More than glass: Louis MacNeice's Poetics of Expansion
The Northern Irish poet and dramatist Louis MacNeice, typically regarded as a minor modernist following in the footsteps of Yeats and Eliot or living in the shadow of Auden, is different from his most important predecessors and contemporaries in the way he attempts to explode conventional ideas of place, presenting human subjects in transit and shifting, melting landscapes, rooms and buildings that tend to blend in with their surroundings. While Yeats, Eliot and Auden evince a siege mentality that leads them to build religious or political Utopias easily separable from the chaos of the contemporary world, MacNeice denies the validity of any such imaginary constructs, instead taking apart the boundaries of imaginary private worlds, from rooms to islands to pastoral landscapes. MacNeice's representations of space favor what Fredric Jameson terms `postmodern space': his poems and radio plays operate outside of ideas of `home,' `church,' or `nation,' opposing the rigidity of such places to the fluidity of travel. MacNeice has been much misunderstood and underestimated, and a reappraisal of his career is due, particularly given the amount of material that has been published or reissued since his centenary in 2007. His revolutionary approach to space and his hostility to most forms of essentialism show that he is important not just as an influence on contemporary Irish and English poets, but that he was in the vanguard of postmodernism's assault on the grand narratives of the modern nation-state.
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