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Sir Jonathan Bate is Provost of Worcester College and Professor of English Literature at Oxford University. He is Vice-President of the British Academy, a Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Honorary Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and was a 2014 judge for the Man Booker Prize. His biography of John Clare (a poet who was a key influence on Ted Hughes) was short-listed for seven literary prizes and won three of them, including Britain's two oldest literary awards, the James Tait Black Prize for Biography and the Hawthornden Prize (which Hughes won for Lupercal). Soul of the Age, his intellectual biography of Shakespeare, was runner up for the Biography Prize of American PEN. He has also published on the influence of the classics ('Shakespeare and Ovid'), on Wordsworth ('Romantic Ecology') and the poetry of nature ('The Song of the Earth'), and has worked in the theatre ('Being Shakespeare: A One-Man Play' for Simon Callow), all of which were Hughesian obsessions.
A magisterial life of Ted Hughes - identified recently as the only English poet since the First World War with a claim to true greatness and one of Britain's most important writers - to be published on National Poetry Day by prize-winning biographer Jonathan Bate. Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate, was one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. He is one of Britain's most important poets, a poet of claws and cages: Jaguar, Hawk and Crow. Event and animal are turned to myth in his work. Yet he is also a poet of deep tenderness, of restorative memory steeped in the English literary tradition. A poet of motion and force, of rivers, light and redemption, of beasts in brooding landscapes. With an equal gift for poetry and prose, and with a soul as capacious as any poet who has lived, he was also a prolific children's writer and has been hailed as the greatest English letter-writer since John Keats. With his magnetic personality and an insatiable appetite for friendship, for love and for life, he also attracted more scandal than any poet since Lord Byron. At the centre of this book is Hughes's lifelong quest to come to terms with the suicide of his first wife, Sylvia Plath, the saddest and most infamous moment in the public history of modern poetry. Ted Hughes left behind him a more complete archive of notes and journals than any other major poet, including thousands of pages of drafts, unpublished poems and memorandum books that make up an almost complete record of Hughes's inner life, preserved by him for posterity.
`What distinguished Clare is an unspectacular joy and a love for the inexorable one-thing-after-anotherness of the world' Seamus Heaney John Clare (1793-1864) was a great Romantic poet, with a name to rival that of Blake, Byron, Wordsworth or Shelley - and a life to match. The `poet's poet', he has a place in the national pantheon and, more tangibly, a plaque in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner, unveiled in 1989. Here at last is Clare's full story, from his birth in poverty and employment as an agricultural labourer, via his burgeoning promise as a writer - cultivated under the gaze of rival patrons - and moment of fame, in the company of John Keats, as the toast of literary London, to his final decline into mental illness and the last years of his life, confined in asylums. Clare's ringing voice - quick-witted, passionate, vulnerable, courageous - emerges through extracts from his letters, journals, autobiographical writings and poems, as Jonathan Bate brings this complex man, his revered work and his ribald world, vividly to life.
As we enter a new millennium ruled by technology, will poetry still matter? The Song of the Earth answers eloquently in the affirmative. A book about our growing alienation from nature, it is also a brilliant meditation on the capacity of the writer to bring us back to earth, our home. In the first ecological reading of English literature, Jonathan Bate traces the distinctions among nature, culture, and environment and shows how their meanings have changed since their appearance in the literature of the eighteenth century. An intricate interweaving of climatic, topographical, and political elements poetically deployed, his book ranges from greenhouses in Jane Austen's novels to fruit bats in the poetry of Les Murray, by way of Thomas Hardy's woodlands, Dr. Frankenstein's Creature, John Clare's birds' nests, Wordsworth's rivers, Byron's bear, and an early nineteenth-century novel about an orangutan who stands for Parliament. Though grounded in the English Romantic tradition, the book also explores American, Central European, and Caribbean poets and engages theoretically with Rousseau, Adorno, Bachelard, and especially Heidegger. The model for an innovative and sophisticated new ecopoetics, The Song of the Earth is at once an essential history of environmental consciousness and an impassioned argument for the necessity of literature in a time of ecological crisis.
'The most important critical work for decades' Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times In the brilliantly engaging style that characterised The Genius of Shakespeare, Jonathan Bate has written a series of compelling pieces on the link between literature and the environment and why poetry matters in the new millennium. In fascinating detail, Bate explains how words like 'culture' and 'environment' have evolved since the writing of Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and the Romantics to the present day. 'Bate presents his case with an emotional conviction which is almost impossible to resist' The Times 'Anyone familiar with Bate's The Genius of Shakespeare will know how winningly he marries erudition to liveliness' John Coldstream, Daily Telegraph 'I came away from the book deeply grateful for its impassioned song' Adam Thorpe, Sunday Telegraph
This volume assembles a selection from the many papers delivered at the Sixth World Shakespeare Congress. Four plenary lectures are printed, including that of Jane Smiley on the creation of A Thousand Acres, her award-winning novel derived with King Lear. Twenty-two papers by well-known scholars also offer a wide range of responses to Shakespeare's art and international assessment of his presence in the world at the end of the twentieth century.