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The Monstrous Debt

Modalities of Romantic Influence in Twentieth-Century Literature

Edited by Damian Walford Davies and Richard Marggraf Turley
With a Foreword by Lucy Newlyn

Literary Criticism and Theory

Published: September 2006
ISBN: 9780814330586
Pages: 264 Size: 6x9 Illustrations: 5

Critically smart, theoretically geared, and historically astute, every page brings fresh intelligence of how Romanticism and its inheritors are still speaking to tomorrow, ready to go anywhere.

— Nicholas Roe

The authors in this collection join an animated debate on the persistence of Romanticism. Even as dominant twentieth-century cultural movements have contested Romantic "myths" of redemptive Nature, individualism, perfectibility, the transcendence of art, and the heart’s affections, the Romantic legacy survives as a point of tension and of inspiration for modern writers. Rejecting the Bloomian notion of anxious revisionism, The Monstrous Debt argues that various kinds of influences, inheritances, and indebtedness exist between well-known twentieth-century authors and canonical Romantic writers.

Among the questions asked by this volume are: How does Blake’s graphic mythology submit to "redemptive translations" in the work of Dylan Thomas? How might Ted Hughes’s strong readings of a "snaky" Coleridge illuminate the "mercurial" poetic identity of Sylvia Plath? How does Shelley "sustain" the work of W. B. Yeats and Elizabeth Bishop with supplies of "imaginative oxygen"? In what ways does Keats enable Bob Dylan to embrace influence? How does Keats prove inadequate for Tony Harrison as he confronts contemporary violence? How does "cockney" Romanticism succeed in shocking John Betjeman’s poetry out of kitsch into something new and strange?

The Monstrous Debt seeks to broaden our sense of what "influence" is by defining the complex of relations that contribute to the making of the modern literary text. Scholars and students of the Romantic era will enjoy this informative volume.

Damian Walford Davies and Richard Marggraf Turley are co-directors of the Centre for Romantic Studies at University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Contributors Include:
Damian Walford Davies, Emma Mason, Harriet Devine Jump, Hugh Haughton, John Bayley, John Beer, John Whale, Lisa M. Steinman, Michael O'Neill, Richard Marggraf-Turley

In these brilliant new essays, leading critics alert us to the urgent, animated conversations between Romantic and modern writers. Each essay is sharply attuned to the zest in these exchanges, and to the astonishing diversity of contemporary creative encounters with Romantic language and vision. Critically smart, theoretically geared, and historically astute, every page brings fresh intelligence of how Romanticism and its inheritors are still speaking to tomorrow, ready to go anywhere."

– Nicholas Roe, professor of English, University of St Andrews, Scotland

A rich and continually engaging study of the influence of Romanticism on twentieth-century poets, from Dylan Thomas to the Minnesota folksinger who adopted his name. Anyone interested in the subtle ways in which Romantic poetry lives and breathes in twentieth-century poetry will find much to value in this collection of essays. Here a sophisticated model of poetic influence is developed that lets poems speak to other poems, and poets to other poets, without getting so anxious that they lose their personal and historical voice."

– Alan Bewell, professor of English at the University of Toronto

Even as 'Romanticism' itself has been radically re-defined over the past twenty years, there has also been a growing sense of the strength of the continuing influence of literature of the Romantic period. This collection of essays by leading critics who work in this complex interpretative field represents an important contribution to an expanding field of scholarly endeavor and sheds new light on some of the most significant writers of the last hundred years."

– Edward Larrissy, professor of English, University of Leeds