Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Daring to confront difficult socio-political realities on the page, Argentine and United States poets writing in the late 1960s and early 1970s strove against systems of silence. Implementing direct and indirect poetics, each set of poets embodied, in differing and overlapping ways, elements of the confessionalist mode, at once relational and witnessing. Their poetry in collections from these particular years reflected the risk in their auto-positioning as subjects within their poems and with complex relationships with their audience, and in their usage of language, sometimes fragmented, protective, or urgent. They committed personal experience to the page, and in conveying their experience through narrative and lyric techniques, they opened their lines to provide access to masses of readers who had known the same difficult truths and shared in those realities. These poets, here represented by Juan Gelman, Olga Orozco, Francisco Paco Urondo, Elizabeth Bishop, Anne Sexton, and Adrienne Rich, conducted a risk-taking socio-political poetics of relation demanding awareness and change.
In the United States, the experiences that Bishop, Rich, and Sexton wrote of in their work of this historical moment pertained to socially taboo issuesmental illness, alcoholism, abuse, marital strain, non-normative sexuality, and unequal gender treatmentan address of which that had been fought for in the protests and movements in the 1960s. In Argentina, Gelman, Orozco, and Urondo were writing of the increasing harms being committed by state military forces against citizens and that threatened their own lives as subversives working counter to the interests of their national government. These years constituted a time of darkening hope, as Argentina headed into successive military dictatorships. In response, Gelman and Urondo, along with other authors, developed a more pointed, witnessing, unmistakable, yet emotional and intimate style of writing that paralleled that of the United States poets. Differing from all four of these poets slightly, I also observe the indirect poetics of acknowledgment of Bishop and Orozco, who wrote concurrently with the others, yet communicated autobiographical and socio-political truths through more buried and protective technical means.
This dissertation observes the literary commonalities and discrepancies in these national poetries that upheld the dual ethic of art and socio-political witness. I world the terms confessional, conversational, and testimonial, cross-applying them to the different national poetics and showing how each implemented aspects of the modes. I set forth with the assumption that confessionalism is relational and necessarily enacts vulnerability, skepticism, a critical stance, and risk in its very practice of communicating experience both personal and shared.
The trajectories in American literature and through events affecting both nations as well as the globeincluding protest movements for identity rightsled these Argentine and United States poets to a fascinatingly common space despite their very disparate stakes for writing, which later in the decade would lead to exile and death in the country to the south. These brave writers harnessed devastating fact and made socio-political art by representing multitudes of others with a belief and insistence on the power of language, knowledge, and relation.
Chair and Committee
Mary Jo Bang, Charles Hatfield, Tabea Linhard, Paul Michael Ltzeler,
Leverone, Julia Eva, "A Daring Voice: Confessional Poetry of the 1970s from Argentina and the United States" (2016). Arts & Sciences Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 811.