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On 'the Edge of a Crumbling Continent': Poetry in Northern Ireland and the Second World War

SMITH, AMY (2014) On 'the Edge of a Crumbling Continent': Poetry in Northern Ireland and the Second World War. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis proposes that nineteen forties Northern Ireland was not a cultural desert, as has often been assumed. It draws on an extensive range of neglected archival and published sources to argue that a diverse and vibrant community of poets, united by shared political and aesthetic interests, formed in Belfast during the Second World War. As the conflict encroached on individual imaginations and on Northern Ireland, these poets became concerned with establishing an enduring body of imaginative literature which was appropriate to their region. To date, this thesis provides the most comprehensive assessment of poetry written in Northern Ireland during this decade and is, therefore, a significant contribution to assessments of post-partition culture.

The thesis follows a chronological trajectory, beginning by tracing the roots of this poetic community to the legacy of the preceding generation of poets. Then, John Hewitt and W.R. Rodgers’s regional and political commitments of the immediate pre-war period are examined. Their shared interest in regional poetics was in creative tension with Louis MacNeice’s cosmopolitan aesthetic. Patrick Maybin’s pacifist protest poetry reveals the group’s anti-establishment bias. A survey of the publishing opportunities available to these poets is followed by an evaluation of Robert Greacen’s anthologies, which were designed to promote a local literary revival. Analysis of poetry by May Morton and Freda Laughton demonstrates the key roles played by women in this milieu. Finally, Roy McFadden’s attempt to connect pacifist, neo-romantic, and regional ideas is discussed, leading to a consideration of his post-war poetry and the links between these writers and the Ulster Renaissance of the nineteen sixties. Close analysis of the work of these poets uncovers a varied and energetic literary milieu which formed the foundations of the subsequent flowering of poetry in Northern Ireland.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Irish poetry, Second World War
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:20 Jan 2015 11:34

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