Study of Hugh MacDiarmid’s In Memoriam James Joyce
Benstead, James Kemp
This thesis is a study of the ways in which Hugh MacDiarmid’s long poem In Memoriam James Joyce incorporates material from various source texts. It argues that In Memoriam’s use of citation is a response to the changing status of English as a global language in the first half of the twentieth century, and that understanding the text in this way facilitates new, holistic understandings of MacDiarmid’s poetic career. Critics have largely focused on MacDiarmid’s earlier work, such as the Scots lyrics and A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, at the expense of engaging with later work such as In Memoriam. This approach has meant, moreover, that critics have struggled to develop a coherent understanding of MacDiarmid’s overall poetic output. The critical framework developed in this thesis understands In Memoriam to be a development of — rather than a divergence from —MacDiarmid’s earlier work. Through a close reading of In Memoriam that is enabled by a new knowledge of its source materials, this framework demonstrates how the text first foregrounds its own use of citation and then goes on to use citation to develop a series of ideas related to media culture, linguistic history, and its perception of cultural hegemony. Through its analysis of In Memoriam, this thesis contends that throughout his career MacDiarmid should be thought of primarily as a poet who made use of citation in order to expose and challenge the power relations that are implicit in the various linguistic hierarchies that he interrogated.