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The Implied Reader and Depressive Experience in Louise Glück’s ‘The Wild Iris’

Brian Glaser

Pages 201 - 213


This essay examines the role of mental illness in contemporary poetics, arguing that it is often overlooked through denial or repressed through misunderstanding. Specifically, it argues that what Wolfgang Iser called the “implied reader” is, in the case of Louise Glück’s ‘The Wild Iris’, constructed as depressed. The essay offers close readings of her poems, which demonstrate the way a depressed implied reader leads the speaker of the poems to a moment of transformation. The second half of the essay looks at how most contemporary theories of reader-response inadequaely describe the disability Glück’s work references. It offers a critique of the phobia of mental illness in contemporary apologies for literary reading and argues that even work that acknowledges readers as potentially mentally disabled might benefit from the concept of the “implied reader” in overcoming ableism.


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