From Father’s Daughter to Creative Woman
Continuum, 1995, paperback, 1997, second edition, Spring Publications, 2006
In Daughters of Saturn, Patricia Reis explores various aspects of the father-daughter relationship with a particular focus on the father’s effect on a woman’s creative life. Beginning with the charter myth of Saturn, the archetypal devouring and melancholic father, she explores the many ways that Daughters of Saturn have come to name their experience and use language to tell their stories. Through myth, dreams, and women’s experiences, Reis creates a map marking a journey from life in the belly of the Father through the first gate of awakening. She documents women’s resistances and rebellions against the dominant culture of patriarchy and records the lives of four women writers–Emily Dickinson, Hilda Doolittle (H.D.), Sylvia Plath, and Anais Nin–outlining their struggles and strategies to live creative lives.
Reis analyzes the father-daughter relationship, in particular examining the role of the father (both the personal father and the general patriarchal society) in the daughter’s development of her creative potential. Reis develops a four-stage model for a woman seeking to develop her creative autonomy: from domination by the personal father, through dealing with the expectations of society, to the search for independence and women’s support, and, finally, the development of full self-confidence. Reis uses the myths of Saturn and his daughters as a prototype for society and a woman’s role therein, and, in analyzing her four stages, gives examples from her personal experience and from women authors who include Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath. One need not espouse the theories and viewpoints of the author to find this a fascinating and thought-provoking book. Recommended for academic collections serving women’s studies, psychology, and literature programs.
I discovered this book while writing my own Fatherless Women: How We Change After We Lose Our Dads (Wiley) and so I came to it having already drawn many conclusions from my own research and interviews. Still, I found myself reading this and going “yes!!” at almost every point Reis makes, often hearing in her words an elegant echo of what women had been telling me in my own interviews. As a woman who had a conflicted relationship with her father–and as an author who has interviewed many women–I recommend this book. It’s smart, it’s insightful, and it’s also well written.