Journal Article

THE EXEMPLARY POETRY OF GEOFFREY HILL: AUTHORITY AND EXEMPLARITY IN A TREATISE OF CIVIL POWER

Bridget Vincent
The Modern Language Review
Vol. 110, No. 3 (July 2015), pp. 649-668
DOI: 10.5699/modelangrevi.110.3.0649
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5699/modelangrevi.110.3.0649
Page Count: 20
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THE EXEMPLARY POETRY OF GEOFFREY HILL: AUTHORITY AND EXEMPLARITY IN A TREATISE OF CIVIL POWER
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Abstract

Geoffrey Hill's ethical anxieties turn on a tension between aesthetic autonomy and engagement with the polis, a tension illuminated by his adumbration of an exemplary poetics. ‘Exemplarity’ is characterized by a similar tension between intransitive and transitive activity, so that a poem can be ‘exemplary’ through its independent merit but also because it influences others. Exemplarity has become especially significant in Hill's ‘late style’: his intensifying rehearsals of despair at the degradation of public language have made the models offered by figures from the past (and the exemplary influence of his own work) an increasingly revealing element in his writing.