Literature and Theatre

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‘Turbulently at rest’

Order and anarchy in the later work

Alex Wylie

In this chapter, various manifestations of an obsession of Hill’s later work are discussed, namely the relationship of order and “anarchy”. This includes an examination of Hill’s sense of the human will in the later work, Hill’s sense of which draws heavily upon Philip Sidney’s description of “the infected will” and on Shakespeare’s sense of “will” which is, punningly, self-will and wilfulness; further to this, the human will’s relationship to law and justice is discussed. Following from this is a discussion of modernist conceptions of justice and Hill’s interpretations of them, central to which is a discussion of Hill’s conception of metaphor and the centrality of this to his quarrel with certain attitudes of ‘high modernism’ (Eliot, Yeats, Pound). The chapter concludes with a section investigating Hill’s conception of the relationship between active and passive which infuses his politics and sense of language.

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‘There are no demons’

Faith and metaphysical fantasy

Alex Wylie

This chapter examines the relationship between belief and “metaphysical fantasy” as Hill conceives it in his later work. The chapter argues that such fantasy, or metaphysical desire as it is termed elsewhere in the book, is at the heart of Hill’s later conception of poetic energy and human values at large – and, fundamentally, that such a conception is a tortured and tortuous one. The influence of Gerard Manley Hopkins on the later work is discussed, and there is a further examination of Hill’s sense of the human will, this time in relation to the fall, drawing on such Christian thinkers as St Augustine, Martin Luther and Karl Barth. The chapter concludes with a consideration of Hill’s sense that reality is “like fiction”, and that the religious sense of his later work is fired by this difficult conclusion – difficult particularly for someone who rejects postmodern relativism.

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Alex Wylie

This chapter poses the title of a later essay of Hill’s as a question, assessing Hill’s place within the modernist tradition, his readings and re-readings of that tradition. Hill’s later work is placed in a context of post-Eliot New Critical commitments, alongside a critique of W.B. Yeats and Ezra Pound which is simultaneously an acknowledgement of those figures’ profound influence on his work. The chapter considers in depth the concept of “sensuous intelligence” which is so central to Hill’s later work and an inheritance from modernism and beyond. Indeed, this chapter considers Hills’ readings of such poets as John Milton and Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the light of his modernist and New Critical inheritances. Considerations of F.H. Bradley’s influence on Hill’s later work continue in this chapter, and the influence of Martin Heidegger on the later work in introduced here.

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Geoffrey Hill’s later work

Radiance of apprehension

Alex Wylie

Geoffrey Hill’s work from 1996 to 2016 is a distinct phase and a development from his earlier work. This later phase is instigated by a divergence from T.S. Eliot and by Hill’s critiques of such modernist poets as W.B. Yeats and Ezra Pound, along with an abiding commitment to modernist claims about poetry. Hill’s divergence from these figures takes the form of a strenuous re-reading of modernism and its legacies, and at its heart is a close engagement with the work of F.H. Bradley, the philosopher on whom Eliot wrote his doctoral dissertation. The poetry and criticism of this period is energised by a perplexed commitment to being and an attendant sense of swimming against the stream of the “stridently post-cultural” postmodern moment in which this work takes its place. The philosophical notion of “intrinsic value” is accordingly central to this later work, as is the cultural-political sense of this period being one of “plutocratic anarchy”. The political place of poetry, and what this book in its final chapter terms the political imagination, is a crucial element in the later work, and is placed in the context of such figures as Coleridge, Wordsworth, Ruskin, Shakespeare and Dante. The cultural politics at the heart of Hill’s later achievement is also explored, drawing on the work of George Steiner, Gabriel Marcel, and Noam Chomsky, among others, along with his controversial commitment to the right of art to be difficult and his assertion that such difficulty is truly democratic.

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‘Bless hierarchy’

The cultural politics of Hill’s later work

Alex Wylie

This chapter begins with a discussion of hierarchy and hegemony in Hill’s later work. The importance of Hill’s troubled conception of intrinsic value is pursued here, and its centrality to hierarchy as a pre-political “unknown order” which is a revocation of Eliot’s “ideal order” in ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’. The discussion here considers some of the thornier implications of Hill’s arguments regarding hierarchy and intrinsic value, with its implications around canonicity and democracy. The chapter continues with a consideration of Hill’s sense of difficulty and its cultural-political implications, developing the arguments about democracy and the democratic, concluding with a lengthy discussion of the ontological sense of Hill’s later work, and its cultural-political implications, drawing on Gabriel Marcel, and George Steiner. The chapter is at heart a meditation on elitism as a cultural-political concept the early twenty-first century, and what Hill makes of it in his later work.

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Alex Wylie

Geoffrey Hill’s later phase is defined as a reaction against T.S. Eliot’s decline from “pitch” into “tone”, and from “eros and alienation” into pragmatism. It is also shown to be defined by Hill’s readings of F.H. Bradley against Eliot’s interpretations of the philosopher, and an absorption of the Bradleian notion of ‘eros’, which is the “theory of energy” stimulating Hill’s later work in poetry and criticism. Hill’s approach to the relation between subject and object is reoriented from his earlier work in line with his readings of Bradley and his theory of Bradleian eros. Hill’s later phase, then, is defined as a reaction against Eliot and certain features of modernist politics and ontology. Taken from Emmanuel Levinas, the term ‘metaphysical desire’ is used to define this tendency in Hill’s later work.

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‘A calling for England’

Hill and the political imagination

Alex Wylie

This chapter opens with an examination of Hill’s later conception of value and intrinsic value, with reference to John Ruskin, whose work is a crucial point of reference and departure for Hill’s later work; this takes the form of a reading of Hill’s symbolic use of coins and precious metals, its relation to nationalism and nostalgia. Hill’s interest in the body politic as political symbol is discussed here, too, as an investment in the political discourse of British (and European) history. The chapter considers throughout the relationship, if any exists, between aesthetic and social order – a relationship of which the body politic is a symbol – and Hill’s vexed relationship to this vexed question, and indeed the relationship between poetry and politics in which Hill’s later work is deeply invested. The chapter places this element of Hill in the context of Coleridge, Wordsworth and Ruskin, as well as Shakespeare and Dante. The chapter concludes with a section on memory and civil power, comparing Hill with Ivor Gurney in certain crucial respects and building towards a conception of Hill’s later work as being an identification with Romantic conceptions of imaginative power.

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Series:

Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock

Among the more counterintuitive tropes of the vampire genre is the propensity of vampires to attempt suicide (often successfully). This chapter focuses on three motivations for vampire suicide – vampire guilt, vampire martyrdom and vampire ennui. In relation to guilt, this chapter will discuss Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series, James Malcolm Rymer’s novel Varney the Vampire; or, The Feast of Blood  and Park Chan-wook’s 2009 film Thirst. Vampire martyrdom will be discussed in relation to David Slade’s 2007 American horror movie 30 Days of Night, based on Steve Niles’s 2002 graphic novel, and Darla in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off, Angel . As for vampire ennui, the characters of Godric (Allan Hyde) in HBO's True Blood and Adam (Tom Hiddleston) in Jim Jarmusch's 2013 Only Lovers Left Alive will provide examples. After noting the motivations for vampire suicide in Gothic narrative, the emphasis of the chapter will be on the ways in which vampire suicidal tendencies constitute a half-hearted attempt to recuperate the vampire genre from charges of immorality through a strategy of inversion.

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Under the dying sun

Suicide and the Gothic in modern Japanese literature and culture

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Katarzyna Ancuta

This chapter discusses the changing representation of suicide in selected Japanese literary and visual texts, focusing on four twentieth- and twenty-first-century novels (Kokoro by Natsume Soseki [1914], The Silent Cry by Kenzaburo Oe [1967], Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami [1987], and Gray Men by Tomotake Ishikawa [2012]), selected films and manga. The chapter argues that the discussed texts have departed from the historic/nationalistic notion of suicide as noble death in favour of a more Gothic positioning of the theme. This Gothic dimension is realised predominantly through the construction of the characters and the bleak landscapes they inhabit. Alienated from society; often living in self-imposed exile; prone to depression, or other forms of mental illness; trapped in toxic, dysfunctional relationships and elaborate masochistic rituals, these melancholy individuals accept suicide with fatalistic abandon as an inevitable conclusion to their insignificant lives, or embrace it as the ultimate act of non-conformism and defiance against authority. The chapter also examines apocalyptic visions of ‘nightmare Japan’ in films like Sion Sono’s controversial Suicide Circle (2001) and the manga it inspired (Furuya  Ukamaru, 2002), where suicide becomes symbolic of the ways that adults have failed the younger generations.

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‘To be mistress of her own fate’

Suicide as control and contagion in the works of Richard Marsh

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Graeme Pedlingham

Suicide clearly held a particular fascination for Richard Marsh (1857–1914), one of the most prolific and popular fiction writers of the period, with representations of suicide and reflections on it featuring widely throughout his Gothic oeuvre. But this interest goes further than the astute incorporation of cultural anxieties, which Marsh often used as a key technique for heightening the disturbing effects of his work, to considerations of its social, philosophical and scientific import. This is evidenced not only through his fiction but also by a seemingly unpublished essay (in the University of Reading archives), from 1891–1910, simply entitled ‘Suicide’ (which includes the characteristically provocative suggestion that ‘there may be something to be said even in favour of suicide’). This chapter draws on examples from a range of Marsh's multitudinous Gothic (or Gothic-inflected) texts, including Mrs Musgrave (1895), A Master of Deception (1913) and  A Spoiler of Men (1905), which Johan Höglund identifies as containing arguably ‘the first instance of the zombie character in British fiction’.