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Peter Barry

In the 1980s and 1990s, at the height of the so-called 'theory wars' between traditional and theoretical approaches to literature, the notion of close reading was treated with great suspicion. It is perfectly possible to read poetry without reference to any specified literary theory. The use of theory can help us to appreciate and enjoy poetry and see unfamiliar aspects of it. To illustrate this, this chapter discusses three poems about women. The three poems show women working in 'extreme' occupations, raising issues about 'gender roles', among other things. The three poems are 'The Peepshow Girl', 'The Interview with the Knife-Thrower's Assistant' and Gun Girl Chicago 1929. As a way of reading this poem with theory, the chapter draws upon works of art history, art theory, literary theory, film theory or feminist theory.

in Reading poetry
Peter Barry

This chapter considers the forms of poetic compression, and covers some of the more extreme forms of poetic expression. There is an extreme form of compression which we might call 'micro-poetry', where the page contains a single word, or a modified form of a word, or a fragment of a word, or even just a gesture that draws attention to the absence of words. The chapter looks at the roots of minimalism, which is mainly a twentieth-century phenomenon in poetry. The literary figure whose philosophy and rhetoric were most similar to that of Adolf Loos was the American poet Ezra Pound, who was living in London just before the First World War, and was keen to make a radical break with the literary past.

in Reading poetry
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Peter Barry

This chapter is about poems in which aspects of their overall shape are in some way representational or pictorial. One of the earliest practitioners of this kind of poetry in English was George Herbert, whose book The Temple contains well known examples such as 'The Altar' and 'Easter Wings'. The chapter suggests three basic categories of poems: the verbal/visual type; the visual/verbal kind; and the visual/verbalist kind. It considers three examples of each of these three types. The examples of the verbal/visual type include George Herbert, Guillaume Apollinaire and Edwin Morgan. The examples of the visual/verbal kind include Bob Cobbing, Ian Hamilton Finlay and Ana Maria Uribe. The examples of the visual/verbalist kind include Mary Ellen Solt, David Miller and Alvaro de Sa.

in Reading poetry
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Peter Barry

This chapter talks about the textual genesis of the poem, including how it came to be written, how it modifies the generating facts, and how it reached its final form. It is possible to identify two opposed views on the matter. The first is based upon an evolutionary model of text production, seeing publication as the birth of the text, before which is an avant-texte period corresponding to embryonic growth. The second view of textual genesis is rather different. It views instability and the existence of multiple variations as the fundamental condition of the literary text, seeing, not a succession of drafts, each getting closer and closer to the final canonical text, but a network of notionally equal versions. The chapter ends with a more general comment on textual genesis.

in Reading poetry
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Peter Barry

A poetry reader can develop the kind of intimacy with authors that brings a sense of confidence and purpose, by adopting a smallish personal 'stable' of writers whose work is followed in the long-term way. This seems to be the best way of maturing and gaining pleasure as a poetry reader, or acquiring the necessary depth as a scholar or critic, if that is their aspiration or their on-going enterprise. A second way of achieving this goal is to keep a log-book or diary (or their electronic equivalents) of their reading in which they 'talk back' to the poets whose work they have adopted. Thirdly, an additional layer should be added to their 'stable', consisting of a couple of the best-known contemporary or historical poets, on whom there is a large or growing body of critical writing.

in Reading poetry
Peter Barry

This chapter looks at some prehistorical and historical examples of individual stone poems, and examples of stone poems grouped together in landscaped settings. It explores aspects of 'landmark' urban stone poems of Postcolonial Manchester. Alyson Hallett's pavement poem, with its 'outlying' word clusters, in Milsom Street, Bath, is public-art, Council-sponsored urban example. Stone poems have often been placed in groups or clusters within landscaped settings and forming a 'walk' or 'trail'. The chapter presents some examples of stone poems in settings which might not be considered places of outstanding beauty. The first is the monument in Dunraven Street, Tonypandy, in the Welsh Valleys, which commemorates the town's mining past. Sculpted by Howard Bowcott, working in collaboration with Tim Rose of the Bath-based landscape architecture firm Macgregor Smith and Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, it was unveiled in 1999.

in Extending ecocriticism
Crisis, collaboration and challenges in the environmental humanities

Environmental literary criticism, usually contracted to ecocriticism, has advanced considerably since the term was widely adopted in the 1980s and 1990s. This book considers examples of this advance across genres within literary studies and beyond into other creative forms. It explores the ecocritical implications of collaboration across genres in the humanities. The book also explores literary, artistic and performance production through direct collaboration between the creative disciplines and the sciences. It introduces the idea that the human denial of death has in part contributed to our approach to environmental crisis. The book argues that ecocriticism is a developing field, so attention must continue to be directed at reformulating thought in the (also) still unfolding aftermath of high theory. Examples of two poets' shared exploration show one's radical landscape poems side by side with the other's landscape drawings. Ecocritical ideas are integrated with the discussion of how this creative partnership has led to a body of work and the subsequent exhibitions and readings in which it has been taken to the public. One poet claims that to approach any art work ecocritically, it is necessary to bring to it some knowledge of current scientific thought regarding the biosphere. The book then explores poems about stones, on stones and stones which are the poem. The big environmental issues and Homo sapiens's problematic response to them evident in the mundane experience of day-to-day environments are discussed. Finally, the book talks about ecomusicology, past climate patterns, natural heritage interpretation, and photomontage in windfarm development.

Peter Barry and William Welstead

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book follows the belief that ecocriticism has relevance across disciplines. It explores the ecocritical implications of collaboration across genres in the humanities, and literary, artistic and performance production through direct collaboration between the creative disciplines and the sciences. The book considers the possibilities for literary critique to account for the difficulties, focusing on contemporary environmental crisis fiction. It provides an account of a walking and camping tour of Iceland in the company of other artists. The book explains how photomontage has been used during the planning process to address concerns about the aesthetic appearance and community acceptance of turbines and wind farms. It also considers how international treaties have imposed strict environmental controls on what is permissible on the continent, and its unique status as an area where military activity is banned.

in Extending ecocriticism