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Title: Language and artifice in the poetry of John Clare
Author: Chirico, P. A.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2001
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This dissertation examines Clare's position at the borders of early nineteenth century culture, through a detailed analysis of his pre-asylum poetry, a restoration of the suppressed history of his cultural equivocations and compromises, and an investigation of his sophisticated and sustained interest in culturally determined abstracts such as antiquity and superstition. My introduction examines the responses of Clare's first reviewers, locating John Taylor's ambitious yet defensive championing of Clare within the context of an increasingly pointed attack on the propriety of 'unlettered poetry'. Chapter One considers the early influences on Clare's writing and his developing interaction with a vigorous cultural community. His self-positioning in relation to Keats focuses his awareness of reception and, later, his interest in posterity. As his analysis of the machinery of culture becomes increasingly sophisticated, his attempts to reassess the canon gather momentum. In Chapter Two I discuss in detail two sonnet sequences in which Clare's tributes to neglected writers and protests at corrupted literary tastes overlap with an interest in reading the natural world as text, and in particular in connecting the perpetual regeneration of that natural world with the perpetuation of literary success through the renewed attentions of future generations of readers. In the third chapter I explore Clare's attitude to antiquity, firstly by considering his relationship with the past, and with its artefacts, as a symbolic transgression of the social, geographical and temporal constraints of his present situation, and secondly by discussing the transformation of his writing on antiquity into an analysis of the limits of knowledge. This informs two central themes: the autobiographical anxiety of the rural poet attempting to establish a cultural community, and the desire to reaffirm on ongoing oral tradition capable of knowing and preserving both the past and the present of nature.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available