Michael Rizq, Trinity

Degree: PhD
Course: 1830-PD
Supervisor: Dr Michael Hurley
Dissertation Title:
Answerable Forms: Poetry and ethics from Hopkins to Hill

Biographical Information

I studied English and French at St John's College, Oxford, before arriving at Cambridge for the MPhil in Modern and Contemporary Literature. Now a PhD student, my project traces a lineage of nineteenth- and twentieth-century poets and critics – stretching from Gerard Manley Hopkins to Geoffrey Hill – who are actively concerned with the ethical stakes of poetic language. What interests me especially is how these writers understand poetry not necessarily as an irrefutable good, but as a medium able to seduce, mislead, or disturb; and how the “density” of its language, to use Hill’s word, might implicate them in the often violent and unsettled moral worlds they lived in.

By exploring these figures, I hope to make broader connections between the particularity of poetic language and the nature of ethical knowledge. While the “ethical turn” in literary studies tended to focus on novelistic representations of moral experience, my hunch is that poetry’s sensate, temporal qualities offer a side door into philosophy, one which underscores the felt immediacy of ethical obligation. If poetry falls short of moral pedagogy, I intend to ask, what can it tell us about good and evil?

Research Interests

Literature and ethics; philosophical poetics; aesthetics and cognition; literature and religion; 19th- and 20th-century British and Irish poetry; literary criticism; T.S. Eliot.

Selected Publications

‘Fact, rhythm, and resistance in The Ring and the Book’, forthcoming in Victorian Poetry, 59.4 (Winter 2021).

Tinnitus aurium: Hearing Hill’s Eliot’, The Cambridge Quarterly, 48.2 (Summer 2019), 133-50.

‘“It is not enough that we should read Wordsworth”: Estranged Recognition in Four Quartets’, Philological Quarterly, 97.3 (Summer 2018), 333-57.

‘Eliot, Leavis, Larkin: Permanence and its problems’, Matthew Arnold Memorial Prize-winning essay (available to read on the Oxford English Faculty website, at goo.gl/A3F4gm).