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3. Ros Barber – Material
About this Lecture
In this module, we read through Ros Barber’s ‘Material’, focusing in particular on: (i) the multiple possible meanings of the word ‘material’; (ii) the old-fashioned items that people used to buy, but don’t anymore (“headscarves, girdles, knitting wool and trouser presses”); (iii) the emergence of a throwaway culture, compared to “when hankies were material”; (iv) the extent to which memories are connected to material things; (v) the speaker’s reflections on her qualities as a mother compared to her own mother, including her tendency to put the television on to keep the kids quiet, to serve “bought biscuits”, etc. and (vi) the power of memory and nostalgia, especially when the thing you are nostalgic about has gone forever.
In this course, John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores the twenty poems that make up the ‘Poems of the Decade’ cluster for A Level English Literature (Edexcel). Each poem is read in detail, with a short commentary highlighting aspects of language, style, themes, motifs, and so on. In the case of Patience Agbabi’s ‘Eat Me’, for example, we think about the extent to which we can identify the speaker of the poem with the author herself, the question of whether the couple of the poem can be decribed as happy, and the influence of Robert Browning’s ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ (1836) and Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ (1865). When we come to Simon Armitage’s ‘Chainsaw Versus the Pampas Grass’, we think about the theme of man versus nature, the concept of ‘anthropomorphisation’, and the final lines of the poem in which it has become clear that the pampas grass has beaten the chainsaw. And so on for the whole selection.
The poems discussed in this course are:
1. Patience Agbabi – Eat Me
2. Simon Armitage – Chainsaw Versus the Pampas Grass
3. Ros Barber – Material
4. John Burnside – History
5. Julia Copus – An Easy Passage
6. Tishani Doshi – The Deliverer
7. Ian Duhig – The Lammas Hireling
8. Helen Dunmore – To My Nine-Year-Old Self
9. UA Fanthorpe – A Minor Role
10. Vicki Feaver – The Gun
11. Leontia Flynn – The Furthest Distances I’ve Travelled
12. Roderick Ford – Giuseppe
13. Seamus Heaney – Out of the Bag
14. Alan Jenkins – Effects
15. Sinéad Morrissey – Genetics
16. Andrew Motion – From the Journal of a Disappointed Man
17. Ciaran O’Driscoll – Please Hold
18. Adam Thorpe – On Her Blindness
19. Tim Turnbull – Ode on a Grayson Perry Urn
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
McRae, J. (2021, January 09). Poems of the Decade (Edexcel) - Ros Barber – Material [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/poems-of-the-decade-edexcel/ros-barber-material
McRae, J. "Poems of the Decade (Edexcel) – Ros Barber – Material." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 09 Jan 2021, https://www.massolit.io/courses/poems-of-the-decade-edexcel/ros-barber-material