Marianne Moore's postwar fables and the politics of indirection

Document Type

Book Review


Marianne Moore's response to World War II took an unexpected form: her translation, published in 1954, of the fables of La Fontaine. While Moore's project emerged from a wartime effort of European cultural transmission, the fables' indirect speech also served more personal political ends. It afforded a protected means for entering a gendered debate about war and a language for writing about large issues-violence, suffering, injustice-that avoided the oversimplifications and divisiveness of wartime and Cold War rhetoric. Critics have mostly neglected Moore's Fables along with her politics, but both are essential to understanding not only her response to war but also the larger goals of postwar American poetry and translation as a political project-one that allowed Moore and her peers to offset the guilt of spectatorship by reclaiming intellectual labor as a mode of war participation. © 2016 EMILY SETINA.