Violence in the work of J.H. Prynne

Matthew Hall

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This doctoral dissertation situates close readings of J.H. Prynne’s poetry in an investigation of the theoretic, philosophical and poetic contexts by which violence is represented and interrogated in his work. My readings of Prynne’s poetry are coextensive with the thematic continuity of Prynne’s poetic oeuvre, utilising specific textual examples that highlight a theoretical understanding of the manifold manners in which violence is handled by the poet. The texts adduced here displace a lengthy exegetical investigation across Prynne’s oeuvre by instead focusing on a systematic interpretation of texts in which the operation and representation of violence forms the basis of the exposition. This thesis and its attendant investigations focus upon specific poetry collections in which violence is a predominant theme, and bring awareness to the manner in which the operations of violence and its representation construct a position of ontological awareness.
The poems are situated against a number of philosophical constructs which they utilise, contest and exceed. This dissertation tracks Prynne’s eventual distancing from Heideggerian thought, towards a lineage which instead relies upon the work of Alain Badiou. While Martin Heidegger’s work informs Prynne’s early poetic development and his conception of dwelling, Prynne begins to establish distance from the philosopher starting with the collection Brass. From this point onwards Prynne stresses the connection between political resistance and poetic creation which can be read through the late philosophy of Alain Badiou, and which would later inform Prynne’s essay ‘Poetic Thought’. The philosophical underpinnings of the text posit the poet’s role, through the depiction violence, as a representative of heightened political awareness supporting a position of ontological resistance. Such resistance is, in Prynne’s poetic philosophy, crucial to the creation of new poetic thought. This dissertation focuses on the connection between philosophical categories of being and theories of violence and bearing witness, as subtended through a discussion of Prynne’s poetics wherein these concepts are coextensive. It also investigates the relationships established between lyric, the authorial voice, and violence as a poetic theme.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


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