Title page for ETD etd-0522103-120700

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Kang, Gye-Yu
Author's Email Address gkang1@lsu.edu
URN etd-0522103-120700
Title Robert Lowell's Life-Writing and Memory
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
James Olney Committee Chair
Keith A. Sandiford Committee Member
Sharon Aronofsky Weltman Committee Member
  • self and memory
  • reconstructive process
  • confessional poetry
Date of Defense 2003-05-07
Availability unrestricted
This thesis examines Robert Lowell's use of memory in such autobiographical works as Life Studies and Day by Day. In those volumes, Lowell returns to recollect his private past; his act of remembering becomes the poetic process by which Lowell is able to create the retrospective truth of his life. The most important feature of memory in his life-writing is in its role as an imaginative reconstruction. In the first chapter, I review recent models that regard memory as a reconstructive process. Memory involves more than fact, according to these investigations; it also represents a fictionalizing process of self. In 91 Revere Street, Lowell recollects the incidents from his childhood that seem to be essential to the formation of his self. For Lowell, memory is a way of knowing by which his self learns to recognize itself in the world. In Life Studies, he also explores his lost self in memories and situates it within American culture generally, transposing his own case to the national level. Lowell seems to discard the essentialist idea of self and instead adopts an idea of the self recreated by remembering. Lowell's self is culturally constituted and dominated. Finally, memory seems to serve Lowell in knowing not only himself but also others better. In Day by Day, Lowell achieves new images of his parents that represent a revised and reshaped attitude to those formative figures. He comes to understand his parents as humans in light of his evolving recollection. For Lowell, memory is a creative force of the poet's artistic imagination continuously reconstituting the past in the present.
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