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Name: Martin Brooks

PhD: English

Thesis Title: Edward Thomas' 'Romanticism'


Thesis Description:

I wrote a thesis about the links between Edward Thomas’ (1878-1917) criticism and his poetry. It identifies two major strands of Thomas’ criticism which inform his poetry: his critical ideas of what different Romantic-period poets had accomplished; and his specifically late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century ‘Romantic’ literary theory of what poetry ought to be. In doing so, my thesis is the first to demonstrate the importance that these parts of Thomas’ criticism have to his work as a poet. It demonstrates how they enabled Thomas to develop the particular ideas of what poetry is and does which make him distinctive among early twentieth-century poets.

         The thesis is in four chapters. Chapter One sketches the critical background to the thesis. It documents the longstanding critical debate of how Thomas’ poetry might fit within narratives of Modernism and Romantic-period poetry and then proceeds to outline the cultural links which make Thomas’ literary theory ‘Romantic’. Three subsequent chapters each focus on the links between Thomas’ criticism of a different Romantic-period poet, his own poetry, and the wider context of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century poetry. Chapter Two discusses Thomas’ work on and after Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834). It shows how Thomas’ unique critical approach to Coleridge forms a part of his own poetry which distances him from poets who became associated with Modernism and from other early twentieth-century writers whose jingoistic attitudes were amplified by the First World War. Chapter Three concerns connections between Thomas’ poetry and his criticism on Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). It shows that Thomas used his writing on Shelley to work out a theory of how poets should use symbols in their work, and it explores how his subsequent use of this theory in his own poetry differentiates Thomas from French Symbolist poets and their anglophone admirers. The fourth chapter discusses the impact of Thomas’ criticism of John Keats (1795-1821) on how his own poetry represents individuals losing their identities. The chapter shows that Thomas’ uniqueness as a Keats critic generated the positions which further differentiate his own poetry from that of Modernist poets, who frequently depict individual identity as unstable. In using these four chapters to explore Thomas’ poetry in relation to his criticism and literary theory, my thesis provides a new account of his complex connections to the development of English poetry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


Supervisors and Institutions:

Professor L. Pratt and Dr S. Davison (U. of Nottingham) and Dr M. Rawlinson (U. of Leicester).


Peer-Reviewed Publications:

Select Conference Papers:

  • 'Modern Soldiers and Old Cogitari: Isaac Rosenberg's Melancholy Military and References to Keats'. The 13th Conference of the International Robert Graves Society. St. John's College, University of Oxford. 10 September 2016.
  • ‘“As nought had been and nought would be again”: The Importance of John Clare to Edward Thomas’ Poetry’. The Edward Thomas Centenary Conference. Cardiff University. 19 April 2017.
  • ‘Edward Thomas’ WWI “Home” Poems: Marching, Walking, and Wartime Wordsworth’. Two-Way Tickets: Travel, Home, and War. Wolfson College, University of Oxford. 20 June 2017. At 'Two-Way Tickets' I chaired the panel 'Home and Homecoming'.

Event Organisation:

Other Research Interests:

  • Modern Poetry
  • Romantic Poetry
  • The Letters, Prose, and Legal Troubles of John Gibson Lockhart
  • The Benoni




University email address:





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