The Involuntary Mask of the Poet

Examining the Evolution of the Poet Persona through P.D. James’s Adam Dalgliesh


  • Meghan P. Nolan State University of New York, Rockland, USA



poet persona, contemporary poets, celebrity, detective fiction, Adam Dalgliesh


This essay examines historical perspectives of the Poet persona (traditionally defined and articulated by poets themselves) alongside a contemporary depiction of the Poet in the novel-sphere. More specifically, it considers the protagonist from P.D. James’s Adam Dalgliesh mysteries (14 novels spanning from 1962 – 2008), as Dalgliesh is the perfect character to analyse in this respect. James’s character reflects a notable shift of the persona in the contemporary through a construction that relies upon both personally and publicly constructed features. Dalgliesh exists at the nexus of detective and poet, a contradiction embodied through the dual personas of a professional and celebrity, each of which takes on a life of its own. Because his fame is not of his own making, this raises questions about how this publicly constructed aspect of the Poet persona manifests itself as what Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa (2006, p. 273) refers to as the “involuntary masks” of the poet. These “masks” are cultivated beyond Dalgliesh’s control and combine with his own strategic maneuvering to illustrate the dual nature of a persona reliant upon constructions of the self that atypically balance both self-defined and publicly constructed features. This essay argues that Dalgliesh thus not only serves as an exemplification of the modern Poet but also reveals those aspects of the Poet persona which have withstood the perceived distortions of time.


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Author Biography

Meghan P. Nolan, State University of New York, Rockland, USA

Meghan P. Nolan, MFA, MA, PhD is an Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Writing Centre at State University of New York, Rockland. She is a Persona Studies scholar and multigenre writer who focuses on fragmented perceptions of self-hood and written identities through academic works, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.


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How to Cite

Nolan, M. P. (2021). The Involuntary Mask of the Poet: Examining the Evolution of the Poet Persona through P.D. James’s Adam Dalgliesh . Persona Studies, 7(1), 64–76.



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