Shaking up the American CanonMay 1, 2010
April 11. Lightening struck in Boston last weekend as the American canon got shaken up by a Boston Historical Society Conference on “Margaret Fuller and her Circles.” The last Margaret Fuller conference was in 1995 at Babson College, the year that Joan Von Mehrem’s Minerva and the Muse was published.
In the past few years, there has been a flood of interest and scholarship published, notably the second of the massive two volume biography Margaret Fuller: American Romantic by Charles Capper, a ubiquitous presence at the conference, with his proteges on panels and students in the audience.
Indeed, the most memorable exchanges in the two day event were scholars sharing stories of the catch-22 which surrounded Margaret Fuller like the Ouroboros symbol she placed on the frontispiece to Woman in the Nineteenth Century. It went like this: they could not get the go-ahead to research and publish on Fuller with this linear logic frustrating all their efforts: if she was important enough to have books written about her, there would be books existing about her!
This circle of logic has kept Fuller miraculously free of the postmodernist deconstructionist jargon of the past decades. She is like a fresh flower, with a sweet fragrance drawing one inward to the mysteries surrounding the seeding and nurturing of the American canon, with the wisdom and presence that only a natural birth mother could have!
The mystery of why there is so little scholarship into Fuller’s mysticism was resolved by Jeffrey Steele, who told me so in an e-mail he sent me the day after the conference. This explained why the book he edited, The Essential Margaret Fuller by Margaret Fuller, was my authentic link to her genius. Published in 1992, it freed Margaret from the patriarchal straightjacket enforced on her immortal writing and catalyzed the revolution that we are experiencing today, in linking her prophecy to a 21st century archetype.
I must have been enacting a performance for all women when I was denied access to the Harvard library last year, and felt the anguish that I would never get to the core of Margaret without experiencing her writing in its original. (through an anthology edited by Steel, I discovered the source of this anguish: her family sanitized her writing and much that was essential Margaret was rewritten or deleted!)
I think my entire existence shifted when he explained, after his panel, that there were mystical female writers like myself in the nineteenth century but they were repressed and then blocked from the canon by the twentieth century when the southern male writers took over.
So what can be concluded from this? Instead of the mystical feminine exploring the feminine face of the divine, we got the male writer with alcoholic tendencies conjuring homespun narratives around their fear of the feminine!
What a revelation to be at a literary conference devoid of alienating postmodern cynicism and deconstructionst jargon! In fact, it was just the opposites. The participants, mostly all historians of the period, on the whole seemed to embody the organic integration of nature sought by 19th century Transcendentalists.
Yet, despite a connection to a language seeking, as Margaret did, the embrace of the opposites, none of the scholars used the term “sacred marriage” in regards to Margaret Fuller.
Von Mehren asked me at lunch: “Where did you get that term sacred marriage?”
And I naturally declared, from Margaret herself! It came from the title of the poem at the close of Women in the Nineteenth Century!
This goes to show that a new archetype arises to the collective consciousness when the time is ready.
And the postings on this new blog aim to reveal that the time is, indeed, ready!
Moreover, when this revolution gains steam, it is essential that women not let, as happened in previous revolutions, the men take over. The sacred marriage archetype cannot take hold in the culture without male and female joining together to embody it in ourselves and our creations!