On the Poetry of Richard Aldington
Patrick J. M. Quinn, PhD
Dean, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences,
Professor of English Language and Literature
School of Liberal Arts and Science
When: Monday, November 30, 15:00 – 15:50
Where: DEREE Faculty Lounge
Organized by: Faculty Research Seminars 2015-16 Series
The name Richard Aldington hardly stirs a shade of interest in most contemporary British literary critics today. In most discussions of British Modernism or the poignant War novels concerning the Great War, he is passed over with a mere mention, if that. The reason for this omission has little to do with his talent or literary trends: the dishonor of Richard Aldington is that he dared to rock the firm foundation of the British Literary establishment by writing two very controversial biographies. In the first (DH Lawrence, A Portrait of a Genius, But (1950) he stoutly defended the paradoxical nature of Lawrence and supported his rather liberal celebration of phallic consciousness. Then, when he wrote his Lawrence of Arabia (1955) and exposed the British national hero as both an illegitimate child and homosexual, his books were quickly taken from the shelves and he could not find a publisher in the UK. As a result, his poetry and Great War novel Death of a Hero (1929) went out of print. It is perhaps indicative that a week before he died, he was honoured and feted in Moscow on the occasion of his seventieth birthday, and many of his novels appeared in Russian translation. Aldington no doubt appreciated the irony.
My talk is in part to bring this writer back into public view by discussing and reading a few of his early “Greek” poems and then look at his response to being an enlisted man in the trenches during some of the most gruesome battles ever fought. As a result of this experience, Aldington, an Imagist poet, writes a series of poems which will be collected and entitled Images of War (1919) which captured the horrors of the battlefield. But here is the uniqueness—at the same time he was writing some of the most beautiful love lyrics (admittedly not only to his wife Hilda Doolittle) in the English language eventually collected as Images of Desire (1919) He is a lyric poet who pleads for beautiful thoughts against overwhelmingly ugly facts.
Patrick Quinn is currently the Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of English at the American College of Greece in Athens. He holds a PhD from the University of Warwick and his academic teaching career has taken him to universities in Canada, Iraq, Germany, the United States, Turkey, Azerbaijan and the United Kingdom. Quinn has written or edited thirteen books over his career on the literature of the Great War, especially Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon, the Nineteen Thirties, Postcolonial literature, American studies, and he was the general editor of the 24 volume Robert Graves Programme under the auspices of Carcanet Press. in the United Kingdom. His recent book. Patriarchy in Eclipse: The Femme Fatale and the New Woman in American Literature and Culture 1870-1920 was published in July of this year.