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Epistolary Larkin : life, letters and the literary biography

Devine, Rebecca


Rebecca Devine


Stewart James Mottram


‘Epistolary Larkin’ is the first comprehensive study to focus primarily on Philip Larkin’s letters as literary constructs. The publication of Anthony Thwaite’s Philip Larkin: Selected Letters 1940-1985 (1992) caused widespread division across the critical landscape of Larkin studies. On one side, the letters are the key to reveal attitudes and motivations from Larkin’s life and unlock the literary texts. On the other are critics who draw on contradictions in Larkin’s letters to reveal their unreliability for approaching the work. Recently, critics have attempted to find a middle ground between reading the letters as biographical lens, or an unreliable witness to the life. However, within these studies there is still an attempt to disentangle the ‘real’ Larkin from the literary constructs. The originality of this thesis is that it does not search for the ‘real’ Larkin in the letters but instead presents the letters as constructions of Larkin’s epistolary worlds. For Larkin, the letter allowed him to step out of his reality and enter an imaginative world with his reader.
This thesis is the first study to bring the three editions of Larkin’s letters – Selected Letters (1992), Letters to Monica (2010), Letters Home (2018) – to centre stage of Larkin scholarship. Conventionally, Larkin’s letters have always maintained a secondary position to the poetry, prose and short stories. However, here the letters take precedence. Through detailed examination of these editions and unpublished letters, this thesis offers fresh perspectives on Larkin’s epistolary worlds, which are no longer presented as windows onto the life but as literary texts themselves. In doing so, ‘Epistolary Larkin’ not only makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Larkin as a writer but also intervenes in recent debates about the more unpalatable views – on racism, women, and children – that successive editions of Larkin’s letters have been shown to reveal.


Devine, R. (2022). Epistolary Larkin : life, letters and the literary biography. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jul 29, 2022
Publicly Available Date Feb 24, 2023
Keywords English
Public URL
Additional Information Department of English, The University of Hull
Award Date Jan 1, 2022


Thesis (1.7 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2022 Devine, Rebecca. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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