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Title: 'I am pearl' : guise and excess in the poetry of Barry MacSweeney
Authors: Batchelor, Paul
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Barry MacSweeney was a prolific poet who embraced many poetic styles and forms. The defining characteristics of his work are its excess (for example, its depiction of extreme emotional states, its use of challenging forms, and the flagrancy with which it appropriates other writers and poems) and its quality of swerving (for example, the way it frustrates the reader's expectations, and its oppositional identification with literary antecedents and schools). I argue that MacSweeney's poetic development constitutes a series of reactions to a moment of trauma that occurred in 1968, when a crisis in his personal life coincided with a disastrous publicity stunt for his first book. I chart MacSweeney's progress from 1968 to 1997 in terms of five stages of trauma adjustment, which account for the stylistic changes his poetry underwent. In Chapter One I consider the ways in which the traumatic episode in 1968 led to MacSweeney embracing the underground poetry scene. In Chapter Two I examine the ways in which his 1970s poetry exhibits denial. In Chapter Three I look at Jury Vet and the other angry, alienated poetry he wrote in the early 1980s. In Chapter Four I look at 1984s Ranter, an example of poetic bargaining in which MacSweeney alludes to mainstream poetry in return for what he hopes will be a wider readership. In Chapter Five I consider Hellhound Memos, the collection that resulted from a period of depression MacSweeney suffered 1985- 1993. In Chapter Six I look at his most successful work, Pearl and The Book of Demons, in which he confronts and accepts the roots of his trauma. Using a combination of close reading, literary theory and biographical research, I explicate and evaluate MacSweeney's development in terms of his literary and cultural contexts. While accounting for the various styles and approaches MacSweeney undertook, this study shows his oeuvre to be remarkably consistent in its structure, imagery and poetic techniques.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

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