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Research Blog - April

'Fathers in literature'

April 2012

This month’s blog has been a little bit delayed, as I’ve been working hard on getting together all the materials for a poetry collection I’m publishing in conjunction with Nine Arches Press. This is a really exciting project – we ran two workshops for fathers of all ages, from an expectant father to some granddads. We held one session at the University of Warwick, and provided beer, wine and snacks, and ran the second one at ‘Dads Aloud’, a fathers’ playgroup held fortnightly at Warwick Children’s Centre. Both were fantastic, though the latter was a little less peaceful for our budding poets! The poetry produced far exceeded the expectations I had – our dads seems to really embrace the opportunity to write about their thoughts and feelings on becoming a father, and the poems are fantastic. We’ll be publishing them soon in a beautiful booklet with Nine Arches Press, and also displaying the work at the Warwick Arts Centre on 12th and 13th June and at the Coventry Mysteries festival on 16th June.


The process of encouraging dads to write about parenthood made me reflect that there aren’t many examples of such writing. Matt Nunn, the poet who ran the workshops, found it difficult to find poems on this theme, and I’ve found it difficult in my research into fatherhood across the twentieth century to find novels or other writing written from a father’s perspective. One great example is Warwick Deeping’s Sorrell and Son, written in the 1920s, and a heartfelt example of a (fictional) father doing everything in his power to give his son the best start in life. We can find lots of examples of great dads on the small and large screen – particularly in comedy, with Frank Spencer, Jim Royle and Smithy of Gavin and Stacey being three of my favourites. However, it’s hard to find more serious, emotional writing about the very personal journey from being a man to becoming a father

It was great to listen this week to Guardian’s books podcast – indeed, about the very theme of fathers in literature, and it highlights that the literary focus has remained on mothers across the twentieth century. The podcast highlights two new books on fathers: Karl Ove Knausgaard’s A Death in the Family is based on his perspective on his relationship with his father and his own fatherhood; Knausgaard discusses some interesting issues around masculinity in the interview. In contrast, Noah Hawley’s fictional account of a violent assassination and a father’s attempt to prove his son’s innocence in The Good Father, bring to the fore some important questions about the relative importance of genetic inheritance and parental upbringing.

Can you think of any examples of writing from a father’s perspective? Are there any poets who use this as a theme? Have you come across the father’s perspective in novels for children or adults? Can we find some older examples of this, from the 1950s or earlier? Add your suggestions below!