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The Need to Re-evaluate: Identity in Robert Penn Warren's Or Else: Poem/Poems 1968-1974

The Need to Re-evaluate: Identity in Robert Penn Warren's Or Else: Poem/Poems 1968-1974 The Need to Re- evaluate: Identity in Robert Penn Warren’s Or Else: Poem/Poems 1968 – 1974 by Mary Schuhriemen In the first poem of Or Else: Poem/Poems 1968 – 1974, Robert Penn Warren presents a riddle for his readers. In particular, “e N Th ature of a Mirror” offers a cond fi ent understanding of the relationship between time and the individual: “Time / is the mirror into which you stare” (16 – 17 ). The conclusion, however, is undercut immediately by the collection’s first interjection, in which “Time / is only a mirror in the fun- house” (Warren, “Interjection 1” 1 – 2). This dichotomy frames the question, “ Is this really me?” (“Interjection 1” 1), a question which initiates the quest for identity that runs throughout the collection. However, the struc- ture of the collection is problematic: how can Or Else attempt to answer the question of human identity when its own identity as a poem is in doubt? “The Nature of a Mirror” was written years before “Interjection #1: The Need for Re- evaluation,” (Millichap 27) and yet the two are not clearly presented as separate poems — t hey are both listed under the same Roman numeral, http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Southern Literary Journal University of North Carolina Press

The Need to Re-evaluate: Identity in Robert Penn Warren's Or Else: Poem/Poems 1968-1974

The Southern Literary Journal , Volume 45 (1) – Jul 19, 2013

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2012 The Southern Literary Journaland the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of English and Comparative Literature.
ISSN
1534-1461

Abstract

The Need to Re- evaluate: Identity in Robert Penn Warren’s Or Else: Poem/Poems 1968 – 1974 by Mary Schuhriemen In the first poem of Or Else: Poem/Poems 1968 – 1974, Robert Penn Warren presents a riddle for his readers. In particular, “e N Th ature of a Mirror” offers a cond fi ent understanding of the relationship between time and the individual: “Time / is the mirror into which you stare” (16 – 17 ). The conclusion, however, is undercut immediately by the collection’s first interjection, in which “Time / is only a mirror in the fun- house” (Warren, “Interjection 1” 1 – 2). This dichotomy frames the question, “ Is this really me?” (“Interjection 1” 1), a question which initiates the quest for identity that runs throughout the collection. However, the struc- ture of the collection is problematic: how can Or Else attempt to answer the question of human identity when its own identity as a poem is in doubt? “The Nature of a Mirror” was written years before “Interjection #1: The Need for Re- evaluation,” (Millichap 27) and yet the two are not clearly presented as separate poems — t hey are both listed under the same Roman numeral,

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Jul 19, 2013

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