Rowena Kennedy-Epstein is Associate Professor of Gender Studies and Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Women's Writing at the University of Bristol. She is the author of Unfinished Spirit: Muriel Rukeyser's Twentieth Century (Cornell University Press, 2022) and is writing the forthcoming biography Mother of Us All: The Life and Writing of Muriel Rukeyser (Bloomsbury). She recovered and edited Rukeyser's novel, Savage Coast (Feminist Press, 2013) and is also coediting a volume of Rukeyser's selected prose (Cornell University Press, 2023). Follow her on Twitter at @rowena_k_e.
In a 1947 letter to Ernst Boas, the son of anthropologist Franz Boas, the American writer Muriel Rukeyser confesses, “May I tell you how, as it begins to open before me, how much this inquiry into your father’s life is meaning to me? The stories are very beautiful, the clues to further meaning are illuminating. I begin to see the power of the connections. I am very happy to be doing this.” In the same letter she writes that she is pregnant, a “happy” complication to the work.
During my first term as a new lecturer in twentieth/twenty-first century women’s writing and gender studies, a male colleague said that he would never teach H.D. in a course with Pound and Eliot because she “just wasn’t in the same league, at all.” When I disagreed, a second male colleague offered to sit down with me “and go line by line and prove why her poetry was not as good as that of her male counterparts.” The cocktail-party conversation