Elise Brault-Dreux : “there is poetry / all over the walls of oncology / and i want to get out” (Sarah Broom)

Presentation

I will be presenting a selection of 20th– and 21st-century British poems that all relate an experience of the hospital. 

Grounded in the philosophy of care, the study of my corpus of poems rests on three interrelated aspects that are at the heart of hospitalization: as soon as he or she enters this so peculiar space, the patient’s social status is jeopardized; this social vulnerability is combined with a primarily physical experience, and with an intense ontological trial. And however one considers hospitalization (in its social, physical, or ontological dimensions), at some point or another it involves a feeling of alienation: the reduction to the sole status of a patient alienates the individual’s social identity; pain, treatment, alteration contribute to a feeling of physical alienation; and the end of the illusion of eternal health that is more or less violently revealed when one arrives in hospital gives way to an intense feeling of ontological alienation.

Emancipation surfaces in poems that evoke the patient’s discharge, or when they depict death “à la deuxième personne” (Jankélévitch) – when the poetic voice evokes the death of a relative on a hospital bed. But more frequent in hospital poems is the emancipation from norms. Georges Canguilhem argues that being sick is being forced to emancipate from the norms of a “normal” healthy life and to create other norms of existence. 

Poetry, by its conciseness, its proper discipline, its peculiar way of circulating signs, its tempo and its lyrical tradition, turns out to be an accurate medium to give expression to the intensification of subjectivity proper to hospitalization. This intensification is coupled with a quite expected feeling of alienating vulnerability which poetry, by its economy of words, by the shortness of some pieces, by its fragile regulations, by all it leaves outside, somehow reveals. Poets also emancipate from traditional poetic norms, as they create other norms to fit the hospital into poetry, or even emancipate from poetry altogether (Peter Reading concludes his poem series outside poetry, and Sarah Broom “want[s] to get out” of this hospital whose walls are covered with poetry).

Corpus:

Dannie Abse, Sarah Broom, Julia Darling, Helen Dunmore, Jackie Kay, Andrew Motion, Carole Satyamurti


Elise Brault-Dreux est maître de conférences à l’université Polytechnique des Hauts-de-France. Elle est l’auteur de de nombreux articles sur l’œuvre de D.H. Lawrence et du Je et ses masques dans la poésie de D.H. Lawrence (Septentrion, 2014). Ses travaux ont également porté sur la poésie de T.S. Eliot et de Philip Larkin. Elle a co-dirigé No Dialect Please, You’re a Poet – English dialects in poetry in the 20th and 21st centuries (Routledge 2019), un numéro en ligne, Migrants from Green Fields: Wilfred Owen in France (LARCA, 2021), et a dirigé L’Air du Temps de 1922 – Royaume-Uni et Etats-Unis aux rythmes d’une année (Sorbonne Université Presses, 2022).  Elle travaille actuellement sur la représentation de l’expérience de l’hôpital en poésie britannique contemporaine. 



Citer ce billet
Alice Braun (2023, 18 janvier). Elise Brault-Dreux : “there is poetry / all over the walls of oncology / and i want to get out” (Sarah Broom). Aliénation/Émancipation. Consulté le 14 juin 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/d1n6

Auteur/autrice : Alice Braun

Maîtresse de conférences en anglais à l’université Paris Nanterre/Senior lecturer in English at the Paris Nanterre university.

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