Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Modern (Bathroom Stall) Confession

Foucault argued (I think in the History of Sexuality--don't ask me which volume off the top of my head) that the medieval Catholic confessional is the predecessor to the psychologist's analysis (I think he was thinking mostly of psychoanalysis of a Freudian bent), but, perhaps, it is also the predecessor of the advice column and even the bathroom graffito confessional in a post-Reformation, Protestant, predominantly Anglophone context (outside of Foucault's France):

For since the British Isles went Protestant
A church confession is too high for most.
But still confession is a human want,
So Englishmen must make theirs now by post
And authors hear them over breakfast toast.
For, failing them, there's nothing but the wall
Of public lavatories on which to scrawl.
(W.H. Auden, "Letter to Lord Byron")

I am beginning to find many of Auden's lines (especially in this particular poem) rather strained, but I like this particular stanza. It just stands out. It is witty, relevant, funny, and relatable. And the lines all work together (other stanzas in this poem have unrelated lines that seem to be there merely to fill out the rhyme scheme). What a thought: restroom graffiti as confessions.

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