Some women poets of the sixties: the 'confessional' poetry of Janet Frame, Fleur Adcock, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton

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dc.contributor.advisor Horrocks, Roger en
dc.contributor.advisor McLeod, Aorewa en
dc.contributor.advisor Stead, C. K. en Keng, Chua Siew en 2007-08-28T11:08:32Z en 2007-08-28T11:08:32Z en 1981 en
dc.identifier THESIS 82-138 en
dc.identifier.citation Thesis (PhD--English)--University of Auckland, 1981 en
dc.identifier.uri en
dc.description Full text is available to authenticated members of The University of Auckland only. en
dc.description.abstract In the fifties and the sixties a profound change in the concerns and styles of poets occurred, showing: 1. an intense interest in the personal voice or less simply, creating the effect or illusion of personal speech. 2. a strong concentration on autobiography as the subject matter of poetry. 3. an interest in dealing as intimately and frankly as possible with everyday personal experience. Poets associated with these shifts in emphasis include Robert Lowell, W. D. Snodgrass, and John Berryman (in their work of this period). All these shifts constitute a new movement summed up in the term 'confessional poetry.' This cluster of interests distinguishes such poetry from the most influential work of the earlier part of the century (certain poems by Eliot, Pound, Auden, etc.), which pursues an interest in the complex use of personae and tends to be (relatively speaking) much less personal in style and content. This was also the period when women writers were very much concerned about articulating certain interests and areas of experience that they felt had been neglected in earlier writing. The thematic and technical concerns of the new 'confessional' poetry overlapped with the special concerns of the women poets. In terms of theme, Robert Lowell and W. D. Snodgrass were deeply concerned about the nature and unity of the self (Lowell: 'I myself am hell/ nobody's here' -- and Snodgrass speaks of a quest to 'kneel by my old face to know my name'). In terms of technique, these poets were searching for a new kind of voice and style as an alternative to that of the orthodox poetic which uses extensive resources for 'disguising ourselves from ourselves.' In the work of the best women poets, there seems to have been a very fruitful interaction between these concerns and their own special interests. Two of the women (Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton) helped to formulate the new mode, and there is a complex web of cross-influences between their work and that of Lowell and other male poets. Plath, Sexton, Frame and Adcock spoke out with a new frankness about intimate areas of their lives. But this was not a simple matter of confession. These writers were very subtle artists and perceived a whole cluster of technical problems involved in translating their experiences into poetry. To achieve this kind of personal expression is an 'art, just as Plath says that 'Dying is an art.' The 'confessional' poet must still grapple with the problem of persona, even though he or she is trying to move away from deliberate mask-wearing. In addition to problems of voice and style, there is the problem of obscurity arising out of autobiographical reference which is just as important as the problem of obscurity arising (in earlier poetry) out of erudite cultural allusions. Whether or not the special interests of the women poets shaped a distinctive form of 'confessional poetry' is a complex question which this thesis will try to answer. The matter of transcending the self is another crucial problem for the confessional poet because his or her poetry can easily fail from excessive particularity or narrow self-absorption. How is the poet to make his or herself representative or even universal? All these problems are faced generally by the 'confessional' poets, both male and female, but the problems can carry a special sense of immediacy for the women poets. For instance, is the woman poet, in articulating the intimate areas of her experience, becoming a representative human being or a representative woman? While sharing common problems and arriving at similar solutions, each of the four women poets approaches them from a different angle and makes an individual contribution. The tone of each poet is distinctive -- from Plath's harsh and uncompromisingly honest manner, to the wry poignancy of Frame, the warmer, more open poignancy of Sexton and the lyricism of Adcock. And yet their voices, their styles, have a great deal in common. They are related both by technical and thematic interests despite their many personal differences (such as the fact that they live in different parts of the world -- U.S.A., England and New Zealand). This thesis will consider three main questions: 1. What do the women poets share in common with other leading representatives of 'confessional poetry?' 2. What seems distinctive about the women poets as a group? 3. Has each of the four women poets made an original contribution, and if so, in what ways? en
dc.language.iso en en
dc.publisher ResearchSpace@Auckland en
dc.relation.ispartof PhD Thesis - University of Auckland en
dc.relation.isreferencedby UoA9921912014002091 en
dc.rights Restricted Item. Available to authenticated members of The University of Auckland. en
dc.rights Items in ResearchSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated. en
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dc.title Some women poets of the sixties: the 'confessional' poetry of Janet Frame, Fleur Adcock, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton en
dc.type Thesis en English en The University of Auckland en Doctoral en PhD en
dc.rights.holder Copyright: The author en

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