Geoffrey Hill on "Individual Voice"
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Geoffrey Hill on "Individual Voice" Sunday, August 12, 2018
I am just now discovering the formidable works of Geoffrey Hill. He's evidently not as well known in the US as he should be, but maybe the neglect is understandable. Although Hill died in 2016 he speaks from another age, maybe another planet. There is nothing "tentative" in his voice. This is not to say that he's always certain of what he says, but rather that he speaks from a world where such certainties exist and are accepted as a matter of course. Nowadays we call this sort of perception "naive" but I wonder if this isn't just the sour grapes reaction of a generation whose certainties have evaporated into a now accustomed relativistic fog.

Anyway, here are some uncommon notes on the commonplace notion of an author's "individual voice":

"As critics we have the uncritical habit of referring, ponderously yet airily, to an author's 'individual voice', as if this were a simple and uncontested birthright. And yet, in literature, few things are more difficult to achieve or to describe. One strong indication of the quality of Rosenberg's creative imagination is that it perceives this to be so, within the given nature of things. It is the true nature of the free will to know itself circumscribed, of the abrasive intellect to know itself abraded; of clear-sightedness to recognize its occlusions and self-occlusions, of integrity to have to live with the knowledge of collusion and compromise. In the definitive 'brute' confrontations, the individual voice is that speaking self-realizing speech which can in some way be freed from, or even denied to, the general undifferentiating clamour of things: things material and things of the mind--the alienating power that seventeenth-century moral writers epitomized by the word 'opinion'."

--Geoffrey Hill, Isaac Rosenberg, 1890 - 1918

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