The Nuclear Family from Wellington to Hiroshima : Eithne Wilkins’s ‘Oranges and Lemons’. / Armstrong, Tim.

In: Modernist Cultures, Vol. 17, No. 1, 21.05.2021.

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Abstract

This is a recuperative essay addressing the work of Eithne Wilkins (1914-75), a poet with a strong presence in journals of the 1940s and 1950s, but now mainly remembered as the first translator (with her husband Ernst Kaiser) of Musil’s The Man Without Qualities. I argue for her importance as a largely forgotten late modernist, and examine her major poetic sequence ‘Oranges and Lemons’, possibly the only long poem published by a British woman between 1945 and 1960, and almost certainly the most ambitious. It is comprised of a series of allusive poems incorporating memories of her New Zealand childhood, of her father Edgar, portrayed as a fire-watching doctor, and of the experience of her brother Maurice Wilkins, who worked on the Manhattan Project and later won a Nobel Prize. I argue that the poem, with its complex and personal mythopoesis, represents a response to global conflict in which the scattering of the ‘nuclear family’ figures a hemispheric war.
Original languageEnglish
JournalModernist Cultures
Volume17
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 May 2021

ID: 42504677