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This article is taken from PN Review 1, Volume 4 Number 1, October - December 1977.

The Movement: A Re-Assessment Blake Morrison

'WHAT MOVEMENT?' we might reasonably ask. For while the term 'the Movement', first used in its capitalized form in an anonymous Spectator article on 1 October 1954, is now very widely applied to the nine poets appearing in Robert Conquest's New Lines anthology, the poets themselves have frequently denied that they were part of any movement. Philip Larkin has said that he had 'no sense at all' (1) of belonging to one; Kingsley Amis has referred to 'the phantom movement' (2); D. J. Enright comments: 'I don't think there was a movement back in those days, or if there was I didn't know about it' (3); Thorn Gunn insists that he was 'certainly not aware that I was supposed to be associated with the Movement until 1954, when I first saw the word used of us' (4); even Robert Conquest has argued that in editing New Lines he 'was not trying to assemble a movement' (5).

As the disclaimers heap up, a number of critics have quite understandably begun to question whether there was ever a genuine movement at all. Where was its manifesto? Where was its salon or meeting-place? Where, most important of all, was the definable similarity in the work of those associated with it? In the absence of easy answers to those questions, more hostile critics have begun to fall back on what one might call the 'publicity' or 'conspiracy' theory of the Movement, i.e., the argument, frequently bolstered by pejorative business terms, that ...


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