This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Popular Music and the Myth of Englishness in British Poetry




East, Brian

Type of Degree





This dissertation deconstructs the myth of Englishness through a comparative analysis of intersections between popular music and the poetry of the British Isles. In particular, my project explores intersections where popular music and poetry critics attempt to define Englishness, intersections where poetry and music combine to perform Englishness, and intersections where poetry and music combine to resist Englishness. In the wake of centuries of colonialism, British cultural expressions comprise a hybrid discourse that reflects global influences. I argue that attempts by critics to preserve the myth of Englishness result in the exclusion of a diversity of voices. Such exclusionary tactics potentially promote the alienation of future readers from British poetry. A comparative analysis of intersections between poetry and popular music expands the current critical discourse on British poetry to incorporate the hybridity of British popular music. Although for comparative purposes I consider music as a literature, I do not focus on song lyrics as the exclusive, or primary “text” of popular music. Instead, I am much more interested in the social forces that transform popular music into an expression of Englishness. Often this expression is different from the type of Englishness found in British poetry. However, at other times, British music’s expression of Englishness directly intersects with British poetry. Many of the poets in my discussion, despite their canonical status within British poetry, have ambivalent or outright resistant attitudes towards Englishness. The myth of Englishness is a social construction, and I feel that the deconstruction of that myth may be found at the cultural intersections of British poetry and popular music.