The Coagulateand'Not Simply a Case': Frank Bidart's Post-Confessional Framing of Mental Illness, Typography, the Dramatic Monologue and Feint in 'Herbert White' and 'Ellen West'

  • Crystal Anderson

Student thesis: Phd


This doctoral thesis involves two components, a book length collection of poems and a critical study of 'Herbert White' and 'Ellen West' by Frank Bidart. The collection of poems, The Coagulate, consists of four parts: 1) Semi-personal poems focusing on nature both in a general sense and in specific reference to the natural British landscape. 2) Poems that explore the nature-based myths and contemporary social idiosyncrasies of Japan.3) Poems that explore the social perception of mental illness and the individual voices that exist in spite psychological classification.4) Poems by an alter-ego and pseudonym named Lee Cole, a completely foreign perspective to my own. These poems were written with the intent to adhere to Frank Bidart's concept of Herbert White as 'all that I was not.' However, unlike Bidart, these poems attempt to remove the presence of the poet and forgo the use of a feint. The collection is organised with contexture in mind rather than chronology. Poems build upon one another and one section flows into the next causing the book to have a fluid quality. The critical component examines Bidart's treatment of two mentally ill characters in respect to the establishment of the form, style, and voice that would become a hallmark of his poetry. Chapter 1 looks at the first poem of Bidart's first book, 'Herbert White.' This chapter examines how Bidart's unique use of typography, voice, Freudian theory, and the sharing of the poet's history contributed to the crafting of a mentally ill character and the contexture of Golden State. It suggests that the inclusion of the poet, a stable presence in comparison to White, allows the reader to recognise certain universal human personality traits in a character that seems inhuman. Chapter 2 examines how Bidart crafted 'Ellen West,' a character just as unlike Bidart as 'Herbert White.' Central to this analysis is the examination of how to construct a character struggling with identity. It also examines the use of dramatic monologues and how 'Ellen West' fits into a form with a flexible definition. As with Chapter 1, Chapter 2 examines how Bidart uses the poet's self to add to a fictional narrative and how that reflects upon his personal poetry, indicating that Bidart's use of the self is a redirection from how the Confessional poets used first-person.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorVona Groarke (Supervisor) & John Mcauliffe (Supervisor)


  • poetry of Lancashire
  • poetry of Wales
  • poetry of Cumbria
  • gender identity
  • poetry of Cheshire
  • suicide in poetry
  • murder in poetry
  • yokai
  • poetic voice
  • gender linguistics
  • nature poetry
  • dramatic monologue
  • personal poetry
  • Frank Bidart
  • Post-Confessionalism
  • Confessionalism
  • American poetry
  • typography
  • 1970s poetry
  • anti-self
  • poetry about Japan
  • mental illness

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