Confessional Poetry (LIT2435.01)

Sandra Simonds

Confessional Poetry is a major mid-20th century movement in American Poetry lasting from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s. This course will focus on the poetry, letters, and diaries of Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, and Anne Sexton. Confessional poets differ from the poets who came before them (modernists) insofar as these poets mined (sometimes shameful) autobiographical experiences to create their work. While the earlier avant-garde stayed clear of the “personal,” confessional poets centered their aesthetic on subjects such as divorce, mental illness, suicide, menstruation, sexuality, and other subjects that were traditionally deemed “off-limits” for poetry. This course will introduce students to psychoanalytic theory while simultaneously examining the social, political, and cultural environment in post-World War II America which gave rise to this school of poetry. In addition, we will be reading Emily Van Duyne’s critical work on racism and anti-Semitism in Plath in order to further contextualize her poetry. Finally, we will examine issues of cultural appropriation in both Berryman and Plath and the legacy of colonialism in Bishop.


Learning Outcomes:
Understand the foundations confessional poetry and confessional poetry’s influence on contemporary poetics.
Define key terms of psychoanalysis.
Perform close reading of texts.
Research and apply literary criticism to texts.
Conduct independent scholarly research in order to produce quality written work.
Engage with literature through creative and collaborative activities.
Lead class discussion of chosen texts in front of a community of peers.



Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 4
W 4:10PM - 6:00PM & Th 3:40PM - 5:30PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: Literature , Updates , Fully In-Person , All courses
Tags: , , ,