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Title: The knowledge, a collection of poetry, and, The poem noir : film noir in contemporary poetry
Authors: Challis, John David
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis consists of a collection of poetry, The Knowledge, and the first critical investigation into the ‘poem noir’, an unidentified and unexplored mode within contemporary poetry that exhibits thematic and visual echoes from the body of films known as film noir. Taking its title from the London taxi driver’s rigorous examination, The Knowledge’s key theme is displacement: from social class, education and from a sense of home. It echoes the quest of the doomed film noir protagonist, who, in a thirst for knowledge, is drawn into a psychological descent into a metaphorical underworld. Like the poems noir analysed in the critical section, these possess an anxious, pessimistic and obsessive engagement with the world, and are set within noirish locales to excavate the autobiographical and the imaginative. Inspired by film noir’s portrayal of individuals whose identity is called into conflict, the poems take the lid off the works of memory and place, to examine a personal and public moral compass, and to dramatize the past and the present. After providing a definition of film noir, the critical section outlines a model for reading a poem noir by analysing a selection of seminal American films noir of the classic 1941 to 1958 period, along with several neo-noir films produced from the 1970s onwards. It then provides close readings of Paul Muldoon’s hard-boiled Chandleresque poem, ‘Immram’ (1980), Deryn Rees-Jones’ book-length murder-mystery poem, Quiver (2004), and David Harsent’s nightmarish labyrinthine poem, ‘Elsewhere’ (2011), and introduces them as poems noir. In conclusion I consider how writing poetry is a noirish act, sharing a similarity with Seamus Heaney’s notion that the role of writing poetry is to unearth revelations about the self, and with Henrik Gustafsson’s thesis that film noir is concerned with taking the lid off the works to expose whatever truth lies beneath.
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

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