A comprehensive and scholarly account of this popular and influential genre, the essays in this collection explore confessional literature from the mid-twentieth century to the present day, and include the writing of John Berryman, Anne Sexton, Ted Hughes and Helen Fielding.
Drawing on a wide range of examples, the contributors to this volume evaluate and critique conventional readings of confessionalism. Orthodox, humanist notions of the literary act of confession and its assumed relationship to truth, authority and subjectivity are challenged, and in their place a range of new critical perspectives and practices are adopted.
Modern Confessional Writing develops and tests new theoretically-informed views on what confessional writing is, how it functions, and what it means to both writer and reader. When read from these new perspectives modern confessional writing is liberated from the misconception that it provides a kind of easy authorial release and readerly catharsis, and is instead read as a discursive, self-reflexive, sophisticated and demanding genre.
Table of Contents
Introduction. Dangerous Confessions: The Problem of Reading Sylvia Plath Biographically. Confessing the Body: Plath, Sexton, Berryman, Lowell, Ginsberg and the Gendered Poetics of the ‘Real’. ‘To Feel with a Human Stranger’: Adrienne Rich's Post-Holocaust Confession and the Limits of Identification. ‘Your Story. My Story’: Confessional Writing and the Case of Birthday Letters. Bridget Jones’s Diary: Confessing Post-Feminism. ‘The Memoir as Self-Destruction’: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Truth, Confession, and the Post-Apartheid Black Consciousness in Njabulo Ndebele’s The Cry of Winnie Mandela. Personal Performances: The Resistant Confessions of Bobby Baker. Death Sentences: Confessions of Living with Dying in Narratives of Terminal Illness. Cultures of Confession/Cultures of Testimony: Turning the Subject Inside Out. How We Confess Now: Reading the Abu Ghraib Archive. Index