This highly innovative work on poetic influence among women writers focuses on the relationship between modernist poet Elizabeth Bishop and her mentor Marianne Moore. Departing from Freudian models of influence theory that ignore the question of maternal presence, Joanne Diehl applies the psychoanalytic insights of object relations theorists Melanie Klein and Christopher Bollas to woman-to-woman literary transactions. She lays the groundwork for a far-reaching critical approach as she shows that Bishop, mourning her separation from her natural mother, strives to balance gratitude toward Moore, her literary mother, with a potentially disabling envy.
Diehl begins by exploring Bishop's memoir of Moore, "Efforts of Affection," as an attempt by Bishop to verify Moore's uniqueness in order to defend herself against her predecessor's almost overwhelming originality. She then offers an intertextual reading of the two writers' works that inquires into Bishop's ambivalence toward Moore. In an analysis of "Crusoe in England" and "In the Village," Diehl exposes the restorative impulses that fuel aesthetic creation and investigates how Bishop thematizes an understanding of literary production as a process of psychic compensation.