The Utraquists: Locating Religion in Confessional Poetry

Giles Mebane Robertson, Fordham University


Here I argue that central confessional poets—Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Anne Sexton, and Sylvia Plath—confront and struggle with theological and religious matters in their poetry and in their lives. I seek to show that the confessionalists seek to unify persona and person that the New Critics had divided. Thus, in most confessional poem the "speakers" are the poets themselves or an effigy like Berryman's "Henry House." The period under scrutiny reflects this schism—in both the secular and the religious context. There were conflicts and schisms in the Catholic Church. This Poetic period and mode of unusually personal expression occurred during the 1960s in America—situating it at the Catholic's Vatican II. Given this context and cultural crisis, it comes to little surprise that a new poetic aesthetic arose. In addition, I wish to show also the problem that joins these poets' troubles with their fathers and how these problems colored their view of the patriarchal spiritual fathers. It is surprising that no one I am aware of has drawn this circle around these poets when even a brief gloss shows this commonality.

Subject Area

Religion|American literature

Recommended Citation

Robertson, Giles Mebane, "The Utraquists: Locating Religion in Confessional Poetry" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3563411.