The work of modernist poet Joseph Macleod (‘Adam Drinan’) (1903 – 1984)

Fountain, James R.T. (2010) The work of modernist poet Joseph Macleod (‘Adam Drinan’) (1903 – 1984). PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This PhD thesis focuses upon the work of the neglected modernist poet Joseph Macleod (1903-1984), exploring in particular the development of his poetic style from the impacted, allusive and opaque high modernist long poem The Ecliptic (1930), through to the five books of poetry written under the pseudonym ‘Adam Drinan’: The Cove (1940), The Men of the Rocks (1942), The Ghosts of the Strath (1943), Women of the Happy Island (1944) and Script From Norway (1953). In these poems, he developed a documentary style of verse containing a strong simplicity and a socialist focus upon locality. An Old Olive Tree (1971), his final poem sequence, is entirely autobiographical, containing poems which meditate upon the friendships and familial ties which moulded his identity, and the ageing process. The causes and the implications, artistic and political, of his transformation are related to the key environments and literary relationships of his life.

This exploration entails an investigation into his personal papers. The NLS archive is extensive, and in preparation for this work I undertook a first full listing of the contents of the previously uncatalogued materials. I am selective in my use of material from this vast primary resource, which contains over ten thousand items. I do, however, wish to give an indication of the literary correspondences this writer, theatre director, theatre historian and broadcaster maintained, in particular as a poet in contact with other significant poets and writers of his time.

Macleod’s writing style changed over time in response to various factors, including his recognition of the importance of addressing audience and readership, as much in his work as an actor and director of the Cambridge Festival Theatre (1928-35) and in his work for the BBC as a radio announcer during the World War II, as in his poetry and prose writings.

The thesis consists of six chapters, each dealing with an area of Macleod’s life and work, in chronological order. For the sake of clarity, Chapter One is an introduction giving biographical details and an overview of Macleod’s life and work, such as his early life at Rugby School, and his important and close friendship with the artist, critic and art theorist Adrian Stokes there. It also considers his time at Balliol College, Oxford, and his key friendship with Graham Greene, his time at the Cambridge Festival Theatre, and begins to examine his middle years announcing at the BBC. Chapter Two considers Macleod’s early poems and in The Rugbeian, the school’s literary journal, and his editorship with Stokes. It investigates his contributions of poems to The Oxford Outlook (edited, at the time, by Greene), as well as Oxford Poetry, 1924 and 1925. Chapter Three examines Beauty and the Beast (1927), Macleod’s book of literary observation, his first publication in book form, which appeared in the United States as well as in Britain. Chapter Four examines his major work, The Ecliptic, and his correspondence with Ezra Pound, and highlights Macleod’s views on both past and contemporary poetry. Chapter Five briefly considers his work at the Festival Theatre, as an actor, producer, director and writer, and the poetry he wrote and published for the Cambridge Festival (New Lease) Programme (1933-35) while he was editor. It also considers his interest in socialist politics. The main chapter focus is The Cove and The Men of the Rocks, the first two books published under the pseudonym ‘Adam Drinan’, considering the reasons for his adoption of a pseudonym.

Chapter Six looks at the final three Drinan books, The Ghosts of the Strath (1943), Women of the Happy Island (1944) and Script From Norway (1953), and the essays he wrote at this time for Scottish journals. It examines the influence of the BBC upon his writing during his mature period.

The Conclusion engages briefly with his last years in Italy and his final published collection, An Old Olive Tree (1971), and assesses the complete trajectory of his poetic journey.

Two Appendices are included, the first of which contains the poet’s key correspondence, and second gives brief details of Macleod’s works, along with the publishers and editors responsible for their production. Dates of publication, and significant responses both at the time and later are included, to clarify the as yet relatively thin critical context of his work after its original reception.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available.
Keywords: Joseph Macleod, Graham Greene, T. S. Eliot, modernism, modernist poetry, verse drama, Scottish poetry, Clearances, Hugh MacDiarmid, Compton Mackenzie.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Schmidt, Professor Michael
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Dr James R. T. Fountain
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-2346
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:54

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