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Emotional Intelligence in the Later Poetry of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Adrienne Rich

By Carol Margaret Houston

Abstract

During the 1950s and the 1960s the confessional poetry of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Adrienne Rich triggered ambivalent responses from both critics and readers. This thesis was precipitated by and focuses on these ambivalent reactions. On the one hand there were critics who viewed their poetry positively because of the way in which their poems genuinely probe the emotions. On the other hand there were critics who maintained that the poetry of these three women was just not poetry; rather their writing was compromised by their emotions. In both cases the critics make judgments about the nature of emotion in poetry and the value of these emotions and assume that emotions do not have a cerebral component. I am proceeding from the very different standpoint that the emotions have a cognitive dimension, and are an essential component in the way in which the poetry of Plath, Sexton and Rich is cognitively moulded. The emotions, in short, help to secure the poetry’s sense and meaning in a sense-making way. This use of emotions to shed light on the poetry of Plath, Sexton and Rich has to date received scant attention. The thesis bases this approach on the work of a number of theorists of the emotions. Because of the development of theories of the emotions in the last fifty years, our appreciation of the cognitive dimensions of the poetry has flourished. This thesis reasons that the emotion depicted in the poetry of Plath, Sexton and Rich makes evident their cognitive reactions to specific happenings. As a result of analysing the poetry of these three female poets, it is possible to see the shaping spirit and the cognitive dimension of emotion in their poetry and the way in which the individual emotions contributed to the structuring of the poetry...Thesis (PhD Doctorate)Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)School of Arts, Media and CultureFull Tex

Topics: emotional intelligence, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, poetry, emotional intelligence in poetry, confessional poetry, cognitive dimension of emotion in poetry
Publisher: Griffith University
Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:research-repository.griffith.edu.au:10072/366978
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