Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Olga Abella


This creative thesis, a collection of personal poetry and critical analysis, explores the experiences of women and children who have grown up in mentally and physically abusive environments, and examines the ramifications such abuse has on their subsequent adulthood. Each poem focuses on one particular individual's struggle to cope with violent or abusive circumstances in her past or present existence. Since the poems are arranged sequentially, mapping a woman's transition from childhood to adulthood, the works deal with various stages in the lives of women. While some of the poetry finds its genesis in my own personal experiences, like the confessional poets, I have also found that by writing of other women's experiences I attempt to empathize and articulate the encounters of many women.

Therefore, I felt it crucial to research not only the confessional poets of the mid-1950's and 60's, but also the theorist Jeanne Perreault, who writes about the literary theory of feminist autography. The two forms of writing are related, but differ from the intimate, self-psychological inspections of the confessional writers to the empathetic, feminist purposes of the autographer. In a critique of Plath's later confessional work, Caroline King Bernard writes that the confessional poet is one who explores the meaning of the intimate self and "makes of the private psychological vulnerability at the poem's center a cultural symbol, an 'embodiment of civilization"' (109). In contrast, a feminist autographer is a writer who sees herself in all women, and tries, through the written word, to give a voice to other women who suffer in silence (Perreault 132). Perreault explains that a feminist autographer is one who "... inscribes herself in one voice or many" (132).

Consequently, the section devoted to critical analysis delves into uncovering the lives, work, and motivation of the confessional poets such as Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and W.D. Snodgrass. It also deals with understanding the definition of feminist autography, and the work of Andrienne Rich, who is defined by Perreault as a true feminist autographer.

However, a great deal of the poetry uses my own personal, chaotic experiences to place the study of "self" into a larger societal context. Others who have experienced similar struggles or tribulations may identify with the personal voice, witness revelations and participate with the pathos involved therein. Initially, the personal revelations are cathartic for myself. However, it is my hope that throughout my own psychological inspections, readers of my work may experience some form of connection with the subject, a "universal yesness" in a way, and thereby feel less isolated and vulnerable to the stigma often self-imposed by victims/survivors of abuse. I believe this "connection" to be the effect and purpose of both feminist autographers and confessional poets. As Anne Sexton once wrote, "Through {speaking} of my inner life, I reach other people's inner life" (Middlebrook 382).

Included in

Poetry Commons