'Curse, bless, me now': Dylan Thomas and Saunders Lewis

by Tudur Hallam

04 Apr 2016
Digital Object Identifier

Full text posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 3, pp. 211-253.

Abstract: Dylan Thomas, the Swansea-born writer of English, and Saunders Lewis, the Wallasey-born writer of Welsh, are usually set in differing discursive camps. Memorable quotations—‘I cannot read Welsh’, to quote Dylan; ‘He belongs to the English’, to quote Saunders—continually drive them apart. Focusing on 1938, the year in which Dylan Thomas published his elegy to his aunt, ‘After the Funeral’, and in which Saunders Lewis delivered his lecture ‘Is There an Anglo-Welsh Literature?’, this paper considers how the former’s life and work might be read differently in conjunction with the latter’s. The authors’ differences and similarities are discussed, and the work of William Williams Pantycelyn, author of ‘Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah’ is read in the light of Saunders Lewis’s classic study of his romanticism so as to suggest not only a tangible link between the two poetic non-conformists, but also a means of appreciating Dylan Thomas’s own aesthetic development as a poet.

Keywords: Dylan Thomas, Saunders Lewis, poetics, romanticism, post-colonialism, Welsh literature, Swansea.

Chatterton Lecture on Poetry, read 24 October 2014 (audio recording, plus presentation slides)

Text printed 2016 in British Academy Lectures 2014-15

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