AN ANALYSIS OF THE MAJOR PERSONAE IN THE POETRY OF STEVIE SMITH

PETER A BOSTOCK, Fordham University

Abstract

Stevie Smith, the British poet who died in 1971, achieved renown as a writer of short, somewhat idiosyncratic poems. These poems very much reflect the life of the author (so much so that it has been maintained that no biography of her need be written since so much of the poet is in the poetry). Yet the poems are not confessional. The informing voices in them are the voices of created characters, not the real voice of Stevie Smith who lived in England for sixty-eight years. Though Smith gave specific names to some of these "characters" the majority are unnamed.^ This study of her Collected Poems advances the thesis that four personae inform most of these unnamed poems and that these four personae are interconnected. The thesis raises a number of questions. Why are there four personae, not more, not fewer? Did they emanate from Stevie Smith's subconscious, or were they calculated artifacts? What is distinctive about each of them? And in what way are they related to each other?^ The study states that a number of writers, including Smith herself, have commented upon her use of a persona. It identifies the four personae in four separate chapters as the child, the solitary, the social persona, and the philosopher. Each is explained in terms of the specific characteristics that form that particular persona. The study also contends that there is a natural progression through the four.^ Though distinctive, these four personae share certain qualities that serve to link them. However, the main source of their interrelatedness lies in the generic nature of each of the four and in the wholeness of the view that the united four present. The conclusion of the study argues that the four personae represent four segments of the human life cycle and that as such they comprise the totality of Smith's vision of human experience. They are typological constructs, not representative of the historical Stevie Smith but her representations of "everyman." ^

Subject Area

English literature

Recommended Citation

BOSTOCK, PETER A, "AN ANALYSIS OF THE MAJOR PERSONAE IN THE POETRY OF STEVIE SMITH" (1985). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8521383.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8521383

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