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Carol Ann Duffy: Mean Time

32. The Suicide

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About this Lecture


In this module, we read through the thirty-first poem in the collection, 'The Suicide', focusing in particular on: (i) the multiple meanings of the title; (ii) the theme (once again) of what time does to people; (iii) the logical structure of the poem; (iv) the balance of positivity and negativity ("gleams with resentment", "horrid smiling", "Who wants a bloody valentine pumping its love hate love?"), cf. "Love's hate behind a white veil" in 'Havisham'; (v) the echo of King Lear in the words "Never never never never enough"; (vi) the symbolism of mouths, which so far in this collective have been portrayed positively, but are here "horrid smiling"; (vii) the centrality (but ambiguity) of the word "Famous", cf. "I am trying to be truthful" in 'Valentine'; (viii) the meaning of the word "Worship" near the end of the poem; and (ix) the meaning of the poem's last line.


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 - The Suicide [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

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