Eleni Mouatsou

Grammatical Gender in the poetry of Kiki Dimoula


It has been noted that grammar and grammatical terms appear to be of great significance to the poems of contemporary Greek poet Kiki Dimoula. Apart from a theoretical role in the function of language, grammar appears to acquire a pivotal position in Dimoula’s poems and a semantic role, as she devotes the titles of some of her poems to grammatical terms such as “Αποσιωπητικές εικόνες”, “Η περιφραστική πέτρα” and “Το κεφαλαίο χώμα”. In the poet’s work grammatical terms often seem to determine the message of the poem, thus constituting grammatical terminology as integral to semantic interpretation. In this paper I engage with one aspect of grammar that seems to not only determine the semantic interpretation of Dimoula’s poetry, but also to engage with social commentary: The usage of the grammatical gender. I analyse poems such as “Ο πληθυντικός Αριθμός”, where the thematic significance becomes apparent in lines such as “Ο έρωτας […]/ γένους ούτε θηλυκού ούτε αρσενικού / γένους ανυπεράσπιστου”, to move to a deep analysis of the usage of grammatical gender in Dimoula’s poetry. I start from the initial hypothesis that since every noun in Greek belongs to one of three genders (feminine/ neuter/ masculine), the use of a gendered language is compulsory in grammatical terms. I then examine how this linguistic restriction is incorporated in the poet’s work, especially drawing attention to the semantic significance of grammatical gender in Kiki Dimoula’s poetry. I concentrate on (a) first, second and third person pronouns, (b) gendered nouns, especially the frequency of feminine and neuter nouns and the infrequency of masculine nouns, and (c) names of locations, planets, seasons etc, and their personification according to their grammatical gender in Greek. For the purposes of this paper, I look at Dimoula’s collections To λίγο του κόσμου (1971), Χαίρε ποτέ (1988) and Μεταφερθήκαμε παραπλεύρως, (2007), although the conclusions suggested can be observed in all her collections. In this close analysis, I investigate how the linguistic techniques used by Dimoula in her poetry engage with gender stereotypes, gendered identity and gendered social experience. I conclude with thematic, stylistic and linguistic observations occurring from the analytical study of grammatical gender in Dimoula’s work. I suggest that the unconventional usage of grammatical gender can be read as an attempt to propose new ways of perceiving gender roles (thematic observation), to suggest new poetical forms that can work together with traditional meter and rhyme (stylistic observation); and to expose the linguistic influence of grammatical gender in the literary and social formation of gender specific symbols (linguistic observation). I expect that this study may shed light in the newly occurring poetic structures that emerge in Greek poetry and might prove beneficial in modern Greek studies as well as in feminist translation practice.

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