Christopher Grobe

The Art of Confession

The Performance of Self from Robert Lowell to Reality TV

New York University Press 2017

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in CommunicationsNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in PoetryNew Books in Popular CultureNew Books Network February 16, 2018 Petal Samuel

Christopher Grobe’s The Art of Confession: The Performance of Self from Robert Lowell to Reality TV (New York University Press, 2017) traces the ways...

Christopher Grobe’s The Art of Confession: The Performance of Self from Robert Lowell to Reality TV (New York University Press, 2017) traces the ways the performance of confession permeated and transformed a wide range of media in postwar America. Grobe explores how confession—from the confessional poets of the 1960s to contemporary reality TV—is both constructed and authentic, artful even in its ostensible artlessness, and always on the move between and across media. The work’s archive is expansive, placing in conversation poetry, performance art, comedy, legal confession, film, and reality TV, genres whose conventions transform and whose boundaries blur when confronted with artists impulses to confess, to stage what Grobe calls “breakthroughs” out of both generic and sociocultural containment. Laying bare the ways confessional performances are stylized and mediated to elicit “a satiety of experience which can be taken as reality” while taking seriously artists’ attempts to reveal and perform an authentic self, Grobe demonstrates how confession energizes new ways of being, forms of collectivity, and political mobilization.

Christopher Grobe is an Assistant Professor of English at Amherst College where he teaches a wide range of courses on drama, poetics, performance, and performance culture and theory.


Petal Samuel is a postdoctoral fellow at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies at the University of Virginia. She is completing Polluting the Soundscape: Noise Control and Afro-Caribbean Women’s Decolonial Soundscapes, a book project that traces the evolution of noise legislation and public discourses decrying noise as technologies of racial control in the Caribbean and Caribbean diaspora, while highlighting the ways Afro-Caribbean women writers have reclaimed noise against the grain of colonial injunctions to remain quiet as a condition of civic inclusion.

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