Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: 'Those times' : politics, culture and confession in the poetry of Anne Sexton
Authors: Waters, Melanie Jane
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis constitutes the first sustained attempt to situate the poetry of Anne Sexton in relation to postwar. American' politics. While there has been a recent resurgence of academic interest in the politics of mid-century confessional literature, the current crop of poetry scholarship throws focus on the work of Robert Lowell, John Berryman, and Sylvia Plath, and has hitherto neglected to examine the ways in which Sexton's creative praxis might be productively re-examined alongside contemporary critical theory and postwar political history. In the following chapters, I interrogate the received status of Sexton's poetry as psychic theatre and, demonstrate the terms-of its political engagement through a detailed analysis of its referential framework, which is, I argue, structured around key crises in postwar American history: the legacy of the Holocaust; the Cold War; the Vietnam conflict, and the rise of feminism. More explicitly, I explain how these historical paroxysms are registered in the metrical arrangements of Sexton's poems. Through reference to the work of Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, and Cathy Caruth, I locate her writing within the psychoanalytic discourse of trauma, in which the traumatic event - though not perceived fully at the time of its occurrence - is unconsciously re-experienced, or `acted-out', through the repetitive, compulsive, and automatic mechanisms of the subject's speech and behaviour. My thesis thus positions Sexton's poetry as a mode of acting-out, in which the socio-political upheavals of the twentieth century are not only expressed in directly referential terms, but are also woven into the formal fabric of the poetry itself. In addition, the following chapters show how the political lineaments of Sexton's poetry might be usefully illuminated through reference to the Cold War ideology of `containment' and the interlocking, if vexed, economies of privacy, conformity, and contamination.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
waters07.pdfThesis16.39 MBAdobe PDFView/Open
dspacelicence.pdfLicence43.82 kBAdobe PDFView/Open

Items in DSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.