Made for performance : study of the mature poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins
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This work is a study of the mature poetry and poetics of Gerard Manley Hopkins with particular reference to his own oft-stated view that his poetry was intended to be read aloud "with the ear" or to be performed. The study begins by placing Hopkins historically with regard to the effects on the European mind of printing, the work of Peter Ramus, and the subjective-objective dilemma which particularly perturbed the Romantic poets. Attention is especially given to Hopkins's relation with the seventeenth century. The conclusion is that with respect to these historical influences he belongs in the main to traditions which existed in full force in the Middle Ages and the Elizabethan era, though in many obvious respects he has the concerns typical of his age. Hopkins's speculations on language are then examined and some consideration given to the way these influenced his poetics and poetry; further, Hopkins's theories of knowledge and Being, in which language has a significant place, is also examined in relation to his poetic theories. Thereafter consideration is given to the development of Hopkins's ideas on the nature of the art he was writing, the kind of performance he envisaged for his poems, and the relationships these discussions suggest exist between poet, work and different types of audience. Before the main section of the thesis some attention is given to the influences Hopkins came under throughout his life and which gave his art and the poetic theory underlying it their particular nature. The main section consists of a detailed examination of the mature poetry, with special regard to Hopkins's rhythms, syntax, and various kinds of "counterpoint" he used, and the sound-structures of his verse - stanzaic forms and the complicated patterns of sound drawn largely from Welsh poetry. The aims of this part of the work are to describe how these features give the poems their dramatic character, to suggest ways in which the unusual nature of this poetry necessitates changes in our approach to it in terms of our critical assumptions, interpretation, and the kind of performance it requires, and to indicate how important these considerations are to any understanding or judgement of Hopkins's achievement. In the light of these discussions and the examination of the poems themselves, three major conclusions are reached. First, Hopkins's status as a major poet is felt to be justified in view of the achievement represented by Sprung Rhythm, his use of the sonnet form, his masterly poetic vision and craftsmanship, and many of the poems in a notably small canon, but in addition, these achievements embrace another, the fusion in his work of a number of vital, and in some cases opposed, traditions in English poetry - an achievement which makes him a particularly important poet in the development of poetry in English. In view of Hopkins's narrow range and lack of rich human sympathies, which are leading to qualifications of his work, this is a significant argument for his greatness. Secondly, his poems use a creative language of knowledge, comparable to our other ways of developing epistemologies such as science or logic, though it is more comprehensive in that it takes in the whole nature of man and the nature of its referents, And thirdly, the performance of Hopkins's poems is seen as the essential way by which the experience and knowledge offered by each is realised in the fullest and most vivid manner by the reader.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
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