Anne Sexton and Middle Generation Poetry: The Geography of Grief

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004 - Literary Criticism - 147 pages

Focusing on Sexton's poems rather than on the life she led, this fresh critique of her work restarts the debate about her poetry 30 years after her death. McGowan argues that Sexton's poetry collections develop a three-way investigation into the possibilities of language to convey an individual's response to her own existence, to the project of defining love (by physical, human, and divine standards) and to the purpose of the aesthetic in our understanding of these entities. He charts the chronological development of Sexton's poetic aesthetic and provides a new interpretation of this major poet's work.

Informed by the poetic and philosophical works of a number of other writers, McGowan's readings of Sexton's work are detailed and thorough. The work opens with a reconsideration of an early Sexton poem and moves through her other works in a carefully crafted fashion. He argues against the confessional interpretations of earlier readings and resituates the debate into Sexton's poetic territories, concentrating on her words, not her world. Concluding that Sexton's work challenges aesthetic and philosophical issues concerning our existence in this world and how language attempts to respond to such questions, McGowan offers a new approach and a fresh outlook on the poetry Sexton has left us.


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Introduction Sextons Obsessive Combinations
First Collections
Life and Death and Love
Sextons Transformations
Religion and Torment
Poetry Repeating
Works Consulted

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About the author (2004)

PHILIP MCGOWAN is Lecturer in American Literature at Goldsmiths' College, University of London. He has previously taught at Trinity College, Dublin. He has published on a range of topics and authors including Middle Generation poetry, temperance literature, John Berryman, and Saul Bellow. His first book was American Carnival: Seeing and Reaing American Culture (Greenwood, 2001).

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