
.
.
side
by
side

and
in
historical
order.”
And
that
is
precisely

what
we
do
find.
For
over
forty
pages
she

allows
the
patriarchy
to
speak
in
its
own

words,
always
in
passive
voice,
about
matter.

Citing
(often
quoting
or
paraphrasing)
the

writings
of
philosophers,
scientists,

theologians,
and
writers
from
Plato
to
Saint

Augustine
to
Edmund
Spenser
to
Newton
to

Nietzsche
(the
sources
are
attributed
only
in

the
notes
at
the
end
of
the
book,
although

many
of
the
allusions
are
identifiable
by
an
astute
reader),
Griffin
allows
each
to

incriminate
himself.
Virtually
every
paragraph
begins
“it
is
written,”
or
“it
is

discovered,”
or
“it
is
said
that,”
or
“it
is
decided
that.”

We
listen
in
as
Rorty’s
“conversation
of
mankind”
progresses.
This

conversation,
as
Griffin
depicts
it,
has
a
cumulative
effect,
assembled
in
this
way.
It

reveals
the
mind
of
the
patriarchy
to
be
irrational,
guilty
of
extreme
psychohistorical

cognitive
dissonance,
despite
its
pretensions
to
pure
rationality
and
consistency.

The Collected Works of David Lavery 2

Thomas
Kuhn
had,
of
course,
already
taught
us
that,
in
keeping
with
“the
structure
of

scientific
revolutions,”
historical
mind‐sets,
paradigms,
change
over
time—that
the

scientific
“truth”
of
one
era
can
metamorphose,
slowly,
painfully,
and
not
without

fits
and
starts,
into
the
“truth”
of
the
next.
Griffin
shows
us
more:
in
Woman
and

Nature
we
witness
the
patriarchy
falling
all
over
itself
to
save
face
as
it
changes
its

mind.
Caught
in
historical
contradiction,
guilty
of
changing
its
mind,
the
patriarchy

struggles
to
maintain
at
least
the
appearance
of
consistency.

In
contemporary
brain
science,
we
can
perhaps
detect
similar
cognititive

dissonance
in
process.
There
is
preliminary
evidence,
cited
in
a
revealing
article
a
a

few
years
in
the
reborn
Ms.,
that,
in
light
of
the
now‐commonplace
understanding
of

lateralization
of
brain
function
(with
the
left
hemisphere
essentially
rational,
verbal,

and
logical,
and
the
right
imaginative,
holistic,
and
intuitive)
the
patriarchy
is
quickly

revising
the
paradigm—in
which
the
classic
male
mindset
would
appear
to
be

primarily
left‐brained,
and
the
classic
female
characteristically
right—so
that
it
may

claim
that,
in
keeping
with
a
current
change
of
fashion
in
preferred‐brain‐dominance,

“it
is
now
decided
that”
men
actually
are
(and
no
doubt
always
have
been)
right‐
brained.

Hannah
Arendt
once
contended
that
female
thought
should
follow
the

example
of
Penelope,
who
as
she
waited
for
Odysseus’
return
and
stalled
the

advances
of
her
suitors,
unraveled
by
night
what
she
wove

by
day.
The
patriarchy,
Griffin
makes
clear,
does
not
like

to
weave
and
reweave.
Preferring
the
monolithic
and
the

linear,
it
would
have
knowledge
progress
in
a
uniform

wave
front,
never
stepping
back
to
leap,
never
circling

back
upon
itself,
never
falling
into
minor
errors
like
the

Ptolemaic
cosmos
that
take
centuries
to
rationalize
away.

The
warp
and
woof
of
western
thought,
as
Griffin

dilineates,
maintains
consistency
on
some
fronts,

however:
whatever
its
particulars,
it
distrusts
matter,

finds
women
irrational,
remains,
as
Griffin’s
epigraph
to

the
chapter
(from
Tillie
Olsen),
presages,
“remote
above

the
dwindled
earth,
the
concealed
human
life.”


Epigraphs

The Collected Works of David Lavery 3

Epigraphs
are
essential
to
Griffin’s
method.
Beginning
with
the
chapters

which
follow
“Matter”—on
“Land,”
“Timber,”
“Wind,”
“Cows,”
“Mules,”
“The
Show

Horse,”
“Her
Body”—chapters
which
imaginatively
reconstruct,
based
on
meticulous

research,
the
strange
history
of
each
topic
under
the
reign
of
the
patriarchy,
Griffin

uses
epigraphs
in
startling
way.
Strange
encounters
take
place:
Simone
de
Beauvoir

meets
an
expert
in
soil
science;
an
art
historian’s
assessment
of
the
perfect
nude
is

juxtaposed
with
a
treatise
on
dairy
cattle’s
dictums
on
animal
posing;
Emily
Post

meets
Jean‐Jacques
Rousseau.

Consider,
for
example,
the
epigraphs
which
top
the
first
of
these
chapters,

“Land:
Her
Changing
Face”
(we
will
look
at
the
text
of
that
chapter
momentarily—as

an
example
of
Griffin’s
prose
poetry).


I
saw
everything
as
no
man
had
ever
seen
before
.
.
.
I
felt
like
an
explorer
in

medicine
who
first
views
a
new
and
important
territory.

Marion
Sims,
M.D.
(on
the
invention
of
the
speculum)


Consider
Him
who
chose
to
be
born
of
a
virgin.
.
.
.
Freely
he
penetrates

viscera
known
only
to
Himself
and
with
greater
joy
enters
paths
where
none

has
ever
been.
These
limbs,
He
feels,
are
His
own:
unsoiled
and
unshared
by

any
man.
.
.
.

Fortunatus
(bishop
of
Poitiers
530‐609),
Opera
Poetica


.
.
.
a
countrey
that

hath
yet
her
mayden
head,
never
sakt,
turned.
nor
wrought.

Sir
Walter
Raleigh,
"Discovery
of
Guiana"


The
reader
is
immediately
struck
by
the
pattern
of
sexism—the
ubiquitous
metaphor

of
the
world
of
knowledge
as
a
virgin
female
in
medicine,
theology,
geography—
revealed
by
the
meeting
of
these
quotations.

The
intensions
of
most
epigraphers
are
more
that
a
little
obscure.
Why
does

an
author
use
an
epigraph?
An
epigraph
may
be
used
pedantically
to
special
plead
in

advance
for
the
author's
wide
reading.
Or
authors
may
use
quotations
out
of
context

in
epigraphs
as
arguments‐from‐authority
on
the
behalf
of
their
own,
about‐to‐be‐
presented
thesis.
A
third,
related,
motive
is
discernible.
As
Harold
Bloom
has

chronicled
for
us
ad
nauseum,
writers
suffer
from
the
"anxiety
of
influence,"
and
this

The Collected Works of David Lavery 4

is,
I
suppose,
as
true
of
scholars
as
it
is
of
poets.
Compulsive
epigraphing
(not
to

mention
compulsive
footnoting)
may
thus
be
the
result
of
a
bad
dose
of
such
anxiety.

Afraid
of
speaking
for
themselves,
scholars
often
resort
to
epigraphs
in
order
to

establish
up
front
their
pedigree,
to
show
they
are
not
alone
in
thinking
as
they
do,

to
evoke
precedent
for
their
sometimes
dubious
passions.
For
Griffin,
however,

epigraphs
play
a
methodological
role:
they
become
for
her
n
a
revealing
means
of

psychohistorical
exploration.
Selected
according
to
the
strict
principles
of
her
own

radical
feminist
“sampling
theory,”
Woman
and
Nature’s
epigraphs
stand
as

patriarchal
signatures,
or
if
you
prefer
genes
isolated
out
of
the
whole
double
helix

of
the
western
mind‐set.


Juxtaposition

As
we
have
already
seen
in
the
example

of
Griffin’s
use
of
epigraphs
cited
above,
her

method
relies
heavily
on
juxtaposition,
but
her

bringing
together
of
the
seemingly
dispirite
is

not
limited
to
epigraphs
alone.
Consider,
for

example,
the
following
unusual
text,
from
a

chapter
entiteld
“Exploraion.”


It
is
said
that
in
his
old
age

(Automatically,
at
their
command
the

shovel
extends)
he
fears
he
is
losing
his

powers
(and
extracts
a
sample)
that
the
aging
of
his
body
(of
soil)
makes
him

frantic
(which
is
placed)
and
thus
frantically
(in
an
incubation
chamber)
he

searches
(aboard
the
spacecraft)
for
a
young
woman.
(The
soil
is
kept)
Some

say
(perfectly
dry)
being
close
to
youth
(and
is
incubated)
makes
him
younger

(for
five
days
at
50
degrees)
or
at
least
he
feels
younger
(under
an
arc
lamp

that
simulates
Martian
sunlight).
Others
say
(A
quartz
window)
that
proving

he
can
still
(filtered
out
ultraviolet
light)
attract
a
young
woman
(that
might

have
caused)
restores
him
(spurious
signals).
And
still
others
point
out
(on

radioed
commands
from
Earth)
that
in
capturing
(the
test
chamber
was

filled)
a
young,
even
virginal
woman
(with
Martian
atmosphere)
he
has

proven
his
prowess
(Then
the
experimenters)
once
again.
(sent
up
a
radio

command)
But
in
all
cases
(that
added
a
whiff
of
radioactive
carbon)
he
must

The Collected Works of David Lavery 5

(dioxide
and
carbon
monoxide)
be
free
of
his
wife
(to
act
as
tracers
in
the

experiment)
at
least
temporarily
(On
Earth,
green
plants)
for
her
age
(take
in

carbon
dioxide)
reminds
him
of
his
age
(and
if
there
were
life
on
Mars)
and

of
his
limitations
(vapor
in
the
chamber
would
contain)
his
encroaching

weakness
(traces
of
carbon)
and
death.
(55)


1
The
“extraterrestrial
imperative,” 
Griffin's
poetic
fusion
of
narratives
suggests,
is

really
a
rationalization
of
male
menopause,
a
kind
of
mid‐life
philandering,
unfaithful

to
the
Earth
in
precisely
similar
fashion
to
a
rogue
husband
who
strays
on
his
wife
of

many
years.
The
effect
is
synergistic;
the
whole
is
more,
much
more
than
the
sum
of

its
parts.
Such
an
insight,
offered
in
the
medium
of
an
ordinary
prose
argument,

would
have
none
of
the
force,
or
the
poetry,
we
find
in
Griffin’s
words.


Prose
Poetry

Prior
to
the
publication
of
Woman
and
Nature,
Susan
Griffin
was
best
known,

of
course,
as
a
poet,
and
much
of
her
book
might
best
be
described
as
prose‐poetry.

Not
a
line
of
Griffin’s
own
verse
appears
anywhere
in
the
book,
but
passage
after

passage
in
each
of
Woman
and
Nature’s
four
books—”Matter,”
“Separation,”

Passage,”
and
“Her
Vision,”—are
written
in
highly
charged,
very
personal
and
very

evocative
prose
that
creates
the
effects,
even
if
it
does
not
have
the
typographical

format,
of
poetry.

Poetry,
Gaston
Bachelard,
once
observed,
“puts
language
in
danger”;
that
is
it

to
say,
it
foregrounds,
in
a
Gestalt
shift,
its
figurativeness
and
makes
its
literal

meaning
subsidiary.
It
never
takes
language
for
granted,
as
prose
almost
always

does.
Poetry,
Emily
Dickinson
contended,
“takes
the
top
of
your
head
off.”
The

difference
between
poetry
and
prose
as
modes
of
intellectual
transport,
as
T.
E.

Hulme
once
explained,
is
like
the
difference
between
an
express
train
across
country

and
a
walk
through
the
woods.
Prose
is
anxious
to
get
to
its
destination,
to
achieve

its
payoff,
and
deliver
its
literal
goods;
poetry
takes
its
time,
ponders
the
terrain,

examines,
carefully,
the
landscape.
Disinterested
in
the
delivery
of
pre‐established

meanings,
poetry’s
passage
(and
passages)
is
the
meaning.
Griffin’s
prose
poetry

meets
all
three
of
these
litmus
tests:
it
puts
languages
in
danger;
it
takes
the
top
of

our
heads
off
(passage
after
passage
carries
us
into
unique
realms
of
psyche
and


1
For a discussion of this term, coined by Krafft Ehricke, see my Late for
the Sky: The Mentality of the Space Age (Carbondale: Southern Illinois
University Press, 1993).
The Collected Works of David Lavery 6

offers
us
new
visions
of
our
relationship
to
the
natural
world);
and
it
explores
the

terrain
slowly
and
with
care,
equating
the
careless
mentality
of
patriarchal
thought,

in
effect,
with
Hulme’s
express
train.

Consider
the
following,
for
example,
the
actual
text
of
“Land:
Her
Changing

Face”
which
follows
the
epigraphs
I
have
already
discussed
above:


Sea.

Mountain.

River.

Plain.

Forest.

Gorge.

Field.

Meadow.

Rock.


Plateau.

Desert.

Mountain.

Valley.

Sea.
He
is
the
first.
Truly
he
has
come

farther
than
any
man
before
him.
His
eyes
have
beheld
what
has
not
been

seen
before.
What
newness
he
is
blessed
with,
what
freshness!
None
of
the

beauty
of
this
land
has
been
brought
down,
no
part
soiled.
He
is
the
first
to

tread
here.
Only
the
mark
of
his
shoes
effaces
the
soil.
Pine.
Otter.
Canyon.

Musk
ox.
She
gives
up
her
secrets.
He
is
the
first
to
know,
and
he
gives
names

to
what
he
sees.
He
records
the
existence
of
these
things.
He
is
thinking
to

preserve
these
moments
for
posterity.
He
draws
a
map
of
his
way
across
this

land.
And
he
charts
the
shape
of
the
place.
Behind
the
mountain
range.
On

the
other
side
of
the
valley.
Down
the
riverstream.
Across
the
gorge.
He
finds

the
unknown
irresistible.
He
believes
what
is
hidden
in
this
land
calls
to
him.

He
feels
undiscovered
grasses
tremble
in
wait
for
him,
he
imagines
mysterious

lakes
glistening
revelation,
he
knows
there
are
meadows,
ignorant
of
his

being,
which
will
open
to
him.
He
has
a
taste
for
knowledge.
Missouri
River.

Council
Bluffs.
Sioux
City.
Despite
all
dangers,
he
penetrates
farther.

Cheyenne
River.
Knife
River.
White
Earth
River.
He
vanquishes
darkness.
He

vanquishes
despair.
Bearpaw
Mountains.
Big
Belt
Mountains.
Great
Falls.
He

places
his
life
in
the
balance.
Clark
Pass.
Yet
he
is
brave.
Lewis
Hellgate.
Yet

he
is
ardent.
Snake
River.
And
the
wilderness
embraces
him.
He
is
taken
up
by

wildness.
He
becomes
wild.
Now
the
secrets
of
this
place
are
his
and
each
of

his
footsteps
is
a
triumph.
Windstorm.
In
facing
down
danger,
he
has
become

more
than
himself.
Thunderstorm.
He
is
conqueror.
Lightning.
He
has
pierced

the
veiling
mountains,
ridden
the
rivers,
spanned
the
valley,
measured
the

gorge:
he
has
discovered.
Now
nothing
of
this
place
is
unknown,
and
because

of
his
knowledge,
this
land
is
forever
changed.
This
was
his
dream.
(47‐48)


Here
and
elsewhere,
Griffin’s
prose
poetry
is
often
psychohistorical
in
intent.
By

assuming,
as
she
does
here,
the
point
of
view
of
western
exploration,
she
seeks
to

The Collected Works of David Lavery 7

disclose
the
psychic
underpinnings
of
an
historical
process.
Griffin’s
radical
feminist

“frontier
thesis”
imagines
the
push
westward
driven
by
a
particular
“taste
for

knowledge,”
a
desire
to
vanquish
both
darkness
and
despair.
Like
the
feminist

philosopher
Susan
Bordo,
who
has
characterized
the
pursuit
of
rationality
since

Descartes
as
a
“flight
to
objectivity,”
and
the
psychologist
Karl
Stern,
who
finds
the

same
pursuit
a
“flight
from
woman,”
Griffin,
in
her
poetic
recreation
of
the
“lay
of

the
land,”
discovers
unearthly,
anti‐female
motives
governing
history.
The

eradication
of
mystery,
the
dream,
that
fueled
modernity’s
advance
across
the

American
continent,
was,
at
the
same
time,
the
macho
taking
of
a
virginity.



“For
what
underlay
our
clearing
of
the
continent,”
Frederick
Turner
explains

in
Beyond
Geography,


were
the
ancient
fears
and
divisions
that
we
brought
to
the
New
World
along

with
the
primitive
precursors
of
the
technology
that
would
assist
in

transforming
the
continent.
Haunted
by
these
fears,
driven
by
our
divisions,

we
slashed
and
hacked
at
the
wilderness
we
saw
so
that
within

three
centuries
of
Cortes's
penetration
of
the
mainland
a
world

millions
of
years
in
the
making
vanished
into
the
voracious,

insatiable
maw
of
an
alien
civilization.
Musing
on
this
time

scale,
one
begins
to
sense
the
enormity
of
what
we
brought
to

our
entrance
here.
And
one
begins
to
sense
also
that
it
was

here
in
America
that
Western
man
became
loosed
into
a

strange,
ungovernable
freedom
so
that
what
we
now
live

amidst
is
the
culminating
artifact
of
the
civilization
of
the

West.


Woman
and
Nature
meticulously
reconstructs,
from
the
perspective
of
radical

feminism,
“the
enormity
of
what
we
[Western
man]
brought
to
our
entrance
here.”

But
Susan
Griffin’s
method
is
not,
like
Turner’s,
or
Bordo,
or
Stern’s,
discursive
and

argumentative.
Chronology,
epigraphy,
juxtaposition,
prose
poetry—these
are
the

methods
that
enable
her
to
find
her
voice.

That
voice,
the
“roaring
inside
her,”
is,
early
on,
silenced.
In
the
face
of
the

patriarchy’s
“it
is
said
thats”
and
“it
is
decided
thats,”
Woman
and
Nature’s
narrator

is
made
dumb.
Over
the
book’s
two
hundred
and
fifty
plus
pages,
that
voice
re‐
The Collected Works of David Lavery 8

emerges,
slowly,
fearfully,
painstakingly,
until,
at
book’s
end,
fully
in
italics,
it
offers

an
alternative
poetic
vision
of
woman
and
nature,
teaching
her
child
to
heed
for

generations
to
come
“the
scent
of
the
enemy,
learning
the
hardest
lesson:
“to
find

everything
at
home
in
me,”
for,
as
its
final
words
vouchsafe,
“the
light
is
in
us.”


In
The
Myth
of
Analysis,
archetypal
psychologist
James
Hillman
laments
the

ascendency
in
the
West
of
“Apollonic
consciousness,”
the
monolithic
worship
of

light,
and
reason,
and
unity,
which
have
made
“the
elevation
of
the
female
principle

and
a
new
psychic
recognition
of
female
physicality
seem
structurally
impossible.”
At

this
stage
in
our
history,
according
to
Hillman,
we
find
ourselves
“driven
to
repeat

the
same
misogynist
views,
century
after
century,
because
of
its
archetypal
base.”

Indeed,
“There
must
be
recurrent
misogyny
presented
with
scientific
justification

because
the
positivism
of
the
scientific
approach
is
informed
by
Apollo.”
And
so
it

will
continue
to
be


Until
the
structure
of
the
consciousness
itself
and
what
we
consider
to
be

"conscious"
change
into
another
archetypal
vision
or
way
of
being‐in‐the‐
world,
man's
image
of
female
inferiority
and
disbalanced
coniunctio
in
every

sphere
of
action
will
continue.
Until
the
male
Weltanschauung
moves,
until

Maria
returns
to
Eve
and
Eve
to
Adam;
until
Maria
assumes
with
her
body
and

within
man's
body
a
place
in
consciousness
itself,
shedding
the
abysmal
and

the
only
passionate;
until
the
coniunctio
affects
consciousness
itself;
until

another
archetypal
structure
of
our
cosmos
informs
our
view
of
things
and

our
vision
of
what
it
is
"to
be
conscious"
with
another
spirit,
we
shall
remain

endlessly
repeating
and
helplessly
confirming
with
ever
more
subtle
scientific

observation
our
misogynist
fantasies
of
the
male‐female
vision.


Susan
Griffin’s
Woman
and
Nature
not
only
dismantles
and
exposes
Apollonic

consciousness
for
what
it
is;
it
offers
us
as
well
a
glimpse
of
another
“vision
of
what

it
is
‘to
be
conscious.’”
Therein
lies
its
greatness.


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