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So late in time: David Jones’ Liturgical Geology in “Rite and Fore-Time”

30 September 2021

Catherine Enwright, Boston College

“Rite and Fore-Time”, the first section of David Jones’ long poem The Anathemata (1952), begins in the present tense. A priest, using the particular Latin formula of the Roman Catholic Mass of Jones’ day, is consecrating a host. Stripping away the specificities of rubric, the poem focuses on the strange action of the priest: ‘We already and first of all discern him making this thing other…’[1] He is engaged in consecration, the act of making a holy object, a thing set apart for God, anathema in its forgotten sense. Before the word only meant expulsion from a human community, anathema was also used to describe ‘a thing consecrated or devoted to divine use’.[2] The title’s reclamation of the word’s gentler meaning sets in motion Jones’ larger project: to consider the strange action of the Catholic priest as an event occurring at the end of a long history of man creating anathemata, things of no use except worship.

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David Jones: A Case Study in Modernist Belatedness

3rd July 2020

Ann Marie Jakubowski, Washington University in St. Louis

Reading David Jones within the context of this special issue’s focus on “belatedness” highlights the possibility that many of the thorniest elements of his poetic legacy are also the most compelling features of his work. Jones – a poet, painter, engraver, essayist, and World War I veteran – was much admired by his contemporaries, yet he has remained marginal in modernist studies until recently.[1] His literary reputation rests largely upon two book-length poems: In Parenthesis (1937) and The Anathemata (1952). The former recasts Jones’s memories of war but arrives nearly twenty years after the armistice; the latter dilates to encompass the history of Britain from its pre-Roman origins into modernity and is aptly described as a ‘glacial erratic in the landscape of modern poetry,’ in Paul Keegan’s memorable phrase.[2] I want to consider how this element of untimeliness is not incidental to Jones’s work but rather fundamental to it – that is, his belatedness is as much a defining element of his poetic imagination as it is the result of critical paradigms ill-suited to appreciating his work. Continue reading “David Jones: A Case Study in Modernist Belatedness”

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