Chapter

Oppositional Principles

Geoffrey Hill

in Speaking to You

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199657001
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191742194 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657001.003.0008
Oppositional Principles

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This chapter probes Hill's sense that a poet's fulfilment of his role is connected with the ability to engage appropriately with listeners: the right forms of address to the right addressees. It argues address demands breaking and preserving customary good behaviours, accusatory and commendatory responses, focusing on Hill's argumentative addresses in lectures and essays. It explores the predominantly haranguing address: interlocutions directed at others. Julien Benda, Edward Said, Raymond Williams, William Empson, and Stephan Collini are put into play alongside Hill's addresses. Each of these writers articulates misgivings about authorial inspiration. Each focuses on the writer's susceptibility, the danger of succumbing to misplaced pride when exposed to the ‘crowd’. In Hill's public addresses, ‘real denunciation’ is hard labour, a verbal warfare turned as much upon oneself as upon others. The poet-critic witnesses his own susceptibilities and betrayals in ‘the public institution’ of language.

Keywords: Geoffrey Hill; address; ceremony; argument; William Empson; Stephan Collini; public; labour

Chapter.  8005 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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