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  • 1. Ted Hughes
    1930-1998
  • 2. Biography
    Born August 17th, 1930 in Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire,
    Spent first 6 years of life living among the farms
    his family moved to Mexborough, south Yorkshire when his father was to run a newspaper and tobacco shop.
    He attended Mexborough grammar school, wrote his first poems from the age of fifteen
    Before beginning English studies at Cambridge University he spent much of his National service time (as a radio repairman at an airfield) reading and rereading all of Shakespeare.
    According to report, he could recite it all by heart.
    At Cambridge, he he 'spent most..time reading folklore and Yeat's poems,' and switched from English to Archaeology and Anthropology in his third year.
    His first published poem appeared in 1954, the year he graduated from Cambridge.
    From 1955 to 1956, he worked as a rose gardener, night-watchman, zoo attendant, schoolteacher,planned to teach in Spain then emigrate to Australia.
  • 3. Biography
    February 26 saw the launch of the literary magazine, the St Botolph's Review, for which Hughes was one of six co-producers.
    It was also the day he met Sylvia Plath; they were married in four months.
    Hughes's first book of poems, Hawk in the Rain, was published in 1957 to immediate acclaim:
    won the Harper publication contest.
    Over the next 41 years, he would write upwards of 90 books, and win numerous prizes and fellowships
    In 1984, he was appointed England’s poet laureate.
  • 4. Hughes and Plath
    A strong indirect source of interest in Hughes (aside from his poetry) is his seven-year marriage to the well-known American Poet, Sylvia Plath.
    Birthday Letters is a sequence of lyrics written by Hughes in the first year of their marriage, cast as a continued conversation with Plath.
  • 5. Hughes and Plath
    Plath committed suicide in 1963
    they had separated in 1962
    many held Hughes responsible for her death
    adulterous relationship with AssiaWevill;
    Though deeply marked by the loss, Hughes was publicly silent on the subject for more than 30 years.
    sense of responsibility to protect the couple's two young children
    perceptions of their mother would have marred by external interference.
    Hughes became the executor of Plath’s personal and literary estates.
    oversaw the publication of her manuscripts, including Ariel (1966).
    also claimed to have destroyed the final volume of Plath’s journal, detailing their last few months together.
  • 6. Hughes and Plath
    Some recent biographies such as have attempted to ‘set the record straight and clear the air of rancor and recrimination’
    The publication of Birthday Letters has been seen as a 'retaking' of the histories that had been stolen from the family through the cracks in the armour.
  • 7. Epilogue
    March 23, 1969: AssiaWevill, killed herself in a similar manner to Sylvia’s:
    turned on the gas in the oven without lighting it
    dissolved some sleeping pills for herself in a glass of whiskey
    murdered their 4 year-old daughter in the process.
    1970 Hughes marries Carol Orchard
    A nurse
    20 years younger
    Ted Hughes dies 28 October 1998 in Devon, England
    March 2009: Nicholas Hughes The son of writers Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes committed suicide at age 47:
    hanged himself at his home in Fairbanks, Alaska, following a battle with depression
    was a professor of fisheries and ocean sciences
    but had recently left his position “to take up pottery”.
  • 8. “No death outside my immediate family has left me feeling more bereft. No death in my lifetime has hurt poets more. He was a tower of tenderness and strength, a great arch under which the least of poetry's children could enter and feel secure. His creative powers were, as Shakespeare said, still crescent. By his death, the veil of poetry is rent and the walls of learning broken.” - Seamus Heaney speaking at Hughes’ funeral
  • 9. Quotations:
    “You write interestingly only about the things that genuinely interest you. This is an infallible rule.. in writing, you have to be able to distinguish between those things about which you are merely curious –things you heard about last week or read about yesterday- and things which are a deep part of your life… So you say, ‘What part of my life would I die to be separated from?’ “–Ted Hughes, Poetry in the Making
    ‘Imagine what you are writing about. See it and live it.’ –Ted Hughes, Poetry in the Making
  • 10. Overarching themes:
    some have called Hughes a “nature poet”.
    A keen countryman and hunter from a young age,
    viewed writing poems as a continuation of his earlier passion.
    ‘This is hunting and the poem is a new species of creature, a new specimen of the life outside your own.’
    poetic technique of animal symbolism
    deeply involved in the observation of the world of creatures
    He was concerned with strong and sometimes violent forces of nature
    wrote with great powers of imagination as if from inside the birds and animals
    strong feelings and urgent ,brilliant images
    His studies of nature and anthropology:
    A view of man as being both opposed by the primitive forces of nature
    also as containing those same forces within himself.
  • 11. Themes
    unsentimental, written in rough, harsh, sometimes disjointed lines, emphasizing the cunning and savagery of animal life.
    Also applied to people:
    stressed the instinctive, animal side of human nature rather than the intellectual
  • 12. Themes
    Rejects cool rationality, objectivity and detachment :
    objectivity will not get us to the essence of things
    Only through the recreation of subjective emotions can the poet hope to reveal the spirit or root of an experience or object.
    The Western world: becoming ever more scientific in its approach to life:
    the result:
    a sense of disconnectedness among people
    an increasing tendency toward aggression.
  • 13. Themes
    Hughes’s poetry exposes this violence and uses it as a means of expression.
    In “Out,” the trauma of the soldier “blasted to bits” in World War I is equated with a birth into a culture that clings tenaciously to memories of a devastating conflict.
    “And it’s just another baby. . . . / The reassembled infantryman / Tentatively totters out, gazing around with the eyes / Of an exhausted clerk” (lines 32–36).
    Echoing Yeats’s “rough beast . . . [who] / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born,”
    Hughes’s soldier signals the decline of a civilization into brutalityand stagnation (“Second Coming,” lines 21–22).
  • 14. “Out” - Themes
    The psychological inheritance of war:
    the stifling effect of the war
    both cultural and personal
    the need to put war’s memories and the dead to rest
    the son inherits the father’s legacy
    in a society that cannot let go of the violent past, every birth is a death
    each new child dies into English culture.
  • 15. “Out” - Summary
    describes Hughes’s relationship with his father,
    one of the few survivors of the Gallipoli disaster in World War I,
    a victim of shell shock.
    Hughes’s attempt to try to rid himself of the psychological burden of the war.
    The war—and its remembrance—became part of what defined England and Englishness.
    Not only was Hughes’s family greatly affected, but many of Yorkshire’s inhabitants were touched by the war in some way.
    Massive numbers of soldiers died or came home physically or psychologically wounded.
    “Out” tries to exorcise the demons Hughes lived with and rejects the war as a defining cultural experience.
  • 16. “Out” - Structure
    Each of its three sections accesses the trauma of the war in a different manner:
    either as a memory, metaphor, or direct effect.
    The first part:
    describes the depleted emotional state of Hughes’s father when he returned from the war and its effect on Hughes as a child
    the second part:
    imagines Hughes (and perhaps, by extension, all children of war veterans or all children of England) being born or reborn into a predetermined cultural malaise
    the third part:
    focuses on Remembrance Day,
    commemorates the soldiers who died in battle.
    Hughes is not describing events or images in a detached, intellectual manner:
    Instead, through violent imagery and jarring language
    Hughes attempts to pull the reader directly into the feeling he is talking about.
  • 17. “Out” – Close Reading
    Hughes imagines himself as a child of four:
    his father’s “luckless double, / His memory’s buried, immovable anchor, / Among jawbones and blown-off boots, tree-stumps, shell-cases and craters” (lines 14–16).
    The hyphenated phrases, repetition of harsh consonants (jawbones/blown/ boots; cases/craters), and images of devastation convey a sense of the war’s brutality,
    “His memory’s buried, immovable anchor” creates the feeling of being pinioned by the oppressive weight of war’s memory.
  • 18. “Out” – Close Reading
    The second section melds the concept of birth with war:
    the baby born into the violence of war is caught up in its destructive cycle.
    On the one hand, the baby could be Hughes himself, born into his father’s legacy,
    yet on the other hand, the baby might be all English children born into the self-determining culture of war’s memory.
  • 19. “Out” – Close Reading
    Focus on the associations and intersections of words such as “sweat,” “melting . . . flesh,” “baby-furnace,” and “blood,”
    many of which could refer equally to war or (a very grisly view of ) childbirth (lines 20, 21, 23, 26).
    the topic of birth in this section extends the idea of the son’s inheritance from the father, described in the first section.
    final section: the significance of the poppy,
    both in reference to John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields”
    and to its use as a decorative emblem to be purchased andworn on Remembrance Day.
    The poppy is made out of fabric (“canvas” here [line 39]) and attached to a wire (“puppet on a wire” [39]).
    Hughes loathes the practice of keeping the war’s memory alive with this emblem:
    “A canvas-beauty puppet on a wire / Today whoring everywhere. It is yearssince I wore one” (lines 39–40).
  • 20. “Out” – Close Reading
    Cenotaphs: false tombs
    erected as World War I monuments and are specifically associated with that war;
    almost every sizable English town has a cenotaph honoring World War I soldiers.
    “So goodbye to that bloody-minded flower,” Hughes writes; “You dead bury your dead. / Goodbye to the cenotaphs on my mother’s breasts” (lines 51–52),
    rejecting not just the war but the clinging to the memory of that war.
    It is possible to see in these lines and in the closing line—
    “Let England close. Let the green sea-anemone close” (line 54)
    a repudiation of both the father’s legacy of war memories to the son and of England’s saturation in the memory of that war.
    The mother here may be all mothers who lost their sons to the war,
    a symbolic mother of England
    Hughes’s own mother
    or all three.
    What role does the mother play in this poem?
  • 21. “Out” – Close Reading
    Section 3 begins with the declaration:
    “The poppy is a wound, the poppy is the mouth / Of the grave, maybe of the womb searching” (lines 37–38).
    Both the grave and womb are connected here, as they are in the second section (“The dead man in his cave beginning to sweat; . . . / the mother in the baby-furnace” [line 20]).
    a grim view of birth into a culture that cannot let go of its memories of devastation:
    doomed to produce children oppressed by war’s psychological legacies.