Seminal Works

"We were the radical women of Door County," I said, explaining the origin of the four poems I had just read at the monthly meeting of R.A.S.P., in conversation with a couple of women afterwards. "They were seminal figures in my life at that time."

I realized, as I said it, that seminal was the wrong word. "There must be a better word, " I added, but my companions seemed willing to go along with it. It was time to go anyway, but that word has stayed on my mind.

Seminal. It derives, of course, from the male generative component known as semen, and it is used to denote ideas that appear to be original in ways that influence other ideas from that point onward. There is an excellent example in the link: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was a seminal work in the modern philosophy of science. It's true. I've read it. Thomas Kuhn's , was written by a male and is therefore actually as well as figuratively seminal.

I'll never forget my first visit to the British Museum Reading Room back in 1979. One trio of books, housed together under glass, consisted of Darwin's , Freud's , and Marx's . Seminal works if there ever were any.

1979 was a particularly seminal year for me because I was also participating in an intensive seminar, reading specifically seminal works. Thomas Kuhn was one of them. Herbert Marcuse was another. If there was a woman writer included, did we discuss the word seminal in regard to her work? If so, what was our conclusion? And if not, why not? Include references, links and footnotes.

Is there a word that acknowledges the female generative component? Or must we always subconsciously associate the power to originate with men? Would anyone know what I meant if I dropped the word ovial into a conversation? A google search for ovial will only get you offers to unscramble the letters or find words ending in -ovial. Among which is jovial. Nicely played, word history. Nicely played.

My Door County friends and I had exquisitely jovial times together, but none of us were really just kidding around. They were, all of them, very important to me, instrumental in changing my view of the world and my life in it. But there was nothing seminal about them. It's just the wrong word.

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Ghosts of the Heart by Barbara Stoner

Ghosts of the Heart

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