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"So unreal": The unhomely moment in the poetry of Philip Larkin

Perry, S. J.

Authors

Abstract

Philip Larkin has often been perceived as a poet of the everyday, his work projecting a stable and easily identifiable version of reality. However, while there can be little doubt that Larkin's ability to evoke the sights and sounds of the “weekday world” is an essential part of his enduring appeal, such readings have tended to obscure the fact that, for this writer in particular, the boundary between what is real and “unreal” is hardly ever clear cut. Larkin's preoccupation with the question of whether “things are really what they seem” is evident from the earliest stages of his writing and the primary purpose of this article is to show how this insecurity of perception can be thought of in terms of what Freud, in his essay “The Uncanny”, calls “das unheimlich”; the unhomely, a term Freud uses to describe experiences which involve a profound sense of unease in one's world and one's identity. Larkin's susceptibility to such feelings is considered in the light of his admiration for the poetry of Edward Thomas, someone whose relation to the world was as strange and nebulous as his own, and who provided Larkin with an instructive example of how he might explore such peculiar states of consciousness, of unfamiliarity and unhomedness, in verse.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jun 1, 2011
Journal English Studies
Print ISSN 0013-838X
Electronic ISSN 1744-4217
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 92
Issue 4
Article Number PII 938787592
Pages 432-448
DOI https://doi.org/10.1080/0013838X.2011.574030
Keywords Linguistics and Language; Literature and Literary Theory
Publisher URL https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0013838X.2011.574030