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The Multiplicity of Being: John Clare and the Art of 'Is'

BANTON, NOVA (2015) The Multiplicity of Being: John Clare and the Art of 'Is'. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



John Clare has sometime been regarded as a poet that demonstrates the characteristics of naïve poetry according to Schiller’s definition. This had led to ideas that Clare is resistant to philosophical readings and theories. Through careful consideration of the workings of his poetry, this thesis argues the reverse case. It asserts that Clare writes ontological poetry and poetry which ‘thinks.’ This thinking can be illuminated by the existential ontological concepts of Martin Heidegger, together with his later writings which interpret poetry as the language of Being. The chapters are organised to bring out the diverse and interconnected implications of these assertions. After the introduction which, among other things, defines key Heideggerian concepts, such as Dasein, Thrownness, Gelessenheit, The Open and ‘Thinging’, the initial chapter discusses Clare as a poet of Being according to Heidegger’s criteria and definitions. Clare is compared to Hölderlin, Heidegger’s ultimate philosophical poet. The chapter discusses Heidegger’s definition of essential poetry and subsequently emphasises its characteristics and traces them through Clare and Hölderlin. The next two chapters present Clare’s poetry as it conforms to Heidegger’s ideas of ‘pure poetry’ using the The Shepherd’s Calendar (1927) as exemplification. The first of these chapters uses the poems from ‘January’ to ‘June’ to reveal what Heidegger describes as the unconditionedness, or the unconditional and unconditioned intelligibility of Being’s essences. In chapter three the thesis demonstrates how Clare’s poetry, from ‘July’ to ‘December’, corresponds in its methods to the way in which Heidegger takes the noun ‘thing’ and transforms it into a verb. Chapter four addresses two treatments of Being within Clare’s nature poems. The first idea is that of nature as aletheia, a Greek word which Heidegger interprets as the disclosing of ‘truth.’ The second idea is that of Human Being. The ideas are linked in that nature as truth becomes a synonym for Clare’s own being. Chapter fives sees Clare as a poetic thinker, probing the existential significance of life. Chapter six discusses Clare’s writing about Being-in the world and Being-with others. The chapter highlights the irony of Clare as a poet of place who can find no sense of home. Clare uses poetry to alleviate his ontological homelessness. Clare’s later excursions into existential ontology lead to chapter seven and a discussion of the poet’s ontological shift to the Eternal. The final chapter compares Clare and Wordsworth as philosophical poets. An Appendix glosses key terms from Heidegger, in support of and cross-referenced to the expositions offered in the Introduction and elsewhere. Overall, the thesis explores and affirms the value of Clare’s work as an embodiment of ontology as a mode of thinking made possible by poetry.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:John Clare, Martin Heidegger, Ontology, Poetry
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Mar 2015 09:23

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