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Environment, Creativity and Culture in the Poetry of Jon Silkin and Simon Armitage

Trott, Emma Johanna Gill (2018) Environment, Creativity and Culture in the Poetry of Jon Silkin and Simon Armitage. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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This thesis approaches the poetries of Jon Silkin and Simon Armitage from the perspective of the ecological. By this I mean that the primary focus is on the poetic encounters with environments and the complex meshwork of ‘intra-actions’ (Karen Barad) between various material, organic, human and more-than-human ‘actants’ (Bruno Latour). The stylistic differences between these two post-War British poets do not suggest them as an obvious pairing, but this thesis develops a critical methodology that sustains difference within points of correspondence. Despite the contrasts, Silkin and Armitage are brought together in this thesis under two crucial parallels. The first is that both poets demonstrate an ethically-grounded environmental consciousness, yet neither is a ‘nature poet’. In quite individual ways, each poet grapples with the difficulties of approaching the more-than-human other without recourse to oppression or hierarchy. The second parallel is revealed by an exploration of each of the poets’ responses to catastrophes, in the past, present and future. Silkin’s experience as a Jew in twentieth-century Europe and as an observer of nuclear weapons deployment in Hiroshima and Nagasaki colour his understanding of history but also present the real possibility of such atrocities re-occurring. Armitage’s consciousness of climate change and a rapidly shifting, media-driven, consumer capitalist society produces poetry that responds to powerful environmental uncertainty. Silkin and Armitage each challenge rigid categories, such as animal/vegetable (Silkin) and life/non-life (Armitage). In both cases, the reader is engaged in the literary ecology and this presents the opportunity to develop new ethical frames and sustainable practices. The two poets’ works each reveal much about the nature of creativity and its complex, challenging relationship with environmental ethics. When brought into dialogue, the similarity and difference (which is the model of metaphor) between Silkin and Armitage is considerable.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Ecopoetry; Jon Silkin; Simon Armitage; contemporary poetry; ecocriticism
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of English (Leeds)
Depositing User: Dr Emma Trott
Date Deposited: 21 May 2018 11:35
Last Modified: 21 May 2018 11:35
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20248

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