Renowned Hopkins expert Joseph J. Feeney, SJ, offers a fresh take on Gerard Manley Hopkins which shakes our understanding of his poetry and his life and points towards the next phase in Hopkins studies. While affirming the received view of Hopkins as a major poet of nature, religion, and psychology, Feeney finds a pervasive, rarely noticed playfulness by employing both the theory of play and close reading of his texts. This new Hopkins lived a playful life from childhood till death as a student who loved puns and jokes and wrote parodies, comic verse, and satires; as a Jesuit who played and organized games and had "a gift for mimicry;" and most significantly, as a poet and prose stylist who rewards readers with unexpected displays of whimsy and incongruity, even, strikingly, in "The Wreck of the Deutschland," "The Windhover," and the "Terrible Sonnets." Feeney convincingly argues that Hopkins's distinctive playfulness is inextricably bound to his sense of fun, his creativity, his style, and his competitiveness with other poets. In unexpected images, quirky metaphors, strange perspectives, puns, coinages, twisted syntax, wordmusic, and sprung rhythm, we see his playful streak burst forth to adorn those works critics consider his most brilliant. No one who absorbs this book's radical readings will ever see and hear Hopkins's poetry and prose quite the way they used to.
'Because his sonnets of desolation have received so much attention, many readers of Hopkins's poetry are not particularly alert to his wit, wordplay, and sense of fun. Fr. Feeney's commentary is a wise and wonderful remedy to that, seeing the poems anew and joyfully noting their puns, ironies, and surprising impishness while permitting us to read Hopkins again as if for the first time.' Ron Hansen, Santa Clara University, USA, author of Mariette in Ecstasy, A Stay Against Confusion and Exiles: A Novel (about G.M. Hopkins) 'Fr. Feeney has thoroughly - and playfully - made his case for a wittier and more delightful Hopkins, a rare poet of the first order, making this manifest not only in his celebratory nature poems but in whatever he touched, including his darkest, bloodiest sonnets. The more we read Hopkins - the more we actually get to know him - the more he reveals himself as truly a man for all seasons.' Paul Mariani, Boston College, USA, author of Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life 'In his original intervention into Hopkins studies, Joseph J. Feeney, SJ, uses "playfulness" in its broadest most inclusive sense to offer fresh insights into Hopkins's poetry and prose. His accessibly written book is an important contribution to a new phase in Hopkins studies.' Catherine Phillips, Downing College, Cambridge, editor of Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Major Works ’…Joseph Feeney’s fresh tribute to the life and accomplishment of Hopkins is a treat to read for its own sake. In its succinct blend of expert scholarship, critical acumen, detailed exegesis, provocative unifying contention, and infectious love of its subject, we probably have no better or more enjoyable introduction to this writer. In surveying the range of Hopkins’s literary play� - from zestful bubbling� to the darkest paradox - Feeney consistently confirms the capacity of the greatest poetry to both make us smile and break our hearts.’ Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review
Contents: Preface; Part I Frameworks of Play: A ludic biography; Literary play: a theory and a definition. Part II Playfulness in Hopkins's Poetry: The early poems; The Welsh poems; The middle poems; The Irish poems. Part III Playfulness in Hopkins's Prose: Journals, letters, sermons. Part IV Patterns of Playfulness: How Hopkins played; Works cited; Index.