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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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