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Carol Ann Duffy: Mean Time

3. Litany

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About this Lecture


In this module, we read through the second poem in the collection, 'Litany', focusing in particular on: (i) the meanings of the word 'litany'; (ii) the themes of music and memory; (ii) the tastes, textures and other small details that evoke a particular family in the 1960s – "Pyrex", "cellophane round polyester shirts", etc.; (iii) the 'embarrassment' of language ("Language embarrassed them", "an embarrassing word"); (iv) the explicit language in the final stanza ("A boy in the playground … told me to fuck off"); (v) the 'litany' of people the speaker has to apologise to; (vi) the meaning of the final words – "the taste of soap"; and (vii) the theme of nostalgia.


In this course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Carol Ann Duffy’s 1993 collection, ‘Mean Time'. After an introductory module in which we think about the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy in general and the collection as a whole – and especially the implications of its title – the course continues with a reading and analysis of each of the thirty-nine poems in the collection, one by one.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2021, March 01). Carol Ann Duffy: Mean Time - Litany [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Carol Ann Duffy: Mean Time – Litany." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 01 Mar 2021,