Beatie Wolfe's Leonard Cohen Goldsmith University Dissertation

Leonard Cohen has been a published and critically regarded poet for over fifty years, and a prolific recorded songwriter for over forty years (ca twelve poetry collections and sixteen albums). Despite his multifarious artistic endeavours, he has remained either a contentious figure for critical consideration or a neglected one. Cohen has continually evaded clear-cut classification by not fitting easily ‘into the categories of post-modern or the post-colonial; his obstinate Romanticism is seen as reactionary; and his treatment of women has been…an outright offence to feminist critics.’2 In the figure of Leonard Cohen, we see an artist remake his role and redirect the scope of his influence to the point of exhaustion, if not oblivion; an introspective artist who is at war with himself, with his work, and with the collective tradition he remains attached to, if only by an invisible thread. Cohen’s self-effacing attitude towards himself as a writer was unlikely to inspire the confidence of his most devoted critics, especially when he replaced his poetry collections with albums, triggering anxieties of popularism and material preciousness in relation to poetic art. However, Cohen’s willingness to take real risks with his work, even at the expense of falling into cliché, bathos, banality, and critical obscurity, has paid off on countless occasions and resulted in the poet-songwriter achieving artistic longevity through his great power to move, and stir the very soul of the reader or listener. By interrogating the poetic energies of Cohen’s poems, novels, and songs, one may see how an artist’s progression can transcend formal barriers and aesthetic prejudices and still merit serious consideration as a modern poetic voice… READ MORE

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