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'Thou Breath of Autumn’s Being': Voicing Masculinity in the Poetry of Late Life




This essay argues that lyric poetry is a form suited to contesting dominant ideas about masculinity because of its thematic and formal preoccupations with voice. It argues that voice offers a different way of viewing the social constrictions that accompany male experiences of ageing to the well-known theory of the mask of ageing. Through a study of a long history of Western lyric verse, which includes writers such as William Shakespeare, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Alfred Lord Tennyson, W. B. Yeats, Robert Frost and Philip Larkin, the essay explores the significance of restricted breathing in relation to dominant norms of masculine reticence and the physiological deterioration of the vocal profile in age. It then explores the possibility of counter-voicings of masculinity in poems with intergenerational themes from a group of post-war British poets.


Shears. (in press). 'Thou Breath of Autumn’s Being': Voicing Masculinity in the Poetry of Late Life. Journal of the British Academy,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 7, 2023
Online Publication Date Aug 10, 2023
Journal Journal of the British Academy
Print ISSN 2052-7217
Electronic ISSN 2052-7217
Publisher British Academy
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Publisher URL