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Title: The genius of the stream : Ted Hughes and fluvial influence
Author: Reddick, Yvonne J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2749 0417
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2012
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The thesis engages with Harold Bloom’s theories of poetic influence, beginning with an examination of influence, both literary and fluvial, in Anglophone poetry. The first chapter details the canon of English river-writing, ranging from Spenser’s Prothalamion, Drayton’s Polyolbion, Milton’s ‘Lycidas’ and Pope’s The Dunciad to Wordsworth’s ‘Sonnet XXXVI’ and Eliot’s The Waste Land. I examine Hughes’s reading of these texts as an undergraduate, and introduce the ways in which he engages with them in his poetry. The second chapter demonstrates how Hughes’s work owes a poetic debt to three major writers who lived through the First World War. Hughes’s own father fought in the First World War, and I question whether or not the relationship between Hughes and these ‘father figures’ is Bloomian. Eliot mentored Hughes at Faber & Faber, and the influence of The Waste Land (1922) on Hughes’s river-poetry was seminal. Williamson was a war veteran, and his Tarka the Otter is the source of many tributes by Hughes, from newspaper articles to eulogies. Hughes cites Tarka as having formed his ambition to write for himself. Graves, another war veteran, greatly influenced Hughes via his reading of The White Goddess. In the third chapter, following the methodology of Heather Clark’s 2011 study The Grief of Influence, I trace the ways in which Plath’s work shaped the manuscript drafts of Hughes’s poetry, especially River. I argue that the influence of such writing about water as ‘Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams’ and ‘Ocean 1212W’ was so seminal as to have to be edited out of Hughes’s work. There follows a very detailed chronological appraisal of Plath’s impact on Hughes’s manuscript drafts from the Emory archive. In the fourth chapter, by examining letters in the British Library, I discuss the ways in which the publication of River was a bold statement for the preservation of British rivers. Although his project was not entirely successful, I examine how Hughes’s bids to secure funding from British Gas for his project were motivated by his environmental activism. I also demonstrate how the publication of this book fits into the bigger picture of his campaigns for water quality. The fifth chapter shows how Hughes and Seamus Heaney influenced each other, how Hughes and his son Nicholas Hughes drew ideas from each other’s work, and how Hughes has influenced Alice Oswald. There are elements of a Bloomian ‘family romance’ here, but I largely reject a Bloomian reading by demonstrating that Heaney and Hughes’s friendship, and Nicholas and Ted’s close bond, do not support Bloom’s theories.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature