Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes

Persona or

Speaker of a Poem

(compare also "voice")

The concept of a persona or speaker in the poem as a figure or person different from the author helps students of poetry avoid the biographical fallacy of reducing the meaning of a poem to an event or experience in the author's personal life.

1. An assumed character or role, esp. one adopted by an author in his or her writing, or by a performer. (Oxford English Dictionary)

persona (per-SO-na): In literature, the persona is the narrator, or the storyteller, of a literary work created by the author. As Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama puts it, the persona is not the author, but the author’s creation--the voice “through which the author speaks.” It could be a character in the work, or a fabricated onlooker, relaying the sequence of events in a narrative. (


Persona pl. per·so·nas or per·so·nae  A voice or character representing the speaker in a literary work.

2. personae The characters in a dramatic or literary work. [a.k.a. dramatis personae]

3. pl. personas The role that one assumes or displays in public or society; one's public image or personality, as distinguished from the inner self. [cf. voice]      (

1. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) (often plural) a character in a play, novel, etc. (The word is derived from Latin, where it originally referred to a theatrical mask.)

2. an assumed identity or character   (Collins English Dictionary)


3. the narrator (also possibly a character in a literary work), sometimes identified with the author [risky]



Persona Literally, a persona is a mask. In literature, a persona is a speaker created by a writer to tell a story or to speak in a poem. A persona is not a character in a story or narrative, nor does a persona necessarily directly reflect the author's personal voice. A persona is a separate self, created by and distinct from the author, through which he or she speaks. (


Examples in poetry:

Robert Browning, My Last Duchess

Emily Dickinson, [My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun—]


Communication studies: persona = one of the versions of self that all individuals possess. Behaviors are selected according to the desired impression an individual wishes to create when interacting with other people. (Wikipedia)


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