Gill, J. (2005) Introduction. In: Gill, J. (ed.) Modern Confessional Writing: New Critical Essays. Routledge: London ; New York, pp. 1-10. ISBN 9780415339698 (doi: 10.4324/9780203449240-8)

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On turning our attention to modern confessional writing, we are faced immediately with a sense of its complexity, its indeterminacy and its apparent incomprehensibility. We are faced with numerous questions: who confesses? Why do they choose so to do? Is there an element of choice or is confession coerced in some specific and individual or general and social way? What, if anything, distinguishes confessional writing from other forms of confession (psychoanalytic, legal, religious?) What, if anything, distinguishes modern confessional writing from the writing of the past? Is confessional writing to be thought of generically (that is, as having a distinctive style or structure which transcends time) or as a historically specific form? The titles of two previous essays, Laurence Lerner’s 1987 ‘What is Confessional Poetry?’ and Diane Middlebrook’s 1993 ‘What was Confessional Poetry?’ (my emphases) strike at the heart of this particular debate. (Both of these essays focus on poetry, however they do address issues germane to prose; differences between the two are teased out in some of the contributions to the present volume.) To think about confession is, paradoxically given confession’s apparent proximity to truthful revelation, to enter into profound uncertainty. As the original essays in this collection show, to think about confession is to abandon conventional and hitherto dependable notions of reliability, authority and authenticity and to embrace, and find new ways of addressing, the difficulty and slipperiness – which is also the fascination – of modern variations on the form.

Item Type:Book Sections (Introduction)
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gill, Professor Jo
Authors: Gill, J.
College/School:College of Arts
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