Date of Award

1999

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Robyn McCarron

Abstract

Les Murray's vivid and evocative poetry has made him a major Australian literary figure. Critics routinely note the sophisticated, often highly wrought nature of Murray's poetic language and acclaim his technical virtuosity, including gifts for pun, paradox, aphorism, idiom and metaphor. The themes of both Murray's poetry and his non-fiction prose often revolve around the divisions he sees in Australia between cultures, between society and people, and within individuals themselves. Despite his efforts to bring healing to these schisms, however, the poet is criticised for his frequent dogmatism and didacticism, which mark his work as divisive. Although Murray professes to detest Enlightenment thinking and its effects in present-day modernity, this thesis seeks to show that his dogmatism is embedded in Enlightenment thought through a conceptual reliance on singularity and scarcity, or the transcendental signified. The poet's investment in a Romantic stance, in the patriarchy and in Christianity demonstrates a limitation on his conception of "being" which in turn limits the possibility of an expansion towards his desired convergence of cultures, or wholeness of being. The use of postmodernism's concepts of pluralism and multiplicity tend to loosen the Enlightenment's grip on definitions of "being" to consider new ways of wholeness through relationship. Murray's resistance to the concepts of postmodernism is seen as the source of his sacrifice, the sacrifice of himself in a poetry whose linguistic complexity exceeds its conceptual complexity.

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