1 Andrew Swarbrick, Out of Reach. The Poetry of Philip Larkin (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1995), 143; This reminds one of the basic historical facts of the period: "The seven years from 1971 to 1977 must be surely be amongst the most agonizing in British history. They were by British standards exceptionally violent years: our economic performance was dismal; and our society, instead of drawing together as it normally does in a crisis, seemed to become more cantankerous, less generous and less compassionate." Richard Clutterbuck, Britain in Angony. The Growth of Political Violence (London: Faber, 1978), 19.; on the breakdown of the liberal consensus and the problem of industrial relations see Michael Nevin, The Age of Illusions: The Political Economy of Britain 1968-1982 (London: Gollancz, 1983), 162-163.
2 See Reagan's conclusion: Due to his responsiveness to the "factures and collisions in post-war English culture [...], at the end of the 1970's, Larkin's deep disenchantment with the state of the nation seemed to overpower any creative instinct that was left." "Larkin's Reputation". Ed. Michael Baron, Larkin with Poetry (London: The English Association, 1997), 66-67.
3 Tom Paulin. "Into the Heart of Englishness." Ed. S. Regan, Philip Larkin (1997), 157.
4 I am quoting from Larkin's Collected Poems, ed. Thwaite (London: Marvell Press and Faber, 1988); hereafter abbreviated CP.
5 Joseph Bristow, "The Obscenity of Philip Larkin." Critical Inquiry 21 (1994), 159; in this excellent article, Larkin is considered the anti-humanist poet of Thatcherism.
6 Tom Paulin, "Into the Heart of Englishness." Ed. S. Regan, Philip Larkin (1997), 160.
7 "The Obscenity of Larkin", 161.
8 The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, 1958 - 1974. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998;
see Marwick's list of "the sixteen features which I take to be the most characteristic of the sixties as a period of social and cultural transformation", "Introduction: Locating Key Texts Amid the Distinctive Landscape of the Sixties". Eds. A. Aldgate, J. Chapman and A. Marwick, Windows on the Sixties. Exploring Key Texts of Media and Culture (London: Tauris, 2000), xvii.
9 Cf. The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character, abridged and rev. ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001 .
10 Harvest of the Sixties. English Literature and its Background 1960 to 1990 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 27.
11 Required Writing. Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982 (London: Faber, 1983), 297: (from the Introduction to All What Jazz, 1970): "This is my essential criticism of modernism, whether perpetrated by Parker, Pound or Picasso: it helps us neither to enjoy nor endure. It will divert us as long as we are prepared to be mystified or outraged, but maintains its hold only by being more mystifying or outrageous: it has no lasting power. Hence the compulsion on every modernist to wade deeper and deeper into violence and obscenity: hence the succession of Parker by Rollins and Coltrane, and of Rollins and Coltrane by Coleman, Ayler and Shepp. In a way, it's a relief: if jazz records are to be one long screech, if painting is to be blank canvas, if a play is to be two hours of sexual intercourse performed coram populo, then let's get it over, the sooner the better, in the hope that human values will then be free to reassert themselves."
12 Sense of place: Regionalität und Raumbewußtsein in der neueren britischen Lyrik (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1993) 136; modern architecture has been a bone of contention per se, see, for instance B. Allsopp and U. Clark in English Architecture. An Introduction to the Archtectural History of England from the Bronze Age to the Present Day (Stocksfield: Oriel Press, 1979), 120: "Social and spiritual malaise found expression in deliberately ugly architecture to which the name 'Brutalism' was given. [...] Growing bureaucracy meant that design was de-personalised. Many architects ceased to believe in architecture as an art."
13 See Swarbrick, Out of Reach, 130; for 'Brutalism' see the preceding note.
14 See Andrew Motion, Philip Larkin. A Writer's Life (London: Faber, 1993), 419-20.
15 Philip Larkin. Writer (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992) 147.
16 See Étienne Galle, "Dualité, limite, totalité, transcendence chez Philip Larkin." Études britanniques contemporaines. Revue de la Société d'Études Anglaises Contemporaines. Numéro spécial "Philip Larkin". Agrégation (Paris: SEAC, 1994), 71-83; Galle suggests that suggests that "Larkin emprunte à Dante et à Kafka pour faire de sa construction un lieu sans espérance et un cauchemar," 78.
17 Salem K. Hassan, Philip Larkin and his Contemporaries. An Air of Authenticity (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988), 111.
18 See Stefanie Christmann, Ordnung und Konservatismus. Ästhetische und politische Tendenzen in der englischen Lyrik nach 1945. Studien zu den lyrischen Werken von Donald Davie, Philip Larkin und Charles Sisson (Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1998), 179, on the traditional hierarchies inherent in the image of the building.
However, the immediate vicinity creates its own significance. The "locked church" - as Booth, Philip Larkin. Writer put it, "a rival gesture of architectural transcendence" (148), recalls one of Larkin's greatest poems. The closing stanza of "Church Going" is, more memorable for its laconic intensity than for its anti-modernism:
A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete.
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.
19 "Philip Larkin's 'The Building' and the Art of Sociography." anglistik & englischunterricht 53 (1994), 60.
20 See Christoph Reinfandt, "Philip Larkin: Here". Ed. Michael Hanke, Interpretationen. Englische Gedichte des 20. Jahrhunderts (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1997), 309-15, here: 313: "Im Mittelpunkt der hier evozierten Szenerie stehen die im Bau befindlichen Schiffe, die zu einem Teil des Straßenbilds werden und als Ergebnis solidarischer Arbeiterbemühungen zur ikonographischen Mythologie des englischen Nordosten gehören."
21 " 'Get Out As Early As You Can': Larkin's Sexual Politics." Ed. Stephen Regan (1977), 98; see for the climate in general, Bernard Levin, The Pendulum Years. Britain and the Sixties (London: Pan Books, 1972).
22 According to Bristow, "four-letter words issued from a conservatism that the nation had increasingly come to despise," "The Obscenity of Larkin", 160 ff. However, Larkin apes the vulgarity of the younger generation among whom four-letter speech was particularly fashionable, see Bertrand Lemonnier's "Lexique du Swinging London" in L'Angleterre des Beatles. Une histoire des années soixante (Paris: Éditions Kimé, 1995), 197 f.; offensive language assumed respectability in the media, see the chapter on "Sick jokes and lavatory humour" in Humphrey Carpenter's That Was Satire That Was (London: Gollancz, 2000), 248 ff.
23 Bartlett, History of Postwar Britain, 272.
24 Sex and the British. A Twentieth-Century History (London: Michael Joseph, 1993), 183, see also on "Sexual Behaviour and Sexual Attitudes" the study by Christie Davies, Permissive Britain. Social Change in the Sixties and Seventies (London: Pitman Publishing, 1975), 61 ff. .
25 See Margaret Drabble's view on permissive society: "[...] whereas young unmarried people do love now with a relaxed, permissive attitude towards sex, marriage itself has become increasingly difficult, tense, strained, and neurotic. The standards are high: we have freedom of choice, control over the size of our families, a high idea of husband-wife equality, a contempt for Victorian hypocrisy. Consequently the failure rate and the degree o suffering in this transitional period is high" (The Guardian, 11 October 1967), quoted from Monica Charlot (ed.), The Wilson Years 1964-1970 (Paris: Ophrys-Ploton, 1998), 134.
26 See B.J. Leggett, Larkin's Blues: Jazz, Popular Music, and Poetry (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1999), 188.
27 Ian MacDonald, Revolution in the Head: the Beatles' Records and the Sixties (London: Fourth Estate, 1994), 53.
28 Bartlett, History of Postwar Britain, 235 f.; see the problems of social policy in the early 1970s as discussed by B. Coxall and L. Robins, British Politics Since the War (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1998), ch. 10; see the survey by Tom Ling, The British State Since 1945 (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998), 74 ff. The impact of foreign policy is discussed by Roland Marx, "Fin d'un empire, recherche d'rôle - 1964-1970". Ed. Monica Charlot, The Wilson Years 1964-1970 (Paris: Ophrys-Ploton, 1998), 69-90; see also Jean-Claude Sergeant, "Politique étrangère: le temps de ajustement". Ed. Michel Lemosse. Les Années Wilson (1964-1970). Revue Française der Civilisation Britannique 10 (1998), 83-96.
29 "Money" (1973) reminds one of the polished couplets written by Alexander Pope in the early 18th century. In "Money" he once again deplores the materialism of the post-war consumer society. The enumeration of middle-class affluence, "a second house and car and wife", is built on the rhetorical figure of the zeugma which yokes seemingly incompatible elements together. One of the most disturbing issues raised in Larkin's poetry are the spiritual vacuity and hedonism in the face of death which have become the fate of the middle-classes whose Puritanism was once the driving force behind British grandeur.
30 See, for instance, Christopher Ricks, "Philip Larkin: 'Like Something Almost Being Said." The Force of Poetry. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), 274 ff..