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Female Metaphor in US History & Literature

This was an important safety factor in the New World, because entry into a new territory, though initially exciting or exhilarating, can threaten sanity itself if one is forced to live daily with the unknown. To avoid the heart of that darkness, she says, male adventurers ever since Columbus have projected onto the land a metaphorical complex that represented for them all forms of comfort, protection, and nurturing, as well as possession and mastery. It was almost inevitable, she argues, that the landscape would become an experiential analogue of the human feminine.

That is, Kolodny feels that when men refer to the land as feminine, they will feel justified in treating the land in the same way that they treat women. Some men will treat both women and land with respect and affection, but many will look upon the land as something to be used and thrown away. The metaphor can therefore be a mixed blessing: it can lead either to exploitation or to husbandry. Kolodny says that historically the metaphor or fantasy of the land as feminine appears to have been both useful and socially adaptive, as it lured successive generations of immigrants to AmericaĂs shores and propelled them across the Terra incognito to settle it.

Like the female imagery underlying it, this fantasy was malleable and adaptable. When the growing demands of the nation called for something more than passive appreciation of a


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