Stephen English

“Ariel and the Witch: Personae and Exorcism in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton”

Confessional poetry, because of its nature, is imbued with a conflict between the poet’s biography and a New Critical approach to the text which prefers outside influence be left out of interpretation. In my research, I take a stance that complete interpretation must include aspects from both ends of the spectrum. As a result, my opinion that Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton adopt personae in their poetry to metaphorically exorcise inner conflicts is arrived at through a very careful treatment of these two sources of information. With this critical approach, I conclude that the act of exorcism and the need for personae is a dominant aspect in each woman’s poetry; I go on to suggest that the reason for this presence is the shared existential experience of being emerging women in the middle of the twentieth century