Veronica Forrest-Thomson, poetic artifice and the struggle with forms

Farmer, Gareth (2012) Veronica Forrest-Thomson, poetic artifice and the struggle with forms. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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This thesis examines the poetry and critical work of Veronica Forrest-Thomson, arguing that her poetic project is characterised by her ‘struggle with forms’. Forrest-Thomson developed many formal models of poetry in her critical writing which acted as ideals to be enacted in practice. The broad struggle in Forrest-Thomson’s poetic project is, then, between the formal projections of theory and a variety of forms of poetic practice; between, that is, the fixed and totalising frames of theory and the local patterns of form and meaning which exceed the logic of an ideal model. This thesis examines the struggle between theoretical and practical forms through consecutive stages in Forrest-Thomson’s career. First, I examine Forrest-Thomson’s attempt to combine Romantic, formalist and modernist poetic theories in an early manifesto. Her early, conflicted theoretical perspectives, I argue, transferred to her poetry as tensions between a use of traditional poetic forms and a variety of free, formal modes. Second, I demonstrate how conflicts between traditional and innovative form in the poems were exacerbated by Forrest-Thomson’s developing interest in artistic theory and concrete poetry. Third, I assess the influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s linguistic philosophy on Forrest-Thomson’s theory and practice, concentrating on her use of his notion of ‘language-games’ to inform collage-like poems and the idea that the poem is a ‘context’ absorbing and transforming others. At this stage, Forrest-Thomson’s theory and poetry also exhibit tensions between modernist and post-modernist perspectives which induce an anxiety of losing control at the level of poetic form for which she compensates with an emphasis on traditional literary figures and forms. Fourth, I examine Forrest-Thomson’s Poetic Artifice: A Theory of Twentieth-Century Poetry as an example of a particular type of formalism where fixed metaphors of poetic form comprise both the polemical strength and conceptual weakness of her poetic theory. Lastly, I outline the struggle between formal and semantic control and excess in Forrest-Thomson’s late theory and poetry, arguing that her quest for what she calls ‘writing straight’ is impeded by her conflicted assessment of the role and status of complex poetic form.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1010 Poetry
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0500 Poetry
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR6000 1900-1960
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR6050 1961-2000
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2012 05:57
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:50

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