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Constraint and Confession: Bishop, Lowell, Rich

Class at Faculty of Arts |

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THIS CODE WAS CREATED SPECIFICALLY FOR ERASMUS STUDENTS. If you are a foreign student and you need a grade for this course, you should sign up for this code.


This course juxtaposes the work of three American poets whose writing unfolded in the post-war period, although in different directions. The oldest of the three, Elizabeth Bishop, departed from her early poetry touched by Surrealism and, temporarily settling in Brazil, she perfected her detached, understated and descriptive voice. Robert Lowell, after his formalist beginnings, grew into an outspoken representative of Confessional poetry. Finally Adrienne Rich, whose poetry also underwent stylistic and thematic loosening, moved towards an affirmation of her location in a female, Jewish-American identity. Besides highlighting the shifts in these writers' oeuvres, the course will discuss the continuities and interrelations in their work.


Axelrod, Steven Gould. "Elizabeth Bishop: Nova Scotia in Brazil." Papers on Language and Literature 37.3 (Summer 2001).

Axelrod, Steven Gould and Helen Deese, eds. Robert Lowell: Essays on the Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. (selected essays)

Bishop, Elizabeth. The Collected Prose. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1984. (extracts)

-----. The Complete Poems. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1984.

Costello, Bonnie. Elizabeth Bishop: Questions of Mastery. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991. (extracts)

Doreski, C. K. "Elizabeth Bishop: Author(ity) and the Rhetoric of (Un)naming." Literary Review 35.3 (Spring 1992).

Harrison, Victoria. Elizabeth Bishop: The Poetics of Intimacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. (extracts)

Kalstone, David. Becoming a Poet: Elizabeth Bishop with Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1989. (extracts)

Keyes, Claire. The Aesthetics of Power: The Poetry of Adrienne Rich. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986. (extracts)

Lombardi, Marilyn May, ed. Elizabeth Bishop: The Geography of Gender. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993. (selected essays)

Lowell, Robert. Collected Poems. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997. (selected poems)

-----. Collected Prose. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1990. (extracts)

Martin, Jay. Robert Lowell. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1970. (extracts)

Martin, Wendy. An American Triptych: Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1984. (extracts)

Palattella, John. "'That Sense of Constant Re-Adjustment': The Great Depression and the Provisional Politics of Elizabeth Bishop’s 'North and South.'" Contemporary Literature 34.1 (Spring 1993).

Rich, Adrienne. Selected poems and essays from the following collections:

- An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems 1988-1991. New York: Norton, 1991.

- Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversations. New York: Norton, 2001.

- Collected Early Poems, 1950-1970. New York: Norton, 1993.

- Diving into the Wreck. New York: Norton, 1973.

- Midnight Salvage: Poems, 1995-1998. New York: Norton, 1999.

- On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose, 1966-1978. New York: Norton, 1979.

- The Dream of a Common Language. New York: Norton, 1978.

- The School Among the Ruins: Poems 2000-2004. New York: Norton, 2004.

- Time’s Power: Poems 1985-1988. New York: Norton, 1988.

- Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010. New York: Norton, 2011.

Yorke, Liz. Adrienne Rich: Passion, Politics and the Body. London: Sage, 1998. (extracts)


To receive their credits, students must attend at least 70% of seminars, deliver an oral presentation and submit an essay of 3000-4000 words. Please consult “Essay Guidelines” at for general writing guidelines and submit an approximately 100-word proposal in advance (a preliminary bibliography should be included as well). Essays must be submitted by June 14, 2024.