Unbearable lightness : some modern instances in Auden, Stevens and Eliot

Sharpe, Tony (2016) Unbearable lightness : some modern instances in Auden, Stevens and Eliot. Romanticism, 22 (3). pp. 312-321. ISSN 1354-991X

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In this essay I examine the implicit paradox that, although in conventional consideration ‘light’ is good and ‘darkness’, by antithesis, bad, the antithesis itself implies interconnection and, especially in poetry, the evocation of light can equally imply the possibility of darkness. Further, I suggest that poets have found intermediate or qualified illumination to be a more productive resource than light unmoderated by shadow, whose erasure of uncertainty is potentially disabling. My principal examples are drawn from modern poetry, in W. H. Auden, Wallace Stevens and T. S. Eliot, preceded by a consideration of some nineteenth-century precursors; by means of these I show how their verse takes animation from the transient and transitional aspects of light, rather than from its plenitude. The implications of this, in a culture shaped by traditional Christian associations between ‘God’ and ‘light’, are suggestive throughout the essay, but become especially resonant in the case of Eliot’s overtly Christian poetry.

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Journal Article
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This article has been accepted for publication by Edinburgh University Press in Romanticism, http://www.euppublishing.com/doi/abs/10.3366/rom.2016.0292
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?? literature and literary theory ??
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01 Dec 2014 16:18
Last Modified:
22 May 2024 00:36