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This review is taken from PN Review 37, Volume 10 Number 5, March - April 1984.

SHIFTING SETS AND LASTING IMAGES Neil Corcoran, The Song of Deeds: a study of 'The Anathemata' of David Jones (University of Wales Press) £9.95.

'The ground is generously cleared for interpretative and evaluative criticism to do its own, rather different job', Neil Corcoran wrote in his review of René Hague's Commentary. Four years later, here is the promised evaluation of David Jones's second long poem, and his assessment is of such thoroughness and scope that it amounts to a fully substantiated scholarly recognition. This is in fact the first extensive critical study of The Anathemata which combines an elegant synthetic approach, passages of delicate textual analysis (particularly in the fifth chapter, when Corcoran examines the poet's use of language), and an informed gauging of the work's importance in post-war English poetry.

The first two chapters are devoted respectively to David Jones's intellectual tenets and to the way the poem became what it is. They do not offer anything really new to those familiar with 'Jonesian' literature, but they are neat and balanced in their presentation and the second chapter develops interesting insights into the influence of the Second World War on the latent anguish that pervades the poem, for all its sprightliness and quibbling asides. It is indeed a direct consequence of the sense of cultural disintegration particularly acute at the time that the poem should consist of juxtaposed fragments, and be in this similar to Pound's Cantos. But perhaps Corcoran stresses the fragmentary aspect too much at this stage, for, like 'The Sleeping Lord', The Anathemata is not only a 'coat of many colours' but a coat 'contrived without visible ...


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