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Review Article

‘Thou Breath of Autumn’s Being’: Voicing Masculinity in the Poetry of Late Life

orcid-imageJonathon Shearsemail-imageJonathon Shears

Jonathon Shears is Reader in English Literature at Keele University. He has published books and essays on poetic tradition including The Romantic Legacy of Paradise Lost (2009). His other work on voice includes ‘Listening to Christabel: Speech, Silence and the Contingencies of Voice’ (Romanticism, 2013). In 2019 he edited a special issue of Romanticism titled ‘Romanticism and Ageing’ and has published essays on ageing and immaturity in the work of poets including Lord Byron and Branwell Brontë.

email-image j.r.shears@keele.ac.uk

Abstract

This article argues that lyric poetry is a form suited to contesting dominant ideas about masculinity because of its thematic and formal preoccupations with voice. It argues that voice offers a different way of viewing the social constrictions that accompany male experiences of ageing to the well-known theory of the mask of ageing. Through a study of a long history of Western lyric verse, which includes writers such as William Shakespeare, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, W. B. Yeats, Robert Frost and Philip Larkin, the article explores the significance of restricted breathing in relation to dominant norms of masculine reticence and the physiological deterioration of the vocal profile in age. It then explores the possibility of counter-voicings of masculinity in poems with intergenerational themes from a group of post-war British poets.

Keywords

ageingmasculinitylyric poetryvoicereticencesilence
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Published on: 10 August 2023
Volume: 11
Issue: Supplementary issue 2
Article ID: 095
Pages:95 - 116
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© The author(s) 2023.
Cite this article
Shears (2023), ' ‘Thou Breath of Autumn’s Being’: Voicing Masculinity in the Poetry of Late Life ', Journal of the British Academy, 11(Supplementary issue 2): 095 https://doi.org/10.5871/jba/011s2.095

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‘Thou Breath of Autumn’s Being’: Voicing Masculinity in the Poetry of Late Life

orcid-imageJonathon Shearsemail-imageJonathon Shears

Jonathon Shears is Reader in English Literature at Keele University. He has published books and essays on poetic tradition including The Romantic Legacy of Paradise Lost (2009). His other work on voice includes ‘Listening to Christabel: Speech, Silence and the Contingencies of Voice’ (Romanticism, 2013). In 2019 he edited a special issue of Romanticism titled ‘Romanticism and Ageing’ and has published essays on ageing and immaturity in the work of poets including Lord Byron and Branwell Brontë.

email-image j.r.shears@keele.ac.uk