The Museum of Coming Apart

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This dissertation comprises two parts: Part I, which discusses use of second person pronoun in contemporary American poetry; and Part II, The Museum of Coming Apart, which is a collection of poems. As confessional verse became a dominant mode in American poetry in the late 1950s and early 60s, so too did the use of the first-person pronoun. Due in part to the excesses of later confessionalism, however, many contemporary poets hesitate to use first person for fear that their work might be read as autobiography. The poetry of the 1990s and early 2000s has thus been characterized by distance, ... continued below

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Lee, Bethany Tyler May 2009.

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  • Lee, Bethany Tyler

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Description

This dissertation comprises two parts: Part I, which discusses use of second person pronoun in contemporary American poetry; and Part II, The Museum of Coming Apart, which is a collection of poems. As confessional verse became a dominant mode in American poetry in the late 1950s and early 60s, so too did the use of the first-person pronoun. Due in part to the excesses of later confessionalism, however, many contemporary poets hesitate to use first person for fear that their work might be read as autobiography. The poetry of the 1990s and early 2000s has thus been characterized by distance, dissociation, and fracture as poets attempt to remove themselves from the overtly emotional and intimate style of the confessionals. However, other contemporary poets have sought to straddle the line between the earnestness and linearity of confessionalism and the intellectually playful yet emotionally detached poetry of the moment. One method for striking this balance is to employ the second person pronoun. Because "you" in English is ambiguous, it allows the poet to toy with the level of distance in a poem and create evolving relationships between the speaker and reader. Through the analysis of poems by C. Dale Young, Paul Guest, Richard Hugo, Nick Flynn, Carrie St. George Comer, and Moira Egan, this essay examines five common ways second person is employed in contemporary American poetry-the use of "you" in reference to a specific individual, the epistolary form, the direct address to the reader, the imperative voice, and the use of "you" as a substitute for "I"-and the ways that the second-person pronoun allows these poems to take the best of both the confessional and dissociative modes.

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  • May 2009

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 8:16 p.m.

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  • June 13, 2017, 3:35 p.m.

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Lee, Bethany Tyler. The Museum of Coming Apart, dissertation, May 2009; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc11000/: accessed November 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .