From the maternal to the mechanical: the struggle against sentiment in contemporary American motherhood poetry

Militello, J (2017) From the maternal to the mechanical: the struggle against sentiment in contemporary American motherhood poetry. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

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The purpose of this study is to examine the poems of a small number of contemporary American poets who have worked to undermine poetic traditions of sentimentality that have sometimes figured large in the representation of motherhood. The study focuses on writers who have been formative to my own practice and who have helped me consider a challenge that I have wrestled with in my own writing and personal life. I write about their practices in relation to my own creative project, and to a concern that the more challenging aspects of motherhood not be oppressed. The first two chapters define idealism and sentimentality as factors that have been an important strand of motherhood poetry, explore the ways in which some contemporary American poets have sought to counter these factors in their work, and address the ways in which poets such as Sylvia Plath have examined the loss of maternal identity, which acts as precursor to the depersonalization of the mother in poetry. The thesis then investigates the depersonalization of the maternal figure by addressing the ways in which the mother can be mechanized and objectified in poems, and explores the objectification of the child in the work of several poets, showing how children have been embodied as objects in order to counter the culturally enforced response a child’s presence engenders. These later chapters also explore some of the reasons a poet might objectify the mother and child figure, and address the effects of this approach. As a way of concluding each chapter, the study speaks to the creative manuscript and its contextualization, discussing the ways in which the research has influenced the writing of the poems. The creative portion of the work is a manuscript of poems titled 'The Reproduction Cinema', which also addresses maternal struggle. The study finds that the objectification and depersonalization of mother and child is one important method by which poets wishing to write against more traditional ideas of motherhood might do so. The conclusion suggests that this more inclusive version of a poetics of the maternal experience will help broaden the discourse around the poetry of motherhood.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

Thesis supervised by Gerard Woodward.

Keywords: PhD by Practice, creative writing, American poetry, American poets, contemporary poetry, motherhood, motherhood poetry, maternal identity, maternal experience, sentimentality, idealism, social structure, mother, child, objectification, mechanisation, traditional behaviour, Sylvia Plath,
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
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Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2017 15:31
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2024 19:12
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