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Eschatology in a Time of War: The Poetry of H.D. and Robert Lowell

AL-MAHDAWI, ABEER,OTHMAN,KHALAF (2017) Eschatology in a Time of War: The Poetry of H.D. and Robert Lowell. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The first half of the twentieth century was a fertile time for poetry with a new form and
new content to match the sweeping changes of modernity. There is no doubt that the
traumatic experience of two world wars had a profound effect on the art and culture of
the time, urging writers to fathom the deep and disturbing ways in which war impacted
upon the human spirit. This was a huge challenge, and an opportunity at the same time,
for American poets to forge a new personal and authentic vision in response to political,
cultural and intellectual changes, particularly within the context of religious belief. The
thesis examines the work of H.D. and Robert Lowell, two American poets who were
greatly preoccupied with war and its aftermath. Like many writers at that time, they were
interested in the eschatologies of traditional religious beliefs and their role in changing
people’s perceptions in trying times. Both poets write from the perspective of a Christian
upbringing, but in their poems they articulate non-conformist eschatological visions, the
formation process of which varies between revising, inverting or even negating these old
conventions. They seek to delineate a new understanding and a new interpretation of
orthodox eschatological and apocalyptic models, so as to relate more intensely and
effectively with the momentous upheavals of the modern era. The purpose of the study is
to shed light, within a personal and artistic framework, on the differences and similarities
in the ways that the two poets approach the theme of war, focusing primarily on the
poems written during or immediately after the Second World War.
The thesis starts with an Introduction, which explores the significance of
eschatology and the appeal of apocalypse in the modern age, especially in a time of war
and catastrophe. The Introduction also touches upon the significance of bringing these
two poets together in a single study. The first chapter presents H.D., a first-hand witness
to the First World War, and her Imagist poems written during and after that war; while
the second chapter discusses two of her most important collections of poems, What Do I
love? and Trilogy. Written during the early 1940’s, the two books respond to the Second
World War through syncretizing a modern feminine faith from different traditional
systems of beliefs. Similarly, Lowell is designated two chapters. Chapter Three explores
the poet’s presentation of an inverted version of the eschatological convention of Puritan
Calvinism, his ancestors’ faith. His first two volumes, Land of Unlikeness and Lord Weary's
Castle, written also during the early 1940’s, are discussed in this chapter. The last chapter
of the thesis tackles Lowell’s important and well-known volume, Life Studies, written in
late 1950’s, during the period of the Cold War. This work shows Lowell, the confessional
and manic-depressive poet who, despite relinquishing his faith and (with it) his earlier
poetic style of the 1940’s, is still preoccupied with war. The thesis claims that his modern
spiritual eschatology is hidden under the mask of secularism and sceptical faith. It
concludes with a Coda that sums up its main findings.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:PhD research; university; English Literature; modern American Poetry; war; eschatologyy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:30 Jan 2018 11:49

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