Anne Sexton and Confessional Poetics

Gill, J. (2004) Anne Sexton and Confessional Poetics. Review of English Studies, 55(220), pp. 425-445. (doi: 10.1093/res/55.220.425)

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Abstract

This article re-evaluates the work of the American poet Anne Sexton. It suggests that, far from being the apotheosis of confessionalism, as is typically asserted, Sexton's writing is engaged in a process of negotiation and contestation with the boundaries of the confessional mode. The article begins by summarizing and critiquing conventional definitions of confessional poetry, as exemplified in the work of Sexton's contemporaries, A. Alvarez, M. L. Rosenthal, and others. Thereafter, a number of more recent, theoretically rigorous accounts of confessional discourse (including the work of Antony Easthope, Michel Foucault, and Leigh Gilmore) are introduced. Close readings of a number of Sexton's poems are offered in order to assess the appropriateness of these critical approaches. In particular, the little-known poem ‘Cripples and Other Stories’ is examined. The article suggests that this text reads as a provocative pastiche and rejection of orthodox readings of confessionalism, and anticipates and substantiates the perceptions of confessional discourse proposed by later, post-structuralist, commentators. The argument throughout the article is informed by reference to unpublished material from the Sexton archive at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gill, Professor Jo
Authors: Gill, J.
College/School:College of Arts
Journal Name:Review of English Studies
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0034-6551
ISSN (Online):1471-6968

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