The Difficult Night Window
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Alen Hamza, Ph.D.
William Olsen, Ph.D.
Elizabeth Bradburn, Ph.D.
Dennis Hinrichsen, M.F.A.
borderline personality disorder, BPD, creative writing, literature, poetry
At the end of the nineteenth century, during the fin-de-siècle and amid the literary movement known as decadence, highly stylized works, an obsession with morbidity, and withdrawal into the mind were all markers of a collective anxiety concerning the daunting task of determining one’s place in an increasingly modern world. Much attention has been given to “The Tragic Generation” and its mythologizing of the “doubling and splitting” of the self, a fragmentation resulting from these anxieties and exacerbated by growing tensions in the years to come, years that would bring with them the start of The Great War. William Butler Yeats is an excellent example of a poet attempting to transcend the self to survive existence in an increasingly urban, modernized, and dangerous world. Indeed, a similar sense of remoteness—a need to escape—has characterized much of anglophone literature since the publication of the 1890 Yeats poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” From Robert Frost to Robert Hass, from Gertrude Stein to Lynda Hull, twentieth century poets’ representations of the relationship to the self has produced some of the most beautiful works haunted by the fragmentation of identities produced by a growing knowledge of what lies beyond national borders due to technological advancements, as well as the acknowledgement of the disorganized and fleeting nature of thought fueled by the burgeoning field of psychology.
bring the weight of the history of fragmentation in literature to bear on my own poems, which aim to represent the experience of living with BPD (borderline personality disorder) and the inescapable remoteness that the stigma of the diagnosis carries. Through a speaker who oscillates between personal and world histories, as well as the expression of thoughts responded to as if they were emotional realities, I explore the dissociation that accompanies BPD; a feeling of absent presence that can bring peace in the form of a loss of self. Ultimately, this manuscript represents my own struggles with the self, and with situating the ideas and experiences of the self within personal and historical narratives—both of which can feel as if they are a part of one’s own life experiences and something entirely different, as if watching a life occur at an uncomfortably close yet disconnected vantage point.
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Emery, Christopher, "The Difficult Night Window" (2023). Dissertations. 3937.