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Aspects of Domesticity in Contemporary British, Irish and American Poetry

BADRIDEEN, AHMED (2016) Aspects of Domesticity in Contemporary British, Irish and American Poetry. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 18 April 2021.

Abstract

This thesis explores representations of home and domesticity in contemporary verse. Home-life and domestic scenes are significant in contemporary verse, not only because they are found in unprecedented abundance, but also because they are often taken as the principal subject of a poem, rather than as contextual setting. In short, in the post-war era, domestic experiences have proven to be rich and seemingly inexhaustible source of poetry. This is traceable primarily to an interest in ‘experiences of ordinariness’ exhibited by contemporary poets – an interest which is in no small part a product of the Movement aesthetic – and also to the surge in academic and imaginative explorations of the nature and quality of home-life during the postwar decades. A principal concern of this thesis will be with moments of epiphany or rarefication, when the domestic sphere loses its ‘domestic’ colouring as it mediates and is involved with deep emotional or intellectual experiences. The first chapter considers Hardy and Larkin. These poets, often paired together and seen as principal figures in the ‘English line’, are shown to be significant poets of the domestic sphere. The second chapter considers representations of the childhood home. Here the house is shown to be a ‘formative’ place, the ground for moral and intellectual growth. In the eyes of the child, the one who defamiliarises his or her surroundings par excellence, the house and its contents might become somewhat monumental, imbued with import unavailable to adults.The third chapter considers poems of domestic love and marriage. It shows that these poems hinge on a combination of the mundane and homely with high emotion and feeling. This leads to a new type of love poetry: wry, often sardonic, with under-stated sentiment and affection.The fourth chapter, which looks at political poems set at home, offers the most ambivalent account of domestic space. Home life might accrue negative regard when considered in relation to wars or political disturbance. On the other hand, domestic life is regarded positively as the desired end of war or civil unrest. An unmolested and normal home life is the fruit of peace.The fifth chapter looks at domestic architecture in itself, considering the various ways that domestic interiority is presented in relation to the wider world. It explores various types of relationships between domestic interiority and the exteriority beyond, from poetry where the house is besieged by the external environment, to poems where the impulse is a movement from inside to outside.The sixth chapter explores how domestic scenes and items are invoked in the work of mourning.The thesis concludes with a chapter on poetic representations of hotels and hospitals, which may be regarded as ersatz homes, ghosted by the presence of the authentic home.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:25 May 2016 09:50

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