literature, Welsh


literature, Welsh
   The characteristics of Welsh literature of the twentieth century are its concern with place and landscape, language and nationhood, the individual within the community, industrial and economic decline, and the politics of identity: what it means to be Welsh and, more specifically, what it means to be a Welsh writer writing in English. Welsh writers see themselves as working from within a tradition which stretches back to Taliesin and the ancient bardic poets, and The Mabinogion, through to the writings of the present day.
   Welsh poetry of the postwar period sweeps from the lyrical neo-romanticism of Dylan Thomas and Vernon Watkins, through the work of such poets as Idris Davis, Roland Mathias and David Jones, to Wales’ second best-known poet, R.S.Thomas. Thomas’s poetry speaks directly to the people and the landscape in his sparse and measured language, creating a moral universe shot through with the concerns of the modern Welsh nation. For Thomas, poetry is a vehicle for a kind of national remembrance, both a responsibility and a political act. The poetry of Danny Base epitomizes the dichotomy of national and personal identity. It displays a multi-dimensional vision, incorporating the topographies of the metropolis and the pastoral, the mystical and the physical, and the dilemmas of being Welsh/English, British/Jewish, poet/doctor. The younger Welsh poets writing today, for example, Gillian Clark and Tony Curtis, continue to be acutely aware of the need to confront their essential Welshness through their writing, and their role as Welsh poets in creating and invoking Wales. In fiction, the short story has been a popular medium for the representation and expression of the Welsh way of life, with modern works taking their impetus from Glyn Jones’s The Blue Bed and Other Stories (1937), a startling and poetic tale from the Wales of the Great Depression. Writers such as Kate Roberts recreated small corners of locality and lived experience, in stories and novels that dwelt on the lives of the people of the small communities, affected not only by internal economic decline but by the intrusion of wider concerns, for example in Traed Mewn Cyffion (Feet in Chains) (1936). More contemporary Welsh fiction has continued to explore the collapse of the traditional foundation of modern Wales, especially the mining industry, for example in Gwyn Jones’s Times Like These (1979) and Gwyn Thomas’s Sorrow for My Sons (1986), which remain resonant for our times.
   Further reading
    Jarman, A.O.H. and Hughes, G.R. (eds) (1976) A Guide to Welsh Literature, Swansea: Davies.
   SARAH CORBETT

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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