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Reflexivity and impersonality in the poetry of Geoffrey Hill.

Roberts, Andrew Michael; (1991) Reflexivity and impersonality in the poetry of Geoffrey Hill. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D.), University College London. Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis is a critical study of the distinctive qualities and the development of Hill's poetry. It identifies two characteristic features of his work. The first is the pervasive presence of reflexivity. While there is a reflexive element in much poetry, Hill's poems are marked by a sustained scrutiny of their own medium, expressing an intense concern with the moral and intellectual risks of poetic utterance. The second feature is the aspiration to impersonality. This has a direct source in T.S. Eliot's critical writing, but Hill's poetry exhibits a high degree of sophistication in its engagement with this modernist ideal, employing a range of strategies to renegotiate the role of the subject in poetry. The first two chapters of the thesis seek to locate these two features in relation to Romanticism, modernism, the Movement, aspects of contemporary poetry, and certain strands in twentieth-century philosophy. In the remaining chapters the changing relationship between reflexivity and impersonality is used to chart Hill's poetic development and to articulate the relationship of his work to modernism and postmodernism. An early phase in which reflexivity serves as an alternative to the presence of the speaking subject is seen to lead to a crisis of self-revocation, in which reflexive mistrust generates increasing obscurity. This crisis is resolved in the late 1960s by the location of the poet's subject-position, most crucially in 'September Song' (1967). Various forms of mediation of the subject are analysed in 'Funeral Music' (1966), 'The Songbook of Sebastian Arrurruz' (1965-68) and Mercian Hymns (1971). It is shown that the first two sequences of Tenebrae (1978) achieve a form of resolution of mystical and sceptical impulses through the use of musical models, while 'An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England' (1973-77) and The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy (1983) use reflexivity to explore the relationship between history as event and history as discourse or representation. Finally, Hill's most recent poems are assessed in the light of this account of his development.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D.
Title: Reflexivity and impersonality in the poetry of Geoffrey Hill.
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by Proquest
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10108240
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