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  • UnbearableLightnessfinal

    Rights statement: This article has been accepted for publication by Edinburgh University Press in Romanticism, http://www.euppublishing.com/doi/abs/10.3366/rom.2016.0292

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Unbearable lightness: some modern instances in Auden, Stevens and Eliot

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>10/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Romanticism
Issue number3
Volume22
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)312-321
Publication statusPublished
Early online date19/09/16
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

In this essay I examine the implicit paradox that, although in conventional consideration ‘light’ is good and ‘darkness’, by antithesis, bad, the antithesis itself implies interconnection and, especially in poetry, the evocation of light can equally imply the possibility of darkness.

Further, I suggest that poets have found intermediate or qualified illumination to be a more productive resource than light unmoderated by shadow, whose erasure of uncertainty is potentially disabling. My principal examples are drawn from modern poetry, in W. H. Auden, Wallace Stevens and T. S. Eliot, preceded by a consideration of some nineteenth-century precursors; by means of these I show how their verse takes animation from the transient and transitional aspects of light, rather than from its plenitude. The implications of this, in a culture shaped by traditional Christian associations between ‘God’ and ‘light’, are suggestive throughout the essay, but become especially resonant in the case of Eliot’s overtly Christian poetry.

Bibliographic note

This article has been accepted for publication by Edinburgh University Press in Romanticism, http://www.euppublishing.com/doi/abs/10.3366/rom.2016.0292