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A sustained movement: Philip Larkin's poetics of consensus

Weston, Daniel


Daniel Weston


Focusing upon Larkin's career as a whole, this article approaches the development of his poetry as a narrative in which to read the fluctuations in the configuration of culture and poetic discourse as it was moderated to interpret the evolution of post-war society. Whilst noting a continual debate between romanticism and pragmatism in Larkin's poetry, critical opinion has generally found the symbolist dimension of his poetics to be essentially at odds with the principles of the Movement, with which Larkin was associated in the early stages of his career. It is argued here, however, that Movement poetry was never simply or wholeheartedly empirical in its procedures, and that from the outset Larkin and his contemporaries were preoccupied with an apparent tension between empirical and symbolist modes of writing. Close readings of ‘Church Going', ‘The Whitsun Weddings', ‘An Arundel Tomb', and ‘Mr Bleaney' reveal a frequently repeated structure of balance to the poems that constitutes an essential characteristic of Larkin's response to the social and political issues with which his circle were engaging. In response to post-war circumstances, Movement poets instigated a poetics of consensus in which the chief aim was the achievement of equilibrium between potentially antagonistic components of society. It is in this context that the centrality of balance, and a consensual structuring of plural voicings, operates within Larkin's poetry. Finally, the modifications that occur in the poetics of his final collection, High Windows, are read as a cultural refraction of the increasing difficulty of sustaining balance with the shift to a post-consensus society.


Weston, D. (2010). A sustained movement: Philip Larkin's poetics of consensus. Textual Practice, 24(2), 313-330.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Apr 1, 2010
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Journal Textual Practice
Print ISSN 0950-236X
Electronic ISSN 1470-1308
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 24
Issue 2
Pages 313-330
Keywords Philip Larkin, The movement, Consensus, Poetics, Romanticism, Symbolism, Empiricism, Post-war society, REF 2014 submission**
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