Fellow in English, Dr Michael D. Hurley (2012), has been elected to a Visiting Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, for Trinity term 2021. Dr Hurley will undertake archival research on the Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), most of whose papers are kept at the Bodleian Library, and at Campion Hall.
Although Hopkins’s poems were not published until almost forty years after his death, he is today regarded as amongst the finest writers of his age, or any age. He also lived a fascinating life, as a Catholic convert and Jesuit priest with a brilliant mind that swung between ecstasies of transcendent joy and bouts of suicidal depression. Where Hopkins’s readers have typically approached his verse as if it merely replayed his psychological and emotional life on paper, however, Dr Hurley is working on a new literary biography of the poet showing how the act of composition actually encouraged him to think and feel in radically new ways.
Choice words, metaphors, and even entire phrases, shuttle back and forth between Hopkins’s poems and his letters, journals, essays, and sermons. But there is something different in kind about the poems; language undergoes unexpected and sometimes shocking changes as it becomes (to use Hopkins’s own term) ‘heightened’ into verse. Dr Hurley’s Visiting Fellowship at All Souls will allow him to spend time with Hopkins’s drafts, to examine the curious imaginative process of false starts, revisions and inspired leaps, through which the poems ultimately find their own voices, and speak back to the poet.