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Title: Madness through poetry : voice, autobiography, sources and survival in the poetry of Frank Bidart, &, The sensational Nellie Bly and other stories
Author: Rowe, Pauline Mary
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2019
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Frank Bidart's poetic strategy is rooted in an existential-phenomenological engagement with lived experience. It is built on four central pillars - of 'autobiography', 'voice', 'sources' and 'survival'. Autobiography provides material from his own life-story and the stories of others. Voice in soliloquy and poetic drama, in its shaping and uniqueness, is the means for carrying the psychology and language of these stories; it also denotes his style and tone. Source - through his endless and helpless research of 'pre-existing forms' through psychology, philosophy, cinema, literature, history and other epistemes - is the foundation of his authenticity as an artist (in that his work is rooted in the world and the human quest to understand the world or 'being in the world,' - what the philosopher Heidegger would call dasein). The fourth pillar is survival - the ambition to live, to refuse suicidality; survival has been both his motivation and attainment through writing poetry. Part 1 offers close readings of Bidart's poems 'Herbert White', 'Ellen West' and 'The War of Vaslav Nijinsky' in the context of lyric theory, narrative, dramatic techniques, concepts of embodiment and existential phenomenology. Bidart demonstrates a meticulous use and transformation of source materials (including stories from his own life) to explore three versions of madness: criminal insanity, suicidality through anorexia and the madness of the artist denied his bodily artistic identity and practice. Part 2 is an original collection of poetry that reflects on subjectivity and madness and includes a series of poems about the life and biography of Nellie Bly. My reasons for choosing Bly as a subject are various: she invented herself through writing at a time in America when there were few women journalists and she practiced an early form of investigative journalism. Her first 'scoop' - Ten Days in a Madhouse (1887) - documented her stay in the asylum (following her presentation as an insane woman) on New York's Blackwell Island. Her purpose, in part, was to test the expertise of those charged with the care of Blackwell's inhabitants. Nellie Bly also interests me as she tells newsworthy stories, yet few documents exist relating to her biography other than her journalism - so she offers a rich source of imaginative possibilities both through voice and the pre-twentieth century moment in which she found her fame. She also offers a strong subject through which experiment with poetry and form seems appropriate in reflecting on narrative, autobiography and poetics through the other stories, including poems about the 'Thud' experiment, told in this collection of poems.
Supervisor: Rees-Jones, Deryn ; Pilgrim, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral