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Theses

Confession ou fiction de soi : la poésie testimoniale de Robert Lowell et Anne Sexton

Abstract : Although the poetical works of Robert Lowell and of Anne Sexton have been called “confessional”, they may rather be defined as testimonial insofar as they are discourse “haunted” by fiction. This will be shown through the analysis of the relation between literary confession, fiction and poeticity. It will also appear in the study of the poems’ relation to truth, both poets’ conceptions of truth relying on autobiographical motivations and on artistic considerations about poetical achievement viewed as truth emerging from “the structure of fiction”. Eventually, the poems of Lowell and Sexton are fictions of the self aiming at speaking the truth and, as such, they might be redefined as testimonies tempted by confession, which is exemplified in Sexton’s surrealistic search. Besides, the poetic representation of madness provides a link with, on the one hand, Augustine’s religious confession and, on the other hand, M.L. Rosenthal’s initial definition emphasizing the importance of guilt in Lowell’s “confessional” writing. But expressing determined psychological suffering in both psychoanalytical and religious terms reduces the accomplishment of confession to mere fiction of the self. Contrary to fully achieved confession, hybrid self-testifying may then prove destabilizing: it bears witness to the failure of confession and therefore to the weakening of the “I”, whose vulnerability Sexton’s tragic fate may embody. Analyzing the poetical workings of the speaker’s fragility allows to understand the consequences of the poets’ confrontation with their testimonial poems and with the reader. It also reveals to what extent testimonial poetical writing is bound to lead to an impasse.
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Laurence Bécel. Confession ou fiction de soi : la poésie testimoniale de Robert Lowell et Anne Sexton. Littératures. Le Mans Université, 2012. Français. ⟨NNT : 2012LEMA3015⟩. ⟨tel-01789005⟩

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