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Title: Thomas de Quincey : the strands of genius
Author: Morrison, R. J. H.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1998
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Several critics have sought to identify the central features in the multiplicity of Thomas De Quincey's work. J. Hillis Miller speaks of the 'common essence', Robert Maniquis of 'those essential patterns', Edmund Baxter of 'the key themes which, to my mind, make of De Quincey's disparate works a unified whole.' Yet despite their merits, these critical deliberation have not revealed the essential De Quincey. De Quincey's genius is constituted in four distinct elements. One: the periodical writer. De Quincey never sat down to write anything without one eye fixed firmly on the monthly magazine audiences he was expected to entertain and enlighten. It was his job to provoke an argument, debunk a trend, relate an amusing anecdote, interpret an idea. Two: the logician. De Quincey's analytical bent is the primary influence on his work as a literary critic and a detective and it serves him extremely well as a populariser, especially of economics. The same bent leads De Quincey to insist on precision in the use of language. Even highly imaginative works like Suspiria are characterised by his love of the analytical. Three: the disciple. Wordsworth is everywhere in the writings of De Quincey. At the same time Wordsworth respected De Quincey's literary abilities and often sought to exploit them. Yet Wordsworth and De Quincey are two strikingly different writers. The most critical difference between the two is the way in which they depict the guilt and fear of their childhood experience. Four: the rhetorician. De Quincey championed the 'literature of power' as a moral force which would galvanise and enliven the energies of man's heart. In the vast majority of his essays he crafts a mellifluous and pliant prose. But in works of 'impassioned prose' like the Confessions Trilogy he produces his own form of 'power' in order to try and beat back the blight of modern industrial advance. These four elements make his work instantly identifiable: they are the fundamental and indelible strands from which he weaves the endless variety of his writing, the 'fixed predetermined centres' around which gather 'whatever heterogeneous elements ... may have accumulated from without'.
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Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available