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The Plural of UsPoetry and Community in Auden and Others$
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Bonnie Costello

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691172811

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691172811.001.0001

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Speaking of Us

Speaking of Us

(p.1) 1 Speaking of Us
The Plural of Us

Bonnie Costello

Princeton University Press

This chapter reflects on the perils and controversies surrounding common usage of the first-person plural. Poetry's first-person plural often prompts questions central to modern social thought: For whom does the poet write, and what authority does she have to speak for others? Is there a prior selfhood standing behind the collective, or is the “I” suspended in the voicing of “we”? Is “we” one or many? Can the poet construct a “we” that retains multiplicity within its choral force? When does the poem give assent to this claim of collective identity, and when does it distance itself?

Keywords:   poets, poetry, first-person plural, social thought

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