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Art of ConfessionThe Performance of Self from Robert Lowell to Reality TV$
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Christopher Grobe

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781479829170

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479829170.001.0001

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The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Confessional

(p.37) Interlude
Art of Confession

Christopher Grobe

NYU Press

As each art form turned confessional, the first artists to attempt it had unusual amounts of social privilege—e.g., among poets, Robert Lowell, a Boston Brahmin. That, perhaps, is why confessional artists have tended to be white, at least in early, pivotal moments in each art form. And yet, over and over, these white, confessional artists have adopted the voices of ethnic and racial others, credentialing their angst through appropriation. Not only is confessionalism unbearably white as a movement, but confessional artists tend to find their own whiteness unbearable. Nonwhite confessional artists, though, do something similar—e.g., in comedy, Richard Pryor—blending personal expression with persona performance, fostering identifications across identitarian boundaries.

Keywords:   confessionalism, whiteness, social privilege, Robert Lowell, Richard Pryor, poetry, comedy

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