TITLE: Ted Hughes: A Collection of Critical Essays by Contemporary Scholars
EDITOR: Terry Gifford
PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan ( January 2015)
ISBN: 978 1 137 30111 6
PRICE: £16.99 (paperback) 204pages.
The intention of this book is to introduce readers to twelve different critical approaches to the work of Ted Hughes. Hughes himself, as Terry Gifford makes clear in his Introduction, disliked literary criticism “yet gave his endorsement to its most vital and important function – the making of a multiplicity of meanings in the reading of the text by a multiplicity of individual readers”.
Gifford quotes Hughes own view, as expressed in a letter to Keith Sagar: “Finally, poems belong to the readers – just as houses belong to those who live in them & not to the builders”. This, says Gifford, “is in tune with one of the foundation texts of literary theory, Aristotle’s Poetics”, in which the essence of Aristotle’s argument is that literature is “audience–centred in its power to move and make its deepest effects”. The contributors to this book of new critical essays on Hughes’ work, he suggests, “are trying to convey their own deepening and delightful experience as readers in the hope that this will offer a parallel, but different, experience for other readers of Hughes’ work”.
Certainly there are many contributors whose love of Hughes’ work is readily apparent in their essays, but there is also another purpose to this book. That is to present, briefly, twelve different critical approaches, representing a variety of academic ways of approaching a text, and to do so in a way which can “open some doors to the rooms in the house of Hughes’ work”. To quote Gifford again: “the ensuing discussion about what the texts say to readers leads to consideration of some of the most important issues of the twenty–first century”, and he notes social, cultural, philosophical and ecological questions which are raised by Hughes’ poetry.
Part I of the book “takes terms that are commonly used within [academic] cultural studies and reads Hughes’ work in the context of debates within the wider culture”. Part II “reads the work through six well–known current theoretical perspectives”. The scholars who contribute to this book come from a wide range of countries and cultures, and their knowledge and understanding of Hughes’ work is clear in their essays. The list of contents below suggests the range and diversity of the contributions. Scholars of Hughes’ work will find this book an excellent overview of current critical theory and analysis. Other readers should not be put off by the academic titles, which mask some very approachable and interesting writing:
Hughes and Myth, by Laurence Coupe
Hughes and Post-modernism by Alex Davis
Hughes and Intertextuality by David Troupes
Hughes and the Absurd by Keith Sagar
Hughes and the Carnivalesque by Neil Roberts
Hughes and Gender by Janne Stigen Drangsholt
Structuralist and Poststructuralist Readings by Gillian Groszewski
Psychoanalytical Readings by Joanny Moulin
Trauma Theory Readings by Daniel O’Connor
Postcolonial Indian Readings by Usha VT and Murali Sivaramakrishnan
Posthumanist Readings by Iris Ralph
Ecocritical Readings by Richard Kerridge