cover of book

Outward: Adrienne Rich’s Expanding Solitudes
by Ed Pavlic
University of Minnesota Press, 2021
Cloth: 978-1-5179-1077-8 | Paper: 978-1-5179-1078-5
Library of Congress Classification PS3535.I233Z84 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 811.54


The first scholarly study of Adrienne Rich’s full career examines the poet through her developing approach to the transformative potential of relationships

Adrienne Rich is best known as a feminist poet and activist. This iconic status owes especially to her work during the 1970s, while the distinctive political and social visions she achieved during the second half of her career remain inadequately understood. In Outward, poet, scholar, and novelist Ed Pavlic considers Rich’s entire oeuvre to argue that her most profound contribution in poems is her emphasis on not only what goes on “within us” but also what goes on “between us.” Guided by this insight, Pavlic shows how Rich’s most radical work depicts our lives—from the public to the intimate—in shared space rather than in owned privacy.

Informed by Pavlic’s friendship and correspondence with Rich, Outward explores how her poems position visionary possibilities to contend with cruelty and violence in our world. Employing an innovative framework, Pavlic examines five kinds of solitude reflected in Rich’s poems: relational solitude, social solitude, fugitive solitude, dissident solitude, and radical solitude. He traces the importance of relationships to her early writing before turning to Rich’s explicitly antiracist and anticapitalist work in the 1980s, which culminates with her most extensive sequence, “An Atlas of the Difficult World.” Pavlic concludes by examining the poet’s twenty-first century work and its depiction of relationships that defy historical divisions based on region, race, class, gender, and sexuality.

A deftly written engagement in which one poet works within the poems of another, Outward reveals the development of a major feminist thinker in successive phases as Rich furthers her intimate and erotic, social and political reach. Pavlic illuminates Rich’s belief that social divisions and the power of capital inform but must never fully script our identities or our relationships to each other. 

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