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Self-consciousness and the image of self in the poetry of Stephen Spender, 1928 to 1934

Brotherton, Stanley Bevan (1991) Self-consciousness and the image of self in the poetry of Stephen Spender, 1928 to 1934. Masters thesis, Durham University.



The purpose of this thesis is twofold. First, to demonstrate the value and significance of Spender's early poetry in terms of its vision and technique. Through a series of close readings the thesis traces the ways in which Spender's early poetry not only shows itself to be self-conscious but also manipulates images of self. Presenting images of self, Spender achieves a balance between engagement with and distance from the self, and the reader shares in the process of poetic self-awareness. Secondly, to demonstrate the broader value of the poetry. Spender's poetry presents a distinctive exploration of the possibilities of self in relation to the external world. The resolution of Spender’s questioning and selection of both personal and public values, rooted in his contemporary situation and private circumstances, in his poetry takes the form less of historical document than of human record. The period on which I focus, 1928 to 1934, represents Spender’s first, and arguably most significant, poetic phase. The thesis is specifically concerned with four texts: Nine Experiments. Spender's contributions to Oxford Poetry (1929 and 1930), Twenty Poems and Poems (1933 and 1934). Nine Experiments marks the beginning of a particular approach and lyric style which finds its culmination in Poems (1933 and 1934). The earliest poetry is interesting largely insofar as it looks forward to later themes and techniques. In Nine Experiments and Oxford Poetry (1929 and 1930) we see Spender's often successful struggle to achieve effective forms in which to explore issues of self and value. Twenty Poems and Poems (1933 and 1934) concentrate on themes of love and friendship and the pressure on the poet of the contemporary political scene. The poetry does not reconcile the demands of the external, public world with his inner desires and aspirations, but presents a series of fascinatingly unresolved tensions. The thesis explores the way these poems strive for certainty. This striving stems from the tension between Spender's desire to politicize poetry and his tendency to the lyrical, personal statement.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:1991
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Dec 2012 11:59

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