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Geoffrey Hill and his Contexts


Edited By Piers Pennington and Matthew Sperling

Geoffrey Hill is one of the most significant poets currently at work in the English language. The essays gathered in this book present a number of new contexts in which to explore a wide range of his writings, from the poems he wrote as an undergraduate to the recent volumes A Treatise of Civil Power (2007) and Collected Critical Writings (2008). Connections are made between the early and the later poetry, and between the poetry and the criticism, and archival materials are considered along with the published texts. The essays also make comparisons across disciplines, discussing Hill’s work in relation to theology, philosophy and intellectual history, to literature from other languages, and to the other arts. In doing so, they cast fresh light upon Hill’s dense, original and sometimes challenging writings, opening them up in new ways for all readers of his work.


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Kenneth Haynes - ‘Perplexed Persistence’: The Criticism of Geoffrey Hill 213


Kenneth Haynes ‘Perplexed Persistence’: The Criticism of Geof frey Hill In his Collected Critical Writings (2008), Geof frey Hill often praises writers for the resistance they of fer through their words. The praise has committed him to exploring related questions: what is it that should be resisted, where and how does resistance take place, and why is it praiseworthy? He is alert to the possibility that an Irish bull lurks within the admonition to resist (‘Resist authority’ – ‘who says?’); sometimes it is the impulse to resist that should be resisted. Because Hill is aware of many kinds of resistance, his critical analyses are diverse. For example, on some occasions he is hostile to clichés and celebrates shocks of recognition as a means to resist their inertia; on others, cliché or commonplace is to be restored and renewed rather than dislocated or shocked. Dif ferent instances of resistance lead Hill to theorise about it in dif ferent ways, but his concern with the phe- nomenon is constant throughout the criticism. In the Collected Critical Writings the word ‘resist’ and its cognates appear almost five dozen times. Its first appearance, on the first page of the book, is already dense with suggestion and implication. Hill refers to ‘the real challenge’ that lies behind ‘the façade of challenge’: the real challenge is ‘that of resisting the attraction of terminology itself, a power at once supportive and coercive’ (CCW, p. 3). Three things should be noted. First, resistance is a response...

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