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Gerard Manley Hopkins: Inscape and Instress

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Title: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Inscape and Instress
Authors: Wight, Elizabeth
Issue Date: 15 Jan 2014
Publisher: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Abstract: The terms instress and inscape are of central importance to understanding the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, but there exists today a great confusion over the use and meaning of these words. In general, critics do not agree about the denotations and connotations of the terms, and there has developed an unfortunate, but consistent gap between critical use of the words and any clear definitions of them. I believe this critical confusion arises from the complexity of Hopkins's definitions and the frequency with which he uses the terms, for he did partially define inscape and instress, and further gave numerous examples of what he meant by them. From the precision of his philological studies, it is evident that; Hopkins would hardly have coined the terms if he did not have specific meanings for them in mind. Hopkins's interest in Anglo-Saxon, which shows up in the sentence structure, alliteration, word choice and sprung rhythm of his poetry, may reasonably lead us to suppose that inscape and instress mean “inner” scape and stress. The etymological development of scape and stress, together with the study of those factors (from his personal background, such as his artistic family, his classical studies at Oxford, his novitiate as a Jesuit, his close observation of, and great love for, nature) which influenced Hopkins's thinking, suggest a basic meaning of "internal form" for inscape, and "internal energy" for instress. These meanings are in harmony with Hopkins’s use of these terms, both in his prose works (letter, journals, essays, sermons) and in his poetry. He undoubtedly expanded the meanings of the terms as he encountered similar forms and energy in other than botanical observations, until his entire world view was a combination of scape and inscape, stress and instress. I have found approximately six definitions for each of these terms, from Hopkins's use of them in: poetry and prose, and from the implications of his prose and poetic descriptions. Each definition is basically related either to inner or outer form, or to inner or outer energy. All together they show the precision, complexity and clarity of Hopkins's thinking.
Pages/Duration: 33 pages
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Appears in Collections:Honors Projects for English

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