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‘My Road to Freedom and Knowledge’: Louis MacNeice’s Self-Conscious Art

IGARASHI, NAO (2019) ‘My Road to Freedom and Knowledge’: Louis MacNeice’s Self-Conscious Art. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis discusses the poetry of Louis MacNeice, with a special focus on his self-consciousness as poet. I read his poems written between the late nineteen twenties and the early fifties, considering that MacNeice represents and contemplates the role of the poet not only in poetic arguments about the relationship between art and society but also in the use of poetic form. He starts his career as a poet influenced by modernist poets and gradually formulates his own style of poetry, in which he tries to balance his aesthetic ideals with an awareness of the world outside himself. His interest in form becomes more dominant when the outbreak of the Second World War leads him to explore more varied ways of showing emotion and experience than direct, subjective expression. The consciousness of traditional genres and forms like the sonnet, the eclogue, and the elegy, and the arrangement of rhyme schemes such as the couplet and terza rima reflect MacNeice’s ideas about the social function of poetry. MacNeice also acknowledges the support of his contemporaries such as T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender, while he often renews his poetics by engaging with the work of predecessors, most notably W. B. Yeats. I claim that MacNeice advocates a belief in the value of life and individuality as essential for facing situations where one’s physical and spiritual independence is threatened. MacNeice confirms that poetry has a valuable function in exploring and testing the very foundations of living. What lends distinction to his work is the high degree of self-consciousness with which the poetry articulates its own role and value in a time of tumultuous social and political change.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:12 Dec 2019 10:07

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