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Date of Award

10-1990

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Supervisor

Brian John

Abstract

The informing and animating principle behind John Montague's critical, editorial, and creative agenda has been his unremitting search for "redeeming patterns of experience." As a Northern poet coming of age in Dublin at mid-century and bearing witness to both the Republic's far-reaching cultural revolution in the early 1960s and the reemergence of the Troubles in Ulster later that decade, Montague has sought to create for himself a fertile literary context where there had once been only acrimony and discontent, to redefine the traditions handed down to him and understand their relevance to the world at large, and to reintegrate and re-member the communities, both large and small, of which he is the self-appointed spokesman. In reassessing tradition and reformulating his context, Montague has also undertaken an ongoing revision and full-scale reordering of his body of work.

Early in his career, Montague participated in the cultural debates enforced by the tension between Joycean and Yeatsian imperatives. The rise of Liam Miller's Dolmen Press and the generation of poets it brought to attention (including Montague) acted as a mitigating and liberating force on the Irish literary scene, and helped to resolve this long-standing debate and bestride its intractable categorizations. Montague has come to fulfill his own belief: "A man's life-work can be seen as a pattern, with individual works existing not so much in themselves but as part of a total elaboration and investigation of themes .... " The multivalence of individual texts arising from their canonical reordering helps to illustrate and reinforce the creative tension between fixity and flux that informs and cements Montague's vision. The precarious atemporality of memory and the poet's mnemonic function is another aspect of this tension, yet it is also part of Montague's palliative and therapeutic art where the act of remembering, of confronting the past, history, or history's most immediate form--politics--works towards the remembering of communities as well as towards a healing of the wounds by which they have fallen into division or obscurity.

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