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THE POETRY of Philip Larkin might seem an unlikely choice of subject for a series of books exploring the current critical debate in literary studies. There is no well-established critical tradition to compare with that of earlier writers, for instance, and no obvious theoretical divisions in which to place existing interpretations of Larkin’s work. Larkin’s poetry remains untouched by some of the most recent developments in critical theory. There is, nevertheless, a diversity of critical opinion about Larkin’s achievements as a writer and this continues to inform a lively and often fierce debate about the scope and direction of twentieth-century poetry. There is also evidence in recent Larkin scholarship of a new interest in linguistic analysis and a determination to move beyond the old-fashioned thematic criticism that has dominated the teaching of English literature for so long. These new perspectives and approaches will undoubtedly stimulate further debate and lead in time to a radical reappraisal of Larkin’s work.
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