Journal Article

Geoffrey Hill, <i>Little Gidding</i> and the ‘Christian Poetics’ of Michael Edwards*

Jean Ward

in Literature and Theology

Volume 24, issue 3, pages 256-270
Published in print September 2010 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online July 2010 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI:
Geoffrey Hill, Little Gidding and the ‘Christian Poetics’ of Michael Edwards*

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It is commonly suggested that Geoffrey Hill’s poetry is a lament over the implication of language in the ‘terrible aboriginal calamity’ of the Fall. Some see this lament as disingenuous, given the creative use that the poet makes of linguistic ambiguity and plurality of meaning. It is argued here that this is unjust; for Hill is not engaged in a mere game or in an attempt to make poetic capital out of the language of the fallen world, but, in the terms of Michael Edwards’ ‘Christian poetics’, in a struggle for the redemption of language. An essential and under-appreciated aspect of Hill’s poetry is its foregrounding of the motif of Pentecost, which represents the undoing of the consequences of the Fall, pointing, however, not nostalgically backwards to a pre-Babel paradise, but forward to ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev. 21: 1). This paper considers the applicability of Edwards’ conception, in which the Eliot of ‘pentecostal fire / In the dark time of the year’ plays an important part to Hill’s work, where Eliot is also an important presence.

Journal Article.  7155 words. 

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

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