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Suffering and sacrifice in the major poetic works of David Jones

Margaret E Smith, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation explores the theme of suffering in In Parenthesis (1937) and The Anathemata (1952), the two book-length works by David Jones. In In Parenthesis Jones uses the pain of soldiers in the trenches of World War I to represent the spiritual suffering of those who, like Jones, experience modernity as an affliction. While Jones writes tenderly of the soldiers' physical and emotional ordeal, his chief concern is with the metaphysical suffering the men experience as they witness the collapse of their familiar world into a landscape neither recognizable, lovable, nor meaningful. Out of their dismayed sense of dislocation the soldiers create an affectionate brotherhood which extends to the enemy soldiers and to all soldiers of every time and place. This community offers an analogy for the connection over time that Jones urges his readers to cultivate--the connection of English speakers with worlds of experience evoked in Welsh, German, and Latin words, and in dense clusters of cultural allusion. At the center of The Anathemata are the cross, through which God enters time and joins humans in their suffering, and the eucharist, through which Christ makes the fruits of his sacrifice available to his fellow sufferers, signifying and effecting a community among believers. Through language which describes and embodies the cultural variety of Britain, The Anathemata explores the regenerative meaning of Christ's cross through multiple allusions to sexuality and fertility, and provides through the eucharist a metaphor for the community Jones seeks. Both of Jones' major works, then, suggest the possibility of community grounded in shared history and generated by shared suffering. My dissertation unfolds this interpretation of David Jones through close reading, fresh examination of some of Jones' sources, and the introduction of perspectives lent by cultural critics and theologians. I aim to show that Jones offers original contributions to our sense of the possibilities within modernism, and, more crucially, our understanding of the place of the imagination in responding to the catastrophes of this age.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Smith, Margaret E, "Suffering and sacrifice in the major poetic works of David Jones" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9809401.