Journal Article

Strange Calling: A Theological Approach to Larkin

Theo Hobson

in Literature and Theology

Volume 20, issue 3, pages 301-320
Published in print September 2006 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online July 2006 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI:
Strange Calling: A Theological Approach to Larkin

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This essay inquires into Larkin's understanding of poetic vocation, a major theme of his work, and a fruitful starting point for an inquiry into his relationship to Christianity. He is deeply preoccupied with the question of whether his life and work should be understood as the response to a call. He often mocks this high Romantic idea, yet cannot get away from it. This open question is the key to the pathos of his work. The attempt to settle this question, to identify the source of his calling, leads to a flirtation with nihilism: vatic gloom offers the poet a suitably grand role. His pursuit of ‘undeceived’ honesty becomes a personal myth that entails a sort of anti-faith, a refusal of hope. But this is not to say that his work is essentially nihilistic, or anti-Christian. His pessimism includes a substantial interest in the idea of the Fall. From a theological point of view there is more wisdom in Larkin's gloom than in secular optimism.

Journal Article.  9100 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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