Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.730228
Title: Forms of health in John Clare's poetics
Author: Lafford, Erin
ISNI:       0000 0004 6495 5754
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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Abstract:
This thesis is the first sustained study of the poet John Clare and his relationship to health. It considers health as an under-explored physical and mental state evoked across his poetry and prose that has heretofore been overshadowed by a critical preoccupation with his supposed madness. Under the banner of the Medical Humanities, I angle a critical lens on Clare and health beyond biographical readings of his mental deterioration and onto his written responses to the medical, cultural, and social understandings of health by which he was surrounded. Specifically, I argue that Clare articulates both his comprehension and also experience of health through poetic form. I take a thematic approach to the reach of Clare's works composed between 1804-1864, and focus on what I argue to be the most predominant 'forms' that health takes across his poetics: voice, breath, and place. The chapters unfold the poet's engagement with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century medical contexts such as nosology and theories of insanity, speech and elocution, climatic and atmospheric medicine, phrenology, and botany, in order to consider how the local formal techniques of his poems (metre and prosody, rhyme and other sonic devices, caesura, enjambment, and line-endings) shape and re-work the ideas of mental and physical health that these contexts put forward. Throughout the thesis I bring together formal and historical methodologies with modern phenomenological and cultural theories in order to draw out how Clare's exploration of health is both facilitated by the thinking of his own period, and also speaks to current research into health and illness as subjective experiences. Ultimately, I read health across Clare's poetry at the level of form in order to reveal how health inspires a textual mode that defies determinacy and unsettles distinctions between the healthy and the pathological. This thesis is the first sustained study of the poet John Clare and his relationship to health. It considers health as an under-explored physical and mental state evoked across his poetry and prose that has heretofore been overshadowed by a critical preoccupation with his supposed madness. Under the banner of the Medical Humanities, I angle a critical lens on Clare and health beyond biographical readings of his mental deterioration and onto his written responses to the medical, cultural, and social understandings of health by which he was surrounded. Specifically, I argue that Clare articulates both his comprehension and also experience of health through poetic form. I take a thematic approach to the reach of Clare's works composed between 1804-1864, and focus on what I argue to be the most predominant 'forms' that health takes across his poetics: voice, breath, and place. The chapters unfold the poet's engagement with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century medical contexts such as nosology and theories of insanity, speech and elocution, climatic and atmospheric medicine, phrenology, and botany, in order to consider how the local formal techniques of his poems (metre and prosody, rhyme and other sonic devices, caesura, enjambment, and line-endings) shape and re-work the ideas of mental and physical health that these contexts put forward. Throughout the thesis I bring together formal and historical methodologies with modern phenomenological and cultural theories in order to draw out how Clare's exploration of health is both facilitated by the thinking of his own period, and also speaks to current research into health and illness as subjective experiences. Ultimately, I read health across Clare's poetry at the level of form in order to reveal how health inspires a textual mode that defies determinacy and unsettles distinctions between the healthy and the pathological.
Supervisor: Bevis, Matthew Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.730228  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Language and Literature ; history of medicine ; health ; environmental humanities ; poetic form ; lyric ; Romanticism ; place ; medical humanities ; John Clare ; madness ; botany ; voice
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