Year of Study in Programme: First
Supervisor: Dr Andrew Monnickendam
Area/Topic of Research: Irish Literature, Poetry, Time, Philosophy
Title/Provisional Title of Thesis: “Lying at the heart of love we wander through its infinities”: Time in the Poetry of Patrick Kavanagh
Short Abstract: This thesis will analyse the representation of time in the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh (Inniskeen, 1904 – Dublin, 1967) to understand his mystical journey as a poet from a philosophical perspective. The study will mainly focus on Kavanagh’s autobiographical works and the sonnets that he wrote in Dublin from the 1950s, such as “Epic”, “The Hospital”, “Lines Written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin”, “Canal Bank Walk” or “Question to Life”, to quote only a few. The objective is to highlight the way the poet apprehends the present, somewhere between Bergson’s and Rousseau’s perceptions, how he evolves from a contemplative and purely intuitive state towards a full consciousness of the metaphysical and moral implications of the pattern and order of life, towards wisdom, as Terence Brown argues. Kavanagh considered he was born a poet in 1955, following his recovery from an operation for lung cancer. During what he himself qualifies as his pilgrimage towards poetry, his representation of time and reality evolves from a phase concerned with the conception of the present as a constant reinvention and the continuity of the past, to a state of poetic creation that reflects the poet’s intention to fully grasp the mysteries of the soul in the present moment. To achieve this outcome and fix himself in the present, the poet narrows the infinite world of imagination, which was in expansion in the first stage of his life, to focus on the real world (which cannot be extended), following one of Rousseau’s principles stated by George Poulet in his studies about time in literature.
The originality of this research lies in its in-depth and innovative study of Kavanagh’s poetic representation of time and the present in particular, following the idea stated by Terence Brown. Critics, like Una Agnew, or Antoinette Quinn, Kavanagh’s biographer, have mainly focused on the importance of his work within the contexts of Kavanagh’s life, the socio- religious life of the community, the nation through post-colonial perspectives, and the literary history of modern Ireland, in the tradition of Christian mysticism. As far as recent studies and research are concerned, they are more directed towards a psychological analysis of Kavanagh’s works (with authors such as Desmond Swan) and towards an interpretation of place from an environmental perspective, following an ecocritical discourse. Poems like “The Great Hunger” have also largely been covered by the critics and scholars (Desmond Swan, Catherine Kilcoyne), whereas the late poems and the sonnets in particular, have not been thoroughly studied.