Alienation in the work of Tom Leonard

Muñoz, Theresa (2015) Alienation in the work of Tom Leonard. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis is a chronological study of Tom Leonard's body of work from the years 1965-2009. In a span of forty-four years, Leonard produced three full poetry collections, a book of essays, an anthology of Renfrewshire writers and a biography of poet James Thomson. Though Leonard's work contains a range of narrative styles and genres, notably his pioneering work in urban phonetic dialect in the 1960s, a singular objective binds his varied oeuvre: the exploration of a fictive alienated persona. Through applying definitions of alienation from a sociological and existential perspective, this thesis provides an aesthetic framework for reading Leonard's work holistically. It charts the various methods by which Leonard’s poems and prose create a marginalised identity; initially in the areas of religion, class and language and later in the presentation of individuals who suffer from self-alienation (a fragmented sense of self ) and who express the desire to feel at peace or 'free' in their daily lives within in an existential context. Leonard articulates, but does not resolve, the emotional state of individuals who feel alienated from society or within their own minds and bodies. This thesis recognises that alienation does not apply to Leonard within the context of race or gender due to his position as a white, male writer who has been recognised for his work. However, Leonard's poems in urban phonetic dialect which explore language prejudice, his presentation of neglected writers in Radical Renfrew, his exploration of mental illness in nora's place and in Places of the Mind: The Life and Work of James Thomson (B.V.) illustrate an interest in, and empathy for, those who feel alienated from society, or to borrow his own words, those who exist ‘outside the narrative’. Hence, the wider theme of alienation can be seen as the philosophical arc shaping his body of work. As this is the first holistic analysis of Leonard's work, this thesis also aims to provide contextual analysis of Leonard's influential role in the flourishing use of urban phonetic dialect in Scottish literature, and also aims to address gaps in previous critical analyses of Leonard’s work. The thesis identifies critical gaps in discussion of Leonard's work which include an absence of holistic criticism; a general failure to identify Leonard’s use of contemporary poetics; a failure to recognize his application of philosophical concepts such as existentialism and humanism to his work, and significantly, the missed opportunity to identify a consistent theme in his work. The five chapters of the thesis correspond to each of Leonard's main books, Intimate Voices, Radical Renfrew, Reports From the Present, access to the silence and outside the narrative. Each chapter builds on the premise that Leonard's poetry, prose and biography develops, responds to, and presents an alienated voice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
Funder's Name: UNSPECIFIED
Supervisor's Name: Riach, Prof Alan and Borthwick, Dr David
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Dr Theresa Muñoz
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-7028
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2016 12:59
Last Modified: 28 Apr 2016 08:12
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/7028

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