‘I see men as trees suffering’: The Vision of Keith Douglas


in Proceedings of the British Academy, Volume 117

Published by British Academy

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780197262795
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191753954 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

‘I see men as trees suffering’: The Vision of Keith Douglas

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This chapter examines the work of Keith Douglas. To appreciate his motivation, it is necessary to understand that what he saw, what he spoke and wrote about, and the extrospective style he developed, were inalienably connected. The prominence of the visual is singular and fundamental to Douglas's work: it constitutes nothing less than — in Charles Tomlinson's suggestive phrase — an ‘ethic of sight’. The dead body is, overwhelmingly, the central image in Douglas's work, and each corpse poses new ethical challenges. But the imperatives appear to carry no moral charge, and do not resolve concerns over what may seem like indifference to the bloodshed or even voyeuristic gloating. Douglas's poetry not only foresees and understands such criticisms, it dramatises them.

Keywords: poets; Keith Douglas; poetry; dead body

Chapter.  6491 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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