Local Attachments The Province of Poetry

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2010-11-19
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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How can poems so firmly attached to particular regions speak to readers far away, who might have no knowledge of the places featuring in the work? Why do writers turn to their own communities for materials? In this thought-provoking and beautifully written book, Fiona Stafford explores the relationship between the local, the national, and the global through the consideration of works by writers whose feeling for place is especially evident. Heaney, Burns, Wordsworth, Scott, Lamb, and Dickens are key figures in the development of a new kind of literature that discovered universal meaning in local truth.

Local Attachments begins with Seamus Heaney's Nobel Lecture, 'Crediting Poetry', which is at once a celebration of local work in a global context and a passionate defence of the place of lyric poetry in modern society. The focus then shifts to the Romantic period, when local detail ceased to be regarded as a sign of limitation and the idea that it is essential to art with any aspiration to permanence became established in British and Irish culture. Stafford explores both the presence of the local in literary texts by a wide range of writers and the cultural, philosophical and political contexts that might have contributed to this phenomenon. Wordsworth's creative recovery in the Lake District is an exemplary case, illuminating both Heaney's work and that of his immediate contemporaries and heirs. Since Wordsworth is a foundational figure, the book traces his efforts to achieve a poetry adequate to very difficult contemporary circumstances by returning to his native hills to create work that might live. His own project drew vital inspiration from the poetry of Burns and also found corroboration in the work Scott, so the book examines their independent explorations of the creative benefits - and problems attending - local attachment. It also considers the meaning of Burns and Wordsworth's local poems for those in very different circumstances - London writers such as Keats, Lamb and Dickens, whose works are considered in some detail in their own right and as representative of the implications of the great Romantic discovery of the local. The book concludes by addressing the continuing appeal of the local in modern, urban society and reaffirms the vital importance of poetry as a response to social crises.

Author Biography

Fiona Stafford travelled widely as a child until her family settled in Lincolnshire. She studied English at Leicester University before undertaking post-graduate research in Oxford. While finishing her D.Phil on Macpherson's Ossian, she worked as a lecturer at the University of Evansville's British Campus and then returned to Oxford to take up a British Academy Post-doctoral Fellowship at Lincoln College. She was a lecturer at the University of Northampton and St Anne's College, Oxford, before becoming a Fellow of Somerville College in 1992. She has been a Professor of English Language and Literature in the University of Oxford since 2008. Her interests include eighteenth and nineteenth-century literature, especially the Romantic period; contemporary poetry; Scottish literature; the literature of the four nations and relations between them; Austen.

Table of Contents

1. In the First Place
2. Lakes or Oceans?
3. Local Attachment and Adequate Poetry
4. Scott's Border Vision
5. Robert Burns's Addresses
6. Keats' In-Placeness
7. In the City

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