The Parochial Courage of Ted Hughes

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Almost twenty years after his death, the status of Ted Hughes as a major English poet seems assured. However, his place in the context of the modern and contemporary poetry is less clear. A large and varied oeuvre incorporating poetry, prose, drama, translation, essays and critical writing – and even larger archives of unpublished material – provides the basis for competing interpretations and suggests that one reason for the uncertainty about Hughes’s place is that the full range of evidence has not yet been fully considered. Indeed, the understanding and reception of Hughes’s published work by both scholarly and more popular audiences is increasingly contested. This is most recently exemplified in Jonathan Bate’s revisionist classification of Hughes’s poetry into ‘mythic’ and ‘elegiac’ modes, in which Bate reserves his highest approbation for Hughes’s more direct and personal work about ‘love and loss’ – paradigmatically Birthday Letters – and effectively characterises the central thrust of Hughes’s creative effort since the publication of Lupercal in 1960 and the publication of Birthday Letters in January 1998 as obscurantist displacement activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-85
Number of pages8
JournalThe Ted Hughes Society Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


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