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Movement (literature)

Movement (literature)

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This article is about a specific literary movement - for other literary movements see List of literary movements

The Movement was a term coined by J. D. Scott, literary editor of The Spectator, in 1954 to describe a group of writers including Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, Donald Davie, D.J. Enright, John Wain, Elizabeth Jennings, Thom Gunn, and Robert Conquest. The Movement was essentially English in character; poets in Scotland and Wales were not generally included.


General character

Essentially The Movement was a reaction against the extreme romanticism of the previous identifiable major movement in British poetry, the New Apocalyptics (which overlapped with the Scottish Renaissance). Whereas the New Apocalyptics had been irrational, deliberately bordering on the incoherent, and outrageous or controversial, The Movement poets tended towards anti-romanticism (almost constituting a form of neo-classicism), rationality, and sobriety. John Press has described it as "a general retreat from direct comment or involvement in any political or social doctrine."[1]

Representative collections

The Movement produced two anthologies: Poets of the 1950s (1955) (editor D. J. Enright, published in Japan) and New Lines (1956). Conquest, who edited the New Lines anthology, described the connection between the poets as 'little more than a negative determination to avoid bad principles.' These 'bad principles' are usually described as excess, both in terms of theme and stylistic devices. The polemic introduction to New Lines targeted in particular the 1940s poets, the generation of Dylan Thomas[2] and George Barker — though not by name. A second New Lines anthology appeared in 1963, by which time The Movement seemed to some a spent force, in terms of fashion; the 'underground' in the shape of The Group, and the more American-influenced style of the Al Alvarez anthology The New Poetry having come to the fore. Ironically, interest in "The Movement" renewed in the early nineties, primarily in America, with the rise of the New Formalism and increased public interest in the work of Philip Larkin.

Poets in the New Lines (1956) anthology

Kingsley Amis, Robert Conquest, Donald Davie, D. J. Enright, Thom Gunn, John Holloway, Elizabeth Jennings, Philip Larkin, John Wain.

Poets in the New Lines 2 (1963) anthology

All of the above, excepting John Holloway, together with: Thomas Blackburn, Edwin Brock, Hilary Corke, John Fuller, Francis Hope, Ted Hughes, Richard Kell, Thomas Kinsella, Laurence Lerner, Edward Lucie-Smith, George MacBeth, James Michie, Jonathan Price, Vernon Scannell, Anthony Thwaite, Hugo Williams.


  • Enright, D. J. (editor) Poets of the 1950s: an anthology of new English verse, Tokyo, Kenkyusha, 1955
  • Morrison, Blake, The Movement, Oxford University Press, 1980


  1. Roberts, A Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry (Blackwell, 2001) page 214
  2. David Lodge wrote: Dylan Thomas was made to stand for everything they detested: verbal obscurity, metaphysical pretentiousness, and romantic rhapsodising. From Working with Structuralism (1981) p.9.
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