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Title: 'What to make of a diminished thing' : nature and home in the poetry of Edward Thomas and Robert Frost 1912-1917
Author: Stenning, Anna
ISNI:       0000 0004 5370 6453
Awarding Body: University of Worcester
Current Institution: University of Worcester
Date of Award: 2014
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'Ecopoetry' has been identified as a subset of nature poetry that proposes alternative modes of human inhabitation on the earth, often by focusing on what it means to be at 'at home' in nature. This is linked to the ecocritical interest in place-making, as an alternative to the homogenized spaces of capitalism. And yet the idea of place as 'home' or shelter has been criticised for its conservatism, and for the ways it ignores the dynamic simultaneity of the planet. This has urged some critics to focus instead on poetic evocation of space. Here I argue that Thomas's and Frost's poetry of home and 'extra-vagance' between 1912 and 1917 suggests the dialectical connections between our homes and other spaces, places and times. At the same time, these concepts convey both the necessity and limits of language to suggest these experiences. This version of home is constantly seeking its antithesis, forming what Éduard Glissant called 'rooted errantry'. While this idea is apparent prior to the poets' meeting, it becomes most prominent both during and after Thomas and Frosts' meeting, particularly in those poems that address the impact of nature on the human mind in 'wayfaring'. In addition to my development of ecocriticism and ecopoetry, the study furthers Thomas and Frost scholarship by emphasising the philosophical, as well as poetic, influence of both poets on each other. This influence been underplayed by national affiliations in British criticism and, where it is explained, attributed to Frost's theory of the 'sound of sense' rather than to his philosophical interests. Further, national interests have undervalued the importance of Frost's stay in England to his mature poetic theorising: his learning from T.E. Hulme and his experiences of 'extra-vagance' and walks with Thomas, and have subsequently undervalued the importance of these encounters for Frost's poems written during and after this period. This alignment between Thomas and Frost highlights, at the same time, Thomas's critical difference from the Georgians. Thomas and Frost's physical and poetic extra-vagance prefigures Timothy Ingold's writing about 'wayfaring' (Ingold 2011). In addition, I argue that Thomas's and Frost's poetry of référance, dialogue and birdsong shows how the poets are concerned with representing the processes of experience, rather than presenting static ideas. After their likely contact with the philosophy of Henri Bergson, both poets seem to demonstrate that the processional and dynamic aspects of non-human nature resemble the forces that they observe in their own minds. Thomas and Frost illustrate how being at home, either in non-human nature or the mind, will always involve a process of negotiation with other conflicting impulses and 'otherness'. In doing so, they overcome the limitations of traditional pastoral poetry.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN0080 Criticism ; PR English literature