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Title: The uses of apocalypse
Author: Tourlamain, Moyra Penelope
ISNI:       0000 0004 8499 7978
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2019
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This project aims to answer a creative question: what use might be made of the traditions of apocalyptic literature in writing about catastrophe? This is addressed from two angles: a creative project, Peripheral Visions, and A New Cave Flooded To Light, a critical study of W. S. Graham. Peripheral Visions uses the apocalyptic genre as a framework for poems about the catastrophe of dementia. A New Cave Flooded To Light, explores how Graham might be understood as an apocalyptic poet; what this contributes to understandings of his work and of the genre; and what reading him through this lens contributes to this project as a whole. Apocalyptic literature evokes the revelation, through a process of catastrophe and judgement, of an otherwise hidden alternative to the status quo. Over time it has lost its relationship to a shared vision of eschatology and to the promise of rescue from a critical situation. Nonetheless, it remains distinguished by narrative themes of catastrophe, judgment and renewal (or an altered perception of reality). Both elements of this project are structured around those three themes and deploy the apocalyptic devices of a non-linear treatment of time, visions and dreams, transformative journeys, myth, and image. A sense of language as a supernatural element, and of its 'dark companion', silence, also runs through both elements. In their anxiety about the instability of language and its implications for authenticity, they demonstrate apocalypse as a literary event. Traditionally, apocalypse implies positive change. In Peripheral Visions, however, the struggle is against change itself, and is demonstrably unsuccessful. Many of the poems, notably 'from Bugarach' and 'Occipital Outcome', share with those in Graham's Malcolm Mooney's Land and with 'Implements In Their Places' a resistance to revelation as renewal. This study argues that Graham, nonetheless, also posits a 'life after death' for the poet in a continual 'making new'. Using the apocalyptic device of vision, Peripheral Visions moves ever further from 'normal' perception to create the vision of dementia, questioning, too, the assumption that such a vision is invalid. Apocalypse operates in the imagination. Graham's deteriorating relationship with the Muse, the personification of imagination, coincides with the increasing negativity of his apocalyptic vision. In its discussion of this, and of the influence of Robert Graves's The White Goddess, the critical element of this project offers new perspectives on Graham's later work. Graham's poetry has not, however, lost the moral tone of the genre. In surfacing his treatment of the paradoxical 'lie' at the heart of artistic 'truth', this study links his work to medieval 'dream' poems, as well as asking serious questions about readings of 'Implements In Their Places'. This project demonstrates how the apocalyptic genre's preoccupation with the cataclysmic end of one version of reality and the imposition of another equates to the process of dementia. It demonstrates, too, W. S. Graham's response to the genre's visionary treatment of judgement, catastrophe and renewal, and its reciprocal understanding of time, which equates to poetic simultaneity.
Supervisor: Smith, Simon ; Herd, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available