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'Makings of the self and of the sun': Modernist Poetics of Climate Change

GRIFFITHS, MATTHEW,JOHN,RHYS (2014) 'Makings of the self and of the sun': Modernist Poetics of Climate Change. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF ('Makings of the self and of the sun': Modernist Poetics of Climate Change -- PhD thesis, M Griffiths) - Accepted Version


This thesis aims to formulate a critical methodology and a poetics that engage with climate change. It critiques the Romantic and social justice premises of literary ecocriticism, arguing that a modernist poetics more capably articulates the complexities exacerbated in anthropogenic climate change. Analysing the form of a range of modernist work, I assess its expression of the human–climate relations at the root of the planet's present state, and trace this work's influence on contemporary climate change poetry.
Ecocriticism's topical approaches to nature and the environment have been constitutively unable to grapple with climate change until the discipline's recent synthesis of literary theory, and the emergence of a 'material ecocriticism' informed by developments in environmental sociology, ethics and philosophy. Modernist aesthetics has an array of concerns in common with this critical thinking on climate change, and the reciprocity of the two prompts my rereading here of key modernist texts. T. S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land' is seen to reveal civilisation's inability to suppress or surpass its environment; Wallace Stevens's opus exposes the necessarily fictive quality of our relations with nature; Basil Bunting extends Stevens's reconsideration of Romanticism with the diminishment of selfhood and breakdown of order in his poetry; while David Jones's 'The Anathemata' employs the scope of modernist poetics to understand the prehistoric climate change that enabled the emergence of civilisation.
By being conscious of modernist traditions, new work – as exemplified here by Jorie Graham's 'Sea Change' – acknowledges the role of human culture in creating the world imaginatively and phenomenally. As contemporary climate change poetry moves away from using culturally familiar elegiac modes, it benefits from a fuller range of resources to articulate the entanglement and hybridity of nature and culture in the twenty-first century.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:modernism, poetry, poetics, climate change, ecocriticism, T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Basil Bunting, David Jones, Jorie Graham
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:29 May 2014 10:02

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