Dialogic Poetry as Emancipatory Technology: Ventriloquy and Voiceovers in the Rhythmic Junctures of Harryette Mullen’s Muse & Drudge



With its multi-voiced arena, extreme word play and remixing of images and voices, Harryette Mullen’s 81-page poem Muse & Drudge is anything but easy. Sometimes the complexities of the text spin with such speed that readers wonder if they have inadvertently skipped lines or missed something crucial to interpreting the text. But the quick movement and constantly changing points of view are, in fact, the point—the crux of the poem’s dialogic drive that emulates the social worlds in which we live. With its meeting ground of numerous subjective (and therefore ideological) positions, Mullen’s poem produces new patterns that recognize and alter the subjugating narratives and ideologies that continue to pervade American culture, media, and history. More specifically, Mullen creates a double play of ventriloquy in Muse & Drudge to project the subjective positions of both the oppressor and the oppressed (and everything in between); in doing so, the text throws out the polarities of culture’s rigged and racial typecasts and replaces them with a multidimensional matrix of possible selves. As these various perspectives become more defined and yet simultaneously altered through their engagement with one another, they begin to reshape the invisible power of habitual thought and media consumption that so often leads to unrecognized or unacknowledged (and therefore more insidious) forms of subjugation.


Black Woman Ideological Position Ideological Perspective Text Spin Lyric Poetry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Works cited

  1. Arnold, Matthew. “The Study of Poetry.” Essays: English and American. Vol. XXVIII. The Harvard Classics. New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1909–14;, 2001. Web.Google Scholar
  2. Bakhtin, M. M. “Discourse in the Novel.” The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Moscow, 1975. Austin: U of Texas P, 1981. 259–422.Google Scholar
  3. Bedient, Calvin. “The Solo Mysterioso Blues: An Interview with Harryette Mullen.” Callaloo 19 (1996): 651–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Frost, Elisabeth. “‘Ruses of the lunatic muse’: Harryette Mullen and Lyric Hybridity.” Women’s Studies 27 (1998): 465–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Holquist, Michael. Dialogism: Bakhtin and his World. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 1990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. —. “Why is God’s Name a Pun? Bakhtin’s Theory of the Novel in Light of Theophilology.” The Novelness of Bakhtin: Perspective and Possibilities. Ed. Joren Bruhn and Jan Lundquist. Museum Tusculanum Press: 2001. 53–70.Google Scholar
  7. Huehls, Mitchum. “Spun Puns (And Anagrams): Exchange Economies, Subjectivity, and History in Harryette Mullen’s ‘Muse & Drudge.’” Contemporary Literature 44.1 (Spring 2004): 19–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Isaksen, Judy L. “Resistive Radio: African Americans’ Evolving Portrayal and Participation from Broadcasting to Narrowcasting.” Journal of Popular Culture 45.4 (2012): 749–68. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Oct. 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Mill, John Stuart. Essays on Poetry. Ed. F. Parvin Sharpless. Columbia, SC: U of South Carolina P, 1976.Google Scholar
  10. Mix, Deborah. “Inspiration, Perspiration, and Impudence in Harryette Mullen’s Muse & Drudge.” Contemporary Women’s Writing 8.1 (2014): 53–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Mullen, Harryette. Recyclopedia (Muse & Drudge): Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, Muse & Drudge. Saint Paul: Graywolf Press, 2006.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Andrea Witzke Slot 2014

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations