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Feast of ExcessA Cultural History of the New Sensibility$
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George Cotkin

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190218478

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190218478.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 15 June 2021

Living and Dying

Living and Dying

Anne Sexton 1966

(p.215) { 15 } Living and Dying
Feast of Excess

George Cotkin

Oxford University Press

Anne Sexton’s book of poetry Live or Die would win her the Pulitzer Prize. It was a work in the confessional mode, dwelling on issues of madness, depression, and suicide—all exhibiting, however, poetic restraint, a modeling of material through artistic practice. Her life mingles in this chapter with her poetry, with both fitting the context of the madness and violence in American culture at this moment (as in the murder of nurses in Chicago by Richard Speck and the shooting in Austin by Charles Whitman) and the rise of a feminist consciousness, as indicated by Sexton’s appreciation for Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. For all of the sadness written into nearly every line of Sexton’s poetry, there is a hint of hope, especially in the poem “Live,” where the birth of Dalmatian puppies becomes a metaphor for keeping on with life, despite its vicissitudes.

Keywords:   Anne Sexton, suicide, madness, poetry, confession, Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, violence in America

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