Saturday, 23 March 2019

Working Group on Morris’s Poetry

I’ve been making handouts and gathering my thoughts for a mini-course on Thomas Hardy’s poetry which I start teaching on Monday.  I have my various themes and categories broadly sketched out for the four weeks of the course: the notion of ‘the neutral’ (shades of late Roland Barthes there, perhaps!), post-Romanticism, Wessex, London, class, return (as in ‘return of the native’), religion, elegy and, if we have time, perhaps other traditional forms.  Let’s see if I can enthuse our first-year students with detailed immersion in particular Hardy lyrics around those topics.

I’ve been struck, while knocking this mini-course together, by how little attention the William Morris Society currently devotes to Morris’s poetry.  One could imagine a Society working group – I’d be very keen to enlist Rosie Miles of Wolverhampton University to it, if she were willing – that met regularly to look at such issues as how adequately Isobel Armstrong’s analysis of Morris’s verse in the light of the concept of the ‘grotesque’ holds up today, or whether we would still agree with Frederick Kirchoff’s judgement that ‘The Earthly Paradise was at least a partial success.  Indeed, its major sections – ‘The Wanderers’, ‘Cupid and Psyche’, ‘The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon’, ‘The Lovers of Gudrun’, ‘The Hill of Venus’ – are among the most important (and least fully appreciated) narrative poems of the late nineteeth century’.

Thomas Hardy’s verse to teach first, though – and then a Morris Society poetry group as a project for my retirement years, perhaps!  If anybody else is interested, please get in touch and we can try and make this happen.

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