S03-04 14

A Semiotic Analysis of Rupi Kaur’s Ecofeminist Poetry

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Maya Zalbidea PaniaguaUniversidad Complutense de Madrid

Enfoque

Rupi Kaur’s poetry deals with personal experiences and feelings about trauma, depression, and healing. Her poetry can be considered confessional and, as such, it shares traits and attitudes with confessional poets such as Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. Kaur’s poetry shows the therapeutic process that the speaker undergoes and how writing as well as meditating helps her to overcome anxiety and increase her self-esteem. Among the critics who have explored Kaur’s poetry, Kruger (2017) highlights its healing and (de)colonial aesthetics; Mallawaarachchi (2017) assesses feminist issues; Hagerman (2019) examines her use of a digital platform to promote community and selfhood; and Vaimani S. Shah (2020) interprets her poetry as a (eco)-feminist portrait of the female body. This paper, focusing on ecofeminist aspects of Rupi Kaur’s poetry, will try a semiotic reading of a selection of her poems that deal with various aspects: sisterhood support as an essential way to fight against women violence and degradation, connection between the feminine and nature, acceptance of one’s family legacy and of roots inherited from ancestress, as well as spirituality where god is female in order to convey spiritual power to women. Ecofeminist imagery of Rupi Kaur’s poems will be compared and linked to ecofeminist theories from The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering The Religion Of The Earth (1987) by Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor, as well as from Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies’ Ecofeminism (1993). The close reading of the poems will not only be based on their semantics but also in semiotic aspects, because the meaning of these poems is not only grasped by the mind but also through the eyes. This will require that attention is paid to the poem’s form, images and sound. Kaur’s short poetry includes drawings made by the author herself, related to the imagery and sense of the poem; therefore, a double interpretation is possible: an interpretation of the text itself and another one of its images. Therefore, with the aim of providing a complete interpretation of the poem, it will be necessary to carry on an intermedial analysis of the text, the images and sounds it evokes as well as the drawings it includes. Selected poems about ecofeminism, which were originally published on Instagram and were only posthumously published in the three poetry books of Rupi Kaur, will be analyzed: milk and honey (2014), the sun and her flowers (2017) and homebody (2020). The approach of semiotics will be applied to deeply understand not only the content of texts, as it has been often the usual practice of previous studies, but also their form, with a view to show how the form itself contributes to connote ecofeminist, feminine and healing meanings.

Preguntas y comentarios al autor/es

Hay 14 comentarios en esta ponencia

    • profile avatar

      Laura Rodríguez Pereiro

      Comentó el 26/01/2024 a las 17:18:26

      ¡Hola, Maya!

      Me ha parecido una ponencia muy interesante de la que me llevo unas cuantas referencias sobre el ecofeminismo -que estoy descubriendo gracias a ti y a otras compañera- y una visión diferente a la que tenía de la obra de Rupi Kaur.
      ¿Aconsejarías algún trabajo más para seguir investigando sobre estos temas? ¿U otra autora con temáticas similares?

      Muchas gracias, ¡un saludo!

      • profile avatar

        Maya Zalbidea Paniagua

        Comentó el 26/01/2024 a las 19:01:38

        Gracias Laura. Recomiendo también Women and Nature (Susan Griffin 1978),A. E. Kings as well as Norie Ross Singer y Val Plumwood. También Mujeres que corren con los lobos de Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Abrazos, Maya

    • profile avatar

      Paul Mitchell

      Comentó el 26/01/2024 a las 12:37:12

      Hi Maya, Many thanks for your response to my question. To avoid any misunderstanding, I would like to clarify that I do not personally advocate the beliefs of those who are opposed to Goddess/spiritual feminism. Nor did I seek to question the theoretical basis of your presentation by suggesting that it was somehow flawed. I apologise if this is how you interpreted my question. Rather, I was keen to know if, from a reader's perspective, Rupi Kaur's work can be understood to challenge some of the criticisms that those opposed to Goddess feminism have made in the past. Again, I would like to congratulate you on your talk, which I found very thought provoking.

      • profile avatar

        Maya Zalbidea Paniagua

        Comentó el 26/01/2024 a las 19:08:12

        Thank you Paul. Yes, I think that Rupi Kaur challenges criticisms opposed to Goddess feminism. Sorry for the misunderstanding. I do not think that Rupi Kaur approves essentialism, probably she undertands motherhood as an institution and "mothering" as empowerment in a similar way as Adrienne Rich does. Anyway, the best person to answer to these questions would be Rupi Kaur herself, I am only interpreting her texts. Thanks for your kindness. Kind regards, Maya

        • profile avatar

          Paul Mitchell

          Comentó el 27/01/2024 a las 00:26:08

          Thanks for you reply, Maya. After listening to your presentation, I'm keen to read some more of Rupi Kaur's poetry. Kind regards, Paul

      • profile avatar

        Maya Zalbidea Paniagua

        Comentó el 26/01/2024 a las 19:12:03

        Hi Paul, I do not know is she is being criticized for essentialism as ecofeminists were in the 80s and 90s. As far as I know, she is being accussed of plagiarism but I do not know if she is being criticized for that. Thank you, Maya

    • profile avatar

      Mª Aránzazu Serantes López

      Comentó el 25/01/2024 a las 23:41:52

      I enjoyed the conference and would appreciate your response to these questions:
      How does Rupi Kaur employ semiotic elements, such as symbols, signs, and visual language, in her ecofeminist poetry to convey messages related to the intersection of environmental issues and feminist perspectives?
      In what ways does the semiotic analysis of Rupi Kaur's ecofeminist poetry reveal the interconnectedness of symbols, linguistic choices, and visual representation in shaping the audience's understanding of ecofeminist themes, and how does this contribute to broader discussions on the relationship between nature, gender, and society? Thank you.

      • profile avatar

        Maya Zalbidea Paniagua

        Comentó el 26/01/2024 a las 10:47:18

        Dear Mª Aránzazu, Thanks for your question. Rupi Kaur employs semiotic elements in an accessible and easy way with short poems that are close to haikus, naive drawings and simple words that every body can understand in order to address universal issues such as the importance of preserving nature and caring people (specially girls and women who are the most affected).
        As we know, for Saussure there was no logical association with signifier and signified, for him, it was arbitrary. Later, Derrida considered that poetic language could create multiple meanings. In my semiotic analysis of Rupi Kaur, I noticed that both the image and text capture an instant (like in a haiku or imagist poem) that corresponds to the present moment, like in meditation or mindfulness practice. The reader can directly notices that the poetess is addressing him/ her to make him/her aware of the importance of self-esteem and loving nature and humans so that the beautiful Earth can still breath and be fertile. Thank you

    • profile avatar

      Sergio Díaz Menéndez

      Comentó el 25/01/2024 a las 16:51:27

      Buenos días, Maya. Gracias por tu trabajo. Me parece muy interesante ya que Rupi Kaur es una de las autoras que abordo en mi tesis. Podríamos pensar en editar una publicación sobre poesía de raíces indias desde una perspectiva ecocrítica... Cómo lo ves?

      • profile avatar

        Maya Zalbidea Paniagua

        Comentó el 26/01/2024 a las 10:49:05

        Estimado Sergio, Gracias por escribir. Me parece una idea estupenda. Escríbeme un email a mpzalbid@ucm.es y hablamos acerca de cómo queremos hacerlo, para qué revista, el plazo, etc.

    • profile avatar

      Carmen Gutiérrez Jordano

      Comentó el 25/01/2024 a las 08:57:03

      Hi Maya! Congratulations for your communication, I didn't know much about Rupi Kaur's poetry, so this was a great introduction to get to know her better. I wanted to ask you two things: for what I have seen in her poems, would you define her perspective into a essentialist ecofeminism? It seems she has some sort of view of womanhood settled on the fact of motherhood (which she correlates to "Mother Nature") and therefore she presents feminity as an unchanging essence closer to nature than masculinity. Maybe I got a wrong idea, so I wanted to understand your more complete view about it. As for me, her spirituality remids me of Ana Mendieta's approach to ecofeminism thoughts. If so, would you consider this essentialist position somehow kind of harmful for nowadays ecofeminism?
      Another issue I wanted to get more information about is her perspective and relation with non human animals. From the poems you chose, I can't tell anything related directly to a consideration towards animals' lives. Maybe she has a holistic approach to non human beings.

      Again, congratulations and thank you for sharing about this author and topic!

      Carmen.

      • profile avatar

        Maya Zalbidea Paniagua

        Comentó el 26/01/2024 a las 11:29:05

        Dear Carmen, Thank you very much for your comments and interest. You are right that considering women closer to nature could be understood as excluding men from their contribution in nature, however, I do not think that that's Rupi Kaur's intention at all. I do not consider that Rupi Kaur is being essentialist for expressing admiration for her mother for having give her her life. Other Rupi Kaur poems are about enjoying solitude and women working life. Therefore, she has never expressed having children as the most important mission of a woman's life, on the contrary, in her poems she defends women right to enjoy sexuality, loneliness, spirituality, etc. I do not think that there is any poem that considers women closer to nature than men, in many poems we can see "male" or "genderless" images showing their concern and close connection with nature. I do not think that publishing a photo menstruating or drawing a woman who has not shaved her legs means considering women closer to nature. I think that it is close to Adrienne Rich's Of Woman Born. How can loving the female body instead of objectifying it be harmful for women? How can expressing respect to ancestors and ancestress could be? How expressing healthy love could be? How worshipping female goddesses apart from male gods could be harmful? Many of the woman characters in Rupi Kaur's poetry are precisely quite masculine in the sense that they are brave and warriors. Also, male characters appear in nature, by the sea, etc. Criticizing essentialism in ecofeminism was used by Donna Haraway and many others to underate ecofeminism and embrace an artificial life and erasing femininity considering it a "performance" in Judith Butler terms. I have watched Ana Mendieta's art and liked it, thanks for sharing.
        With regards to animals, Rupi Kaur has poems about bees. Thank you very much. Kind regards, Maya Zalbidea

    • profile avatar

      Paul Mitchell

      Comentó el 24/01/2024 a las 23:40:12

      Hi Maya, thanks very much for your interesting discussion. I was particularly struck by your comments about Rupi Kaur's poems in relation to Goddess feminism, a movement that has been contested within feminist scholarship for a number of years. Given the criticism by some that the Goddess paradigm can lead to an essentialising of women's reproductive capacity, I would like to ask how Kaur engages with, negotiates or problematises this idea?

      • profile avatar

        Maya Zalbidea Paniagua

        Comentó el 26/01/2024 a las 11:43:55

        Dear Paul, As far as I know Rupi Kaur has not given her opinion about the goddess movement and its criticism. Some recent so called "feminists" perpetrate the worst patriarchal behaviour (supporting Lacan's idea that for children being abused is not traumatic or writing about women and lesbian as if they were men in Judith Butler's case, supporting paedophiles like Gay Rubin or encouraging women to work as prostitutes because they are going to be raped anyway as Virginie Despentes supports). However, even if present day "fashion" is to destroy any sign of "womanhood", "female" or "natural" and keep on denying the possibility of women of participating in spiritual life and ignoring how healthy, therapeutical and necessary is to include women contributions to spirituality, health, culture, etc., some writers like Rupi Kaur are aware of how being "different" or "feminine" does not need to mean inferior (like many other feminists support such as Luce Irigaray, Helene Cixous, Bracha Ettinger with écriture feminine/feminism de la differance/ M(O)ther theories etc, and intersectial feminism from Kimberlé Creshaw, bell hook, etc). Nowadays there is a revival of the Goddess Movement feminism in research and also in women circles and there is not a tendency to essentialise women's reproductive capacity at all, and that essentialism is not present in Rupi Kaur's poetry either. Thank you very much on your comment anyway as I perfectly understand that my conference can give that impression and I noticed just after recording it. Kind regards, Maya


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