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Carol Ann Duffy: Mean Time

9. Confession

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About this Lecture


In this module, we read through the eighth poem in the collection, 'Confession', focusing in particular on: (i) the sacrament of confession in the Catholic church, and what a confession box actually looks like; (ii) the vividness of the memory, which includes sights, smell and sounds, "musty gloom", "that wee voice", etc.; (iii) the character of the priest; (iii) the contrast between the negative and the positive, e.g. "eternal damnation", "Jesus loves you"; (iv) the extent to this poem is a critique of the Catholic church; (v) the idea of sin in the Catholic church; (vi) the extent to which the speaker's memory of this confession still smoulders like the punishment from Mr Welltread in the previous poem; and (vii) the lack of specificity as to what the speaker is actually confessing to – have they actually done anything wrong?


In this course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Carol Ann Duffy’s 1993 collection, ‘Mean Time'. After an introductory module in which we think about the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy in general and the collection as a whole – and especially the implications of its title – the course continues with a reading and analysis of each of the thirty-nine poems in the collection, one by one.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2021, March 01). Carol Ann Duffy: Mean Time - Confession [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Carol Ann Duffy: Mean Time – Confession." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 01 Mar 2021,