Patterns of Ambivalence: The Poetry and Fiction of Stevie Smith

Catherine A. Civello offers a new reading of the work of Stevie Smith in the context of conflicting desires toward life, love, self, and God. An interdisciplinary work, Patterns of Ambivalence draws from social history, psychoanalytic theory, and feminist philosophy, as well as from literary criticism, to construct the paradoxical world of Smith and her characters. It examines not only the poetry for which Smith is well known, but also her novels and short stories, essays, and letters with which readers are often less familiar. After an introductory chapter on Smith's life and work, Civello devotes four chapters to poems grouped according to the topics of children, marriage, work, and belief. In the next chapters, she discusses the female protagonists of Smith's three novels that offer a rare glimpse into the lives of English working women. There is a final chapter on the critical reception and media representation of Stevie Smith.