Overturning many of the established perspectives on Larkin's poetry and prose, Cooper's book presents new evidence from a range of previously unpublished sources, and is the first full-length critical work to analyse Larkin's early fiction, as well as advancing new readings of 'The Less Deceived', 'The Whitsun Weddings' and 'High Windows'. Critics have tended to label Larkin's poetry as sexist, racist and reactionary. However, this volume demonstrates that Larkin's artistic impulse throughout his career was to challenge orthodox models of social and sexual politics. Focusing on the Brunette Coleman novellas and the unfinished novels, a structural blueprint is identified as prefiguring the later poems' commentary on sexual and social conduct. Further unpublished material includes correspondence, workbook drafts, dream records, and a playscript, depicting, alternately, hostility to wartime heroics, revulsion from capitalism, unease with traditional gender roles and an interest in psychoanalysis.
This study makes available to scholars paintings by Larkin's friend, James Sutton, which illuminate the writer's concern with social oppression, especially the predicament of women in the 1940s. This is a fresh and revealing study on Larkin's artistic subversion; stylistic and thematic, it reveals the underlying themes of Larkin's entire oeuvre.
Stephen Cooper has taught English Literature in schools, colleges, adult education establishments and the Open University. He has also published reviews on Larkin scholarship in the Philip Larkin Society newsletter, About Larkin, and has lectured on gender roles in Larkin's work in an international forum.