The Self in Verse

Bodies and self-disclosure in American female confessional poetry




Body, Confessional poetry, Self-disclosure, Life writing, Women poets


Far from being a mere thematic device, the body plays a crucial role in poetry, especially for modern women poets. The inward turn to an intimate autobiographical dimension, which is commonly seen as characteristic of female writing, usually complies with the requests of feminist theorists, urging writers to reconquer their identity through the assertion of their bodies. However, inscribing the body in verse is often problematic, since it frequently emerges from a complicated interaction between positive self-redefinition, life writing, and the confession of trauma. This is especially true for authors writing under the influence of the American confessional trend, whose biographies were often scarred by mental illness and self-destructive inclinations. This paper assesses the role of the body in the representation of the self in a selection of texts by American women poets—namely Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Adrienne Rich, and Louise Glück—where the body and its disclosure act as vehicles for a heterogeneous redefinition of the female identity.

Author Biography

Carmen Bonasera, University of Pisa

Carmen Bonasera holds a PhD in Theory of Literature and Comparative Literature from the University of Pisa (Italy), where she is currently a Subject expert (“Cultrice della materia”) in Theory of Literature. In 2020, she defended a doctoral dissertation on the fictionalization of the self in female 20th-century poetry, focusing primarily on Italian, North American, and Latin American authors. Her research interests center on gender studies, the theory of the lyric, life writing and autofiction, as well as narrative empathy and other affective responses to fiction.





The Self in Verse