10/24 Prospectus and Annotated Bibliography

October 25th, 2010

Diana Sanchez

Prof. Pamela Burger

English 391W



In my research paper I will be looking into Anne Sexton’s Bedlam and Part Way Back poems, especially those who best evidence the fragmented an out-looking self. The criticism surrounding Anne Sexton’s work focuses on the exclusive nature of her secluded “I”- often repudiated for its grotesque content. I will argue to the contrary, that the fragmented self present in Anne Sexton’s poems is not grotesque- that it deals with the obscene but that it is not obscene. I will argue that through the process of revision Sexton’s poems were part of a careful craft- that there is no relationship between the fragmented self and a fragmented mind as many critics seem to believe. Furthermore, I will briefly cite other works of confessional poets like W.D. Snodgrass and Sylvia Plath in order to link the concept of the fragmented self to the stylistic preferences of the confessional poetry genre.

First, I will explain what the fragmented self is by using Linda Anderson’s Autobiography. In order to evidence the fragmented self in Anne Sexton’s Bedlam and Part Way Back, I will utilize the following three poems: Music Swims Back to Me, The Kite, and Her Kind. I will use the words of critics like James Dickey and Hayden Carruth, who judged Sexton more on content than on form. To counterpart their arguments, I will bring in critics like Beverly Fields and Mona Van Duyn, who argued that the “I” was a character separate from the author. Furthermore, I will use excerpts from W.D. Snodgrass’ Heart’s Needle and Sylvia Plath’s Ariel in order to expose the fragmented and out-looking self as a stylistic choice of confessional poets.

Annotated Bibliography

Anderson, Linda. Autobiography. New York: Routledge, 2001. Print.

Autobiography is a compilation of literary criticism surrounding the genre of autobiography. It looks at the works of several autobiographical authors  as well as the literary criticism produced by these works. This book will help me distinguish critical from psychoanalytical arguments by defining what constitutes literary criticism.

Ed. Carolyn Riley and Barbara Harte. “Contemporary Literary Criticism.” Gale Research 2 (1974): 390-392. Web. 24 Oct. 2010.

Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter and Polly Vedder. “Contemporary Literary Criticism.” Gale Research 123 (2000): 400-454. Web. 24 Oct. 2010.

Ed. Joseph Mark Conte. “American Poets Since World War II, Fifth Series.” Dictionary of Literary Biography 169 (1996): 244-252. Web. 24 Oct. 2010.

Derived from Literary Criticism Online, an overview of selected literary genres and the critical reception of works. “Contemporary Literary Criticism”  and “ American Poets Since World War II, Fifth Series” provide well-researched information on the biography of Anne Sexton as well as the literary critics that revised her works. These sources will help me understand the critical debates surrounding Sexton’s work and render which one supports and/or rebuts my argument.

Plath, Sylvia. Ariel, the Restored Edition. New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 2004. Print.

Book written by confessional poet Sylvia Plath. Critically linked to the works of Anne Sexton for its similar themes and motifs. Plath deals with depression and thoughts of suicide, as well as feminist topics such as female sexuality, empowerment, etc. This source will help me find stylistic similarities between Plath and Sexton, mainly focusing on the concept of the fragmented self and how it is preferred by confessional poets over the unified self.

Snodgrass, W.D. Heart’s Needle. Michigan: Knopf, 1959. Print.

Collection of poems by W.D. Snodgrass, first published in 1959. Known as one of the most influential collection of confessional poetry by critics and other confessional poets like Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. Critically acclaimed as “revolutionary” for its abstractions and personal honesty. This source will help me determine whether the fragmented self was inherent of early confessional poetry or if it was later added by future proponents of the genre.

Sexton, Anne. To Bedlam and Part Way Back. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999. Print.

First book of poems written by Anne Sexton. To Bedlam and Part Way Back deals with mental illness, gender issues, and ultimately renders truths about Sexton through the concept of the fragmented self, which is abstract by nature as proposed by the early poetry of W.D. Snodgrass. This is the main source from which I will argue that there is no connection between the fragmented self and the author.

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