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Irish Poetry of the 1930s$
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Alan Gillis

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199277094

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199277094.001.0001

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Patrick Kavanagh and Austin Clarke In a Metaphysical Land

Patrick Kavanagh and Austin Clarke In a Metaphysical Land

(p.62) CHAPTER 4 Patrick Kavanagh and Austin Clarke In a Metaphysical Land
Irish Poetry of the 1930s

Alan Gillis (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter compares and contrasts Patrick Kavanagh’s The Great Hunger with Austin Clarke’s Night and Morning. It explores the manner in which Kavanagh vandalizes stereotypes of rural Ireland and pastoral poetry, and focuses on central paradoxes of the poem. It argues that The Great Hunger is a savage indictment of a certain form of Romanticism, but is also deeply in thrall to it. It then moves to consider the poem as a highly sophisticated play upon multiple perspectives and tropes, arguing that this ironic sophistication constitutes the crux of its significance. The chapter then discusses the early ‘Irish mode’ of Austin Clarke, and examines Samuel Beckett’s critique of it. Similar to Kavanagh’s, Clarke’s poetry is found to be in thrall to that which it purportedly attacks — in this case, a form of conservative nationalism. A further discussion examines how such figurative similarities between the two poets create sharp differentiations in terms of style and political tenor.

Keywords:   Patrick Kavanagh, Austin Clarke, The Great Hunger, romanticism, nationalism, pastoral, tropes

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