Gwen Harwood Textual Integrity

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‘More often then not set texts for high schools seem overly familiar... literary criticism is never static... What seemed important to say about a work twenty or fifty years ago will seem obvious or irrelevant to us today” - Elizabeth Lawson Gwen Harwood, is a poet who utilises themes and ideas that can be extrapolated and made relevant to any context. Harwood’s poetry addresses concerns of human endurance through reflections on different contexts and their interpretations in literature, music and religion. In doing so, she takes what is often personal, private and time bound and makes it universal. She probes fundamental concerns of human existence relating to life and death, and the transient nature of mortality, the innocence and vulnerability of childhood and the perpetual strain between the personal and the universal. She is able to achieve this in Father and Child, Mother who gave me life and a Valediction through allusions to music, juxtaposition, symbolism and imagery which help construct meaning and a sense of intimacy. Art is often an individuals response to their context. The human condition is such that there are distinct contending principles that individuals seek to reconcile (Hoddinott). Harwood fuses binaries such as reason and emotion; certainty and ambiguity in order to deal with the different facets of self and to engage readers who are from different periods. “Father and Child” is a poem about the growth and maturation of a person. In Father and Child, Harwood explores Bildungsroman, the philosophy of an individuals growth and development within the context of a defined social order. The social order is a combination of patriarchal, Christian-Judaeo values. Through this framework we see the protagonist search for a meaningful existence within society. The persona yearns for self-determination and empowerment through unfettered choice and

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