Date of Graduation

Fall 2020

Degree

Master of Arts in English

Department

English

Committee Chair

Lanette Cadle

Keywords

poetry, media, Instagram, Facebook, women writers, Instapoetry, feminist misogyny, cultivation theory, remediation, feminism

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature | Medieval Studies | Modern Literature | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Visual Studies | Women's Studies

Abstract

This thesis examines an online, secret writing community for 1,800+ women-only poets called “The Retreat.” Analysis of two years of Facebook posts and interviews with group members revealed a noticeable membership split between those publishing through conventional literary venues, the “traditional poets,” and social media poets. These “Instapoets,” as labeled by popular media each had between 10,000 to 125,000+ followers on sites like Instagram and Facebook—significant numbers when seen in the context of readership and monetizing. Yet, their digital, snippet poems did not hold to the literary norms of poetry, both in form and publishing method. This led to a backlash from the traditional poets of The Retreat who deleted the Instapoetry posts and eventually drove the Instapoets out of the group. Although The Retreat’s original intent was to serve as a shelter from the hegemonic male gaze of the publishing world, it became what it originally tried to escape—an unsupportive and toxic environment. Utilizing the concept of George Gerbner’s cultivation theory, which observes the way misogyny in media perpetuates its existence, I highlight the way The Retreat’s traditional poets “cultivated” the tools of the patriarchal literary tradition to pass judgement upon the Instapoets, pushing them to the sidelines of discussions and credibility. The Retreat demonstrates how Gubar’s feminist misogyny is ingrained in women’s writing culture but may also spur new art forms. I demonstrate the ways Instapoetry exemplifies Bolter and Grusin’s theory of remediation which asserts digital technologies achieve cultural significance by paying homage to, rivaling, and refashioning earlier media. Through close reading of Christine de Pizan’s early poems and an examination of the publishing and distribution methods of Medieval and Early Modern women writers, I argue Instapoetry is a remediation of women’s writing in themes, form, and audience cultivation. Though members of The Retreat disregarded it entirely, I explore the genre of Instapoetry and work of Rupi Kaur through a critical lens, interrogating problematic elements as well as exploring the potential for Instapoetry to be considered a legitimate literary form and significant genre of feminine protest literature.

Copyright

© Rae Elizabeth Snobl

Open Access

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