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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] The creative portion of this dissertation consists of my first poetry manuscript called Amulet. The poems are prefaced by a critical essay, “The Confessional Mode,” which contends with Diane Warren Middlebrook's label of Confessional American poetry as a literary movement timed between the mid-1950s and the early-1960s. This essay acknowledges how Middlebrook theorizes of the Confessional poems of Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, and their peers as being shaped dramatically by a series of external cues—namely the rise in post-war nationalism, new access to media and technology, and emerging trends in psychoanalysis. The essay then argues that we approach Confessionalism, instead, as a mode of poetry that emerges from the continued, trans-historical trend of a voice that articulates the poetic speaker's confession. The notion of the poetic speaker as necessarily a persona of the poet is problematized. For the Confessional poem, this is not dependably so. Greater distinction must be made between the poet and speaker; their articulations typically overlap in the act of Confession. To support my argument, I explore the overlap of speaker' voice and poet's voice through a lineage of Confessional poetry in the American literary tradition that extends as far back as Anne Bradstreet's personal poetry and reaches into more contemporary poems by Lucie Brock-Broido and the poets who Stephen Burt classifies as “elliptical.” This essay engages criticism by Louise Glück, Gregory Orr, Adrienne Rich, and Samuel Maio and explores the extent to which the voice that articulates the poem overlaps with the poet's own voice.
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