Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The study of the poetic persona's responses to the experience of failure, as expressed in the poetry of G. M. Hopkins, his minor contemporaries (Francis Thompson and Lionel Johnson), and the moderns (particularly Dylan Thomas), actualizes the poet-text-reader interactions in the reading experience. Chapter one concentrates on the Hopkins persona as he responds to his failures in priesthood and poetry writing, the effects upon the reader, the reader's involvement in the outcome of the poem, and the parallels and divergences between Hopkins and the persona. Chapter two studies Hopkins' persona in his struggle to move from human isolation to human association. The poems of isolation emphasize the persona's dissociation from family, homeland and humanity in general. Through the medium of human interaction, the persona establishes a bond with God. Chapter three deals with the dual vision expressed in Francis Thompson's poetry--the vision of the playful child and the aged man. In examining the poems in which the persona fails or succeeds in integrating the heavens and the London streets, the central interest is in Thompson's pull towards and away from Hopkins and the decadents. Chapter four is concerned with Lionel Johnson and his aesthetics of failure. A combination of the "mask," "anti-mask" polarities of the self, the persona here is preoccupied with antithetical elements such as art and religion, life and death, and success and failure. Chapter five examines the emergence of the anti-heroic clown persona in modern poetry. The clown figure images the central paradox in the modern world-view: a rejection of theology, yet a yearning to image the self as a kind of god. The chapter briefly analyses the use of personae in Yeats, Pound and Eliot, and concentrates on the variety and complexity of the clown personae as developed by Dylan Thomas. The conclusion traces the movement from Hopkins, through Thompson and Johnson, to the moderns as that of a shift from a renewed integration of the self with God to a comic-pathetic collision of self with self and the existential reality.