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Reading Dylan Thomas$
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Edward Allen

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474411554

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474411554.001.0001

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‘The verticals of Adam’: Dylan Thomas and Apocalyptic Modernism

‘The verticals of Adam’: Dylan Thomas and Apocalyptic Modernism

(p.179) Chapter 9 ‘The verticals of Adam’: Dylan Thomas and Apocalyptic Modernism
Reading Dylan Thomas

James Keery

Edinburgh University Press

The argument of this chapter concerns Thomas’s place within the modernist tradition, and in the strand of Apocalyptic poetics in particular. To review Thomas’s place as such entails a reconsideration of the tradition itself. Having provided a history of the term ‘Apocalyptic’, the chapter turns to Thomas’s particular and formative purchase on Apocalyptic thinking, principally by focussing on his response to two poets who saw the modernist apocalypse coming: Wilfred Owen and D. H. Lawrence. To settle on these poets is to clarify a strand of Apocalyptic prophecy from Shakespeare to Shelley, which reached a peak much later in the aesthetic elaborations of the First World War. The approach, here, to triangulating these influences has to do with settling on Thomas’s first two collections, 18 Poems and Twenty-Five Poems, which bear the most palpable – and hitherto unnoticed – traces of Owen and Lawrence. In offering an insight into Thomas’s place among these budding Apocalyptics, the chapter attends to a number of the lyrics that made Thomas’s name, including ‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower’ and ‘Altarwise by owl-light’.

Keywords:   Apocalyptics, Modernism, D. H. Lawrence, Wilfred Owen, 18 Poems

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