Robert Lowell

Comments & Themes


Study Questions. You can reflect and write a paper on the following topics:

    • What is confessional poetry? How does it apply to the so called "Wrecked Generation"?


    • Analyze the poetic process comparing Lowell's "Skunk Hour" (Life Studies), Bishop's "The Armadillo", Heaney's "The Skunk", Galway Kinnell's "The Porcupine", Richard Wilbur's "The Death of a Toad" and Ted Hughes' "Wodwo".


    • Compare the concept of 'ruin' in Lowell's "The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket" (Lord Weary's Castle) and Randall Jarrell's "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner." Determine how both poets augment a fear of death with images of disintegrating bodies.


    • How and why does Lowell refer back to Melville's tragic romanticism in "The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket"?


    • Identify the 'units of affect' within Life Studies as a poetic sequence following Rosenthal's theory as developed in The Modern Poetic Sequence.


    • Summarize sources of moral decline in Lowell's "The Mills of the Kavanaghs" and "Falling Asleep over the Aeneid." Contrast the poet's judgments against his forebears with William Faulkner's assessments of the Compson family in the novel The Sound and the Fury.


    • Analyze strategies of personification in Lowell's "Skunk Hour", and search for evidence concerning possible influence from Elizabeth Bishop's "Armadillo".


    • Reflect upon the concepts of "biography", "autobiography", "autobiographical pact", "experience", "defacement" applied to Lowell's Notebook.


    • Analyze the poetic possibilities intertwined between the concepts of "history" and "his-story" in Lowell's History.


    • Why did Seamus Heaney define Lowell as "the master elegist and welder of English" in the poem "Elegy"(Field Work, 1979)?


    • Analyze the intertextual processes created in Day by Day between poetry and other arts such as painting and photography.


    • Which is Lowell's position concerning translations? How can we consider that Lowell interprets the concept of "imitation" in poetry? Why can Imitations be considered both a homage and elegy to European poetry?


    • How do compare, in general terms, Lowell's Life Studies and The Dolphin against the works of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Sharon Olds, W. D. Snodgrass, or Allen Ginsberg?


    • Comment on Ralph Waldo Emerson's expression "The experience of each new age requires a new confession" applied to Lowell's poetry.


    • How are constructed and developed key concepts such as God, Body, and Power in History.


    • Identify paternal imagos in what may be considered "modern elegy" in the works of Robert Lowell, Stanley Kunitz, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Sharon Olds.