By John Sutherland
This little historical past takes on a truly enormous topic: the wonderful span of literature from Greek delusion to photo novels, from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Harry Potter. He introduces nice classics in his personal impossible to resist approach, enlivening his choices with humour in addition to studying: Beowulf, Shakespeare, Don Quixote, the Romantics, Dickens, Moby Dick, The Waste Land, Woolf, 1984, and dozens of others.
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A heap of ominous, funny, myth-drenched symbols, a comfort to hearts sick of what passes for reality, is where, today, all ladders end, where the fallen morning stars of theopoesis, its once ‘masterful images’, go to be composted and recycled. ) poets who bear the gods, in the sense of giving a new birth to, as well as bearing up under them—like Keats in his incomplete Hyperions. Nor are we far from visions coming to Yeats through his medium (his wife) by way of tutelary spirits only identified as ‘communicators’, or from Blake’s prolific Prophetic Books, or James Merrill’s Book of Ephraim (published in 1976, during the most intense years of Dick’s own mystical perplexities).
23 Hill grew up hearing lectures and participating in tutorials that presented the need for sound philology God’s Little Mountains 29 almost as a moral imperative, to which he added—in his poetic practice if not in his weekly papers—elements of the formalism of the New Criticism with its emphasis on the letter, which leads readers to maintain a focus on ambiguity and paradox. Both were in the air, and had been since William Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930). Many critics of the day, Christian or not, read English poetry, confessional or not, in terms of the paradoxes inherent in the faith (Jesus as God-man, Mary as Mother of God, suffering as redemptive, weakness as strength and so on), sometimes in a manner that can only seem reductive.
He does not find himself ‘more strangely’, as we would expect from the grammar, since the poem ends more strongly if it places an emphasis not on how he finds himself but on what he finds: his irreducible strangeness. 50 At first, we might say that the question does not seem to be a stumper. The surgeon who can treat his wound—we think of the ‘mortal wound’ that Hazel receives—and make him able to speak of what he has seen is God. T. S. 51 And the surgeon who can God’s Little Mountains 35 help Hill speak with more elegance and charm is the muse, or perhaps none other than his true self.