The Georgian Revolt, 1910-1922: Rise and Fall of a Poetic Ideal

The Georgian Revolt, 1910-1922: Rise and Fall of a Poetic Ideal

The Georgian Revolt, 1910-1922: Rise and Fall of a Poetic Ideal

The Georgian Revolt, 1910-1922: Rise and Fall of a Poetic Ideal

Excerpt

"You start a question, and it's like starting a stone," said Robert Louis Stevenson. If we were always knowledgeable enough to ask the right questions at the beginning, writing a literary history would be much less hazardous. The question which led me to undertake this book arose from an anomaly I thought I observed while teaching an undergraduate course in modern British literature. In the age of Bennett and Wells, Shaw and Galsworthy, when most English non- poetic literature was oriented toward a sober, serious representational realism, it seemed a curious anachronism that poetry should have turned to little nature lyrics, pastoral effusions on the beauties of certain rural counties, or unconsidered trifles about moonlight and nightingales. Why should such poetry -- Georgian poetry -- have flourished precisely at the time that it did?

Like many historical questions, this one carried with it an unexamined critical premise. I quickly discovered that my too easy assumption about the nature of Georgian poetry was ridiculously oversimplified and, in most cases, downright wrong. My initial question, moreover, soon became only a first step into the labyrinth of other, anterior questions. Who, in fact, were the Georgians? Was the word to be used denotatively, as a historical tag, that is, to describe those poets who wrote by and large in the second decade of the century? Or should it be used connotatively, to describe a poetic school? Critics had used it both ways, with confusing results. If the word described a coterie and not an age, what, then, made a Georgian a "Georgian"? What poetic canons did the "Geor-

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