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    Visionary Philology: Geoffrey Hill and the Study of Words

    By: Matthew Sperling

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    Interviewed in 1966, Geoffrey Hill said, Language contains everything you want - history, sociology, economics: it is a kind of drama of human destiny. This book shows how the work of one of the major post-war writers in English has been charged by a mythological sense of languages historical drama, by reading the whole body of Hills poetry from sixty years against a tradition of visionary poet-philologists that he himself has delineated. That line runs from thepresent-day editors of the Oxford English Dictionary, through Gerard Manley Hopkins and Richard Chenevix Trench in the Victorian era, to Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the early nineteenth century, and ultimately back to Saint Augustines theory of language. Through detailed close readings of Hills workand its scholarly inspirations, and extensive fresh archival research, new light is shed upon poetrys relation to lexicography, etymology, and theological understandings of language. Key themes include languages fallenness from prelapsarian origins, its infection and enrichment by original sin and error, the possible recovery of its pristine origins through surrogates such as music, Hebrew, or the language of angels, and its status as an arena of political and historical contestation. Thebook considers a wider range of Hills writings, in greater detail, than criticism of his work has so far done, and it is the first to make substantial use of recently available archive materials. It thereby presents one of the fullest and most authoritative accounts of the work of a living writer inrecent years.

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