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Style and Faith in Geoffrey Hill

O'Hanlon, Karl (2016) Style and Faith in Geoffrey Hill. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Few post-war Anglophone poets have constructed an intellectual hinterland as rich and problematic as Geoffrey Hill. This thesis examines one crucial strand of his thought: the deeply-implicated, yet uneasy imbrication of poetry and theology, style and faith. In the essay ‘Language, Suffering, and Silence’, Hill proposes ‘a theology of language’, while in the preface to his 2003 collection of essays Style and Faith, he insists that with exemplary writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, ‘style is faith’. Finally, in ‘Eros in F.H. Bradley and T.S. Eliot’, Hill searchingly touches on the central problem in considering art in relation to faith: ‘the fundamental dilemma of the poetic craft [is] that it is simultaneously an imitation of the divine fiat and an act of enormous human self-will.’ This thesis proposes that such a ‘fundamental dilemma’, while a source of anxiety for Hill’s post-Eliotic poetics, energises and enriches his poetry. I argue that Hill’s ‘theology of language’ is derived from two radically-opposed intellectual traditions: one lineage from the philological diligence of the English Reformation, the other from the apotheosis of style in the post-Romantic poetics of individuals such as Wallace Stevens and W.B. Yeats. I situate Hill’s thoughts on the relationship of poetry to religious faith in terms of his intellectual and aesthetic engagements with literary precursors: John Donne, John Milton, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and W.B. Yeats.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.714378
Depositing User: Dr Karl O'Hanlon
Date Deposited: 25 May 2017 08:57
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2020 09:53
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/17168

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