Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This graduate thesis will explore the term "confessional" and its application to literature. The term "confessional" varies; confessional writing can take different forms in different genres. In this thesis, works by contemporary authors of personal lyric poetry, memoir, and fiction are discussed and an investigation of confessional writing within their work is undertaken. While not all authors use a direct confessional voice, the overall effect of their writing creates an intimate space between the writer and reader. A sense of self-reflection on the part of the author gives a confessional feel to his or her work.
While the lines of literary conventions separate genres, confessional writing tends to blur those lines by bringing the message of the work to the forefront. A piece of literature said to be of a particular genre is challenged when one discovers a confessional voice, as it weaves itself among genres and changes the face of the genre itself. While the confessional voice may be less pronounced in fiction, when we think we hear it speaking, albeit unconsciously on the part of the writer, the same effect takes place: writer and reader become engaged in a communicative relationship that reveals secrets of the heart.
In exploring personal lyric poetry and memoir of Gregory Orr, personal lyric poetry of Linda Gregerson and Frank Bidart, short stories and essays by Susan Sontag, and finally, the short stories, essays, and letters of Flannery O'Connor, confessional writing proves to be ambiguous in meaning and difficult to define; nevertheless, each author uniquely incorporates varying degrees of confessionalism to achieve a sense of intimacy that is not a result of the genre they are working in, but in how they say what they do within the genre they have chosen to write in.
Harrod, Mary Beth, "Making Confessions: The Confessional Voice Found Among Literary Genres" (2007). English Master’s Theses. 36.