'inside my house of words': the poetry of Anne Stevenson
Johnson, Sara Ann
Thesis or dissertation
- © 2008 Sara Ann Johnson. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.
This thesis examines the relationship between autobiography and art in Anne Stevenson's work by exploring her poetic negotiation of her own presence within her poems, or 'house of words'.
A brief contextual preface assesses Stevenson's importance as a poet and explains the rationale for this study.
Chapter One relates the history of Stevenson's work in the context of her life. It also explores her own critical writing, and considers critics' views of her work.
Chapter Two explores Stevenson's position in her poems which speak of the domestic house. Consistently wary of the confessional label, she erects the house of poetry as a house of words within the literal house, so that these poems become a dialogue between the personal and poetic 'I'.
Chapter Three looks at her poems of place. Stevenson has lived in a number of towns and cities, and many feature in her poetry. However, in these poems she emerges as a shadowy presence that is both present and absent, so that biographical associations are both challenged and endorsed.
Chapter Four explores her poems of the natural world. These poems reveal a keen observation of the world she sees. However, she is a self-confessed Darwinian, so these poems become a lively negotiation between Stevenson the evolutionist and Stevenson the poet.
Chapter Five turns to her elegies for poets. The poems speak of her personal experiences of loss, but while hers is a cohesive voice, her relationship with the dead becomes less and less certain within this particular house of words.
I conclude that her poems are founded on autobiography, but it is the negotiations of her own presence that give them their inbuilt strength.
- Department of English, The University of Hull
- Leighton, Angela, 1954-
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