'The nation rejoices or mourns': literary and cultural ambivalences in Wendy Cope’s Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (1986)

Waterman, R. ORCID: 0000-0001-8202-0715, 2019. 'The nation rejoices or mourns': literary and cultural ambivalences in Wendy Cope’s Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (1986). English: Journal of the English Association, 68 (262). ISSN 0013-8215

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Abstract

The poet Wendy Cope gained a huge reputation in the early 1980s mainly for a series of witty and incisive parodies, often under the name of her desperate fictional poète maudit Jake Strugnell, and these poems were collected, along with others, in her hugely successful and influential debut collection, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, which appeared in 1986. This book sold almost 200,000 copies, but has been the subject of a very small body of criticism. Many of her contemporary poet-critics were dismissive: in one contemporary review, Peter Riley epitomized a not uncommon reaction when he claimed that no ‘poetic import can be claimed for the book’, and railed against ‘a new audience for poetry, one which must be presumed to have previously fought shy of it as too difficult or too deep’. Certainly, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis is not a work of avant garde complexity, but Cope’s debut is not as cosily complacent as such critics indicate. It is in fact highly allusive and resistant to orthodoxies – and was a thorn in the side of the literary and cultural establishment into which she was instantly propelled. This essay assesses the ways in which Cope’s debut collection takes an ambivalent, nuanced, and parodic response to British institutions, and to the orthodoxies of the male-dominated literary world she was entering.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: English: Journal of the English Association
Creators: Waterman, R.
Date: 19 August 2019
Volume: 68
Number: 262
ISSN: 0013-8215
Identifiers:
NumberType
10.1093/english/efz016DOI
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Depositing User: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 22 Aug 2019 10:57
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2019 10:58
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/37432

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