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The Uses of Apocalypse

Tourlamain, Moyra Penelope (2019) The Uses of Apocalypse. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:77580)

Language: English
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This project aims to answer a creative question: what use might be made of the traditions of apocalyptic literature in writing about catastrophe? This is addressed from two angles: a creative project, Peripheral Visions, and A New Cave Flooded To Light, a critical study of W. S. Graham. Peripheral Visions uses the apocalyptic genre as a framework for poems about the catastrophe of dementia. A New Cave Flooded To Light, explores how Graham might be understood as an apocalyptic poet; what this contributes to understandings of his work and of the genre; and what reading him through this lens contributes to this project as a whole. Apocalyptic literature evokes the revelation, through a process of catastrophe and judgement, of an otherwise hidden alternative to the status quo. Over time it has lost its relationship to a shared vision of eschatology and to the promise of rescue from a critical situation. Nonetheless, it remains distinguished by narrative themes of catastrophe, judgment and renewal (or an altered perception of reality). Both elements of this project are structured around those three themes and deploy the apocalyptic devices of a non-linear treatment of time, visions and dreams, transformative journeys, myth, and image. A sense of language as a supernatural element, and of its 'dark companion', silence, also runs through both elements. In their anxiety about the instability of language and its implications for authenticity, they demonstrate apocalypse as a literary event. Traditionally, apocalypse implies positive change. In Peripheral Visions, however, the struggle is against change itself, and is demonstrably unsuccessful. Many of the poems, notably 'from Bugarach' and 'Occipital Outcome', share with those in Graham's Malcolm Mooney's Land and with 'Implements In Their Places' a resistance to revelation as renewal. This study argues that Graham, nonetheless, also posits a 'life after death' for the poet in a continual 'making new'. Using the apocalyptic device of vision, Peripheral Visions moves ever further from 'normal' perception to create the vision of dementia, questioning, too, the assumption that such a vision is invalid. Apocalypse operates in the imagination. Graham's deteriorating relationship with the Muse, the personification of imagination, coincides with the increasing negativity of his apocalyptic vision. In its discussion of this, and of the influence of Robert Graves's The White Goddess, the critical element of this project offers new perspectives on Graham's later work. Graham's poetry has not, however, lost the moral tone of the genre. In surfacing his treatment of the paradoxical 'lie' at the heart of artistic 'truth', this study links his work to medieval 'dream' poems, as well as asking serious questions about readings of 'Implements In Their Places'. This project demonstrates how the apocalyptic genre's preoccupation with the cataclysmic end of one version of reality and the imposition of another equates to the process of dementia. It demonstrates, too, W. S. Graham's response to the genre's visionary treatment of judgement, catastrophe and renewal, and its reciprocal understanding of time, which equates to poetic simultaneity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Smith, Simon
Thesis advisor: Herd, David
Uncontrolled keywords: apocalyptic literature, W S Graham, Peripheral Visions
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 18 Oct 2019 10:10 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2022 23:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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