The poetry of winter : the idea and nature of the late career in the works of Hardy, Yeats, and Stevens
This thesis is divided into four chapters, the first of which is theoretical and synoptic. The method of chapter 1 is threefold. Firstly, an examination of the idea of the late career, including previous research on the subject, common perceptions and archetypes, and a consideration of the nature of artistic self-consciousness as it influences the late career. Secondly, a discussion of old age in literature, including the context of gerontology, our typically equivocal picture of old age as both decaying and spiritualized, and a consideration of the mode of creativity of the aged. Thirdly, an examination of literary "endings": the point at which the poet is faced with formal conclusions and "last things." A number of topics associated with or generated by the late career are considered, particularly the summational impulse, confrontation with death, and engagement with posterity: three perspectives supplied by the moment of ending. In the three chapters which follow, I examine the structure of the late careers of Hardy, Yeats and Stevens, in particular the points of crisis and self-renewal, and including in each case works which precede the final phase. The evolving attitude of each poet to old age is examined, and a number of topics which seem intrinsic to the late career: monumental intentions and their decay, the fate of the poet's work in posterity, the dividing of the mortal body from the poetic corpus, the old man's introjected sexuality, and the heightened dualism of old age. Finally, in each case the "final gestures" of the poet are considered: his attempts to confront the demands of the literary "ending. "