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Title: Elizabeth Bishop and Sylvia Plath through psychoanalysis
Author: Bradshaw, Melissa
ISNI:       0000 0004 2729 5734
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis reads Elizabeth Bishop and Sylvia Plath for their poetic engagement psychoanalysis. This reading nuances their relation to confessional poetry. By 'confessional' I mean the term first used to describe Robert Lowell's 'Life Studies' (1959), and later to describe the poets that were influenced by him. My main intervention is that what makes Bishop and Plath's poetry appear confessional owes to their engagement with psychoanalysis. Confessional poetry provokes psychoanalytic interpretation, but these two poets are not the passive object of psychoanalytic interpretation. Instead they used poetic form to motivate a transference with psychoanalysis. Plath and Bishop's poetry often diverges from or produces a critique of psychoanalysis where it is most compromising for women. I focus on Freud and Lacan as two of the most difficult yet influential figures in the relationship between psychoanalysis and feminism. Plath's poetry is not pathological and inevitably suicidal, and Bishop develops a more problematic relationship with the other than is sometimes suggested. Both poets also give form to a maternal relation of the kind that Freud and Lacan's work suppresses. The confessional poem is also read as a formation of the ego. Although Bishop is not normally included under the term confessional poetry, she influenced Lowell, and when the confessional poem is read as an ego, rather than centred on the 'I', her writing can be seen to share some of the most essential features of confessional poetry. The main difference is her use of secretive tactics very different from the deliberate self-centredness of confessional poetry proper. Whereas the archconfessional Plath made the 'I' the centre of her poetry and her gender overt, Bishop hid both of these behind various surfaces. The parallels I draw between these two poets reveal the different ways that as writers they brought women's writing and feminine subjectivity on the literary scene.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available