John Berryman

John Berryman : A Critical Commentary

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The poetry of John Berryman occupies an incomparable place in modern American literature. This study traces the composition of the major poems, and interprets Berryman's characteristic trials and his imaginative triumphs. In Homage to Mistress Bradstreet , which Edmund Wilson called ' the most distinguished long poem by an American since The Waste Land ', Berryman set himself enormous problems of theme and form, and overcame them with the vigorous and exciting craft that is described in this book. He transformed his personal concerns and historical interests into a fully achieved artistic unity, a poem which succeeds both as lyric and as drama. Similarly, in forging the thirteen-year 'epic' of The Dream Songs , 'the tragical history of Henry', as the poet himself called it, Berryman resolutely confronted chosen models such as Don Quixote and The Iliad , and eventually realised his own design and a unique poetic voice. 'I set up the 'Bradstreet' poem as an attack on 'The Waste Land' ' Berryman said in his National Book Award Acceptance Speech; 'I set up ' The Dream Songs ' as hostile to every visible tendency in both American and English poetry...The aim was the same in both poems: the reproduction or invention of the motions of a human personality, free and determined, in one case feminine, in the other masculine.' A chief feature of this study is the remarkably extensive use John Haffenden has made of primary research materials - manuscript drafts, notes, marginalia, diary entries and letters, all of which are printed here for the first time - to illuminate and explain the poems. This book is both a critical analysis of Berryman's mature works and an internal narrative of the poet's struggles and success. It includes comprehensive notes and commentary on 'The Dream Songs' and on 'Delusions, Etc.' , as well as an authoritative discussion and assesment of 'Love & Fame'.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 216 pages
  • 140 x 216 x 17.53mm | 440g
  • Basingstoke, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1980 ed.
  • VII, 216 p.
  • 0333276183
  • 9780333276181

Table of contents

Acknowledgements Introduction 'Bitter Sister, Victim!' - Homage to Mistress Bradstreet 'The Care and Feeding of Long Poems' Love & Fame and Berryman's Luck Notes and Commentary on The Dream Songs Notes and Commentary on Delusions , Etc. Appendix 1: The Chronology of The Dream Songs Appendix 2: Berryman;s 'Hunch of Heaven' Notes Selected Bibliography Index
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About John Haffenden

JOHN HAFFENDEN is Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Sheffield. Educated at the Universities of Dublin and Oxford, he has been Education Officer at Oxford Prison, and has taught at Oxford College of Further Education and at the University of Exeter.
Dr Haffenden has contributed articles to leading journals such as Partisan Review, The Yale Review, The Journal of American Studies and Critical Quarterly, and has edited a posthumous volume of Berryman's poems, Henry's Fate & Other Poems, 1967-1972. He is the authorised biographer of John Berryman.
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