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Palimpsests of Identity: The Poetic Quest of Theodore Roethke

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Méndez-García, Carmen M. (2007) Palimpsests of Identity: The Poetic Quest of Theodore Roethke. In A Pleasure of Life in Words: A Festschrift for Angela Downing. Cersa, Madrid, pp. 547-562. ISBN 978-84-611-3497-7

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Abstract

North-American poet Theodore Roethke has been endorsed as one of the most suggestive writers within the group of the so-called ‘Confessional Poets’. While acknowledging that most poetry is, in fact, a form of confession, Roethke examines himself and his surroundings with such a depth of perception as to plunge into those unlit regions of the self out of reach for the conscious mind. His oeuvre shows a substantial biographical streak, attempting to reconstruct his lifelong search for a stable identity, turning an obstacle such as his mental instability into a source for the poetic ciphering of his quest.

This definition of personal identity is sought through a series of different metaphors: several masks, disguises and roles are used as symbols of the manyfold nature of the fractured self, which acquires a palimpsest quality in which identities unfold and proliferate. The stages of the construction of identity, documented in his lyric creation, run therefore parallel to the psychic process Roethke had to undergo, one which caused him years of suffering, confinement and disablement. Roethke's work provides a first-hand testimony on how writing can be a useful therapeutic tool to understand the pathological processes the self must sometimes submerge itself into.


Item Type:Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords:Theodore Roethke, identity, poetry, creativity, schizophrenia
Subjects:Humanities > Philology
Humanities > Philology > Criticism
Humanities > Philology > Poetry
Humanities > Philology > English philology
ID Code:48791
Deposited On:27 Jul 2018 07:35
Last Modified:18 Dec 2018 08:49

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