The final anomaly : configurations of the human subject in the poetry of Louis MacNeice
Stothers, Jesse Denoon
This thesis examines the various modes and configurations of subjectivity to be found in the poetry of Louis MacNeice, analyzing the shifts in voice and perspective that constitute the primary focus of inquiry in his work. Since one of MacNeice's most important contributions to twentieth-century poetry in English involves a rigorous quest to examine the nature of subjectivity in its cultural and philosophical contexts, the thesis is ordered by seven distinct yet related keywords or themes through which subjective configurations obtain individual and social meaning: memory, history, politics, place, desire, alienation, and anomaly. This thesis investigates the strategies whereby MacNeice seeks to obviate the ideological interpellations of socio-historical forces and the individual's psychology, contesting them with notions of flux and a divided subjectivity. The methodology employed combines close analysis of specific poems with the examination of broad theoretical perspectives such as psychoanalysis, Marxism, post-structuralism, and existentialism. The emphasis on multiple theoretical points of view provides a number of different avenues into MacNeice's poetry intended to open up the corpus of his work to competing visions of the formation and categorization of subjectivity, as well as to incorporate some of the major philosophical traditions of the twentieth-century within which both MacNeice and his critics operate. The central thrust of the thesis locates MacNeice's perception of configurations of the human subject in the tension between the fixity of socially and psychologically determined positions and the belief that subjectivity is defined by fragmentation and isolation, culminating in the positioning of MacNeice as an existentialist writer.