December 4, 2008 at 8:40 pm (Biography)


“Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.”



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December 4, 2008 at 7:55 pm (Biography)

When she was asked by interviewers in 1959 what the relation of writing to the world was, Bowen replied: “Just as in an air raid, if you were a warden, which I was, you stump up and down the streets making a clatter with the boots you are wearing, knowing you can’t prevent a bomb falling, but thinking, ‘At any rate I’m taking part in this, I may be doing some good.'”

  1. What is the main theme of her writings?
  2. How did WWII influence her work?
  3. Why is there often an open ending to her short stories?
  4. “Identity at Risk”: how does that show in her writings?

Elizabeth Bowen Presentation 11-12-2008

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Course stories + Biography

November 30, 2008 at 10:47 am (Biography, Short Stories)

Bowen (1) 

“Fate is not an eagle, it creeps like a rat.”

Week 13: Elizabeth Bowen, ‘The Back Drawing Room’, ‘The Cat Jumps’, ‘Her Table Spread’, ‘The Demon Lover’, ‘Mysterious Kor’, ‘Ivy Gripped The Steps’, ‘Summer Nights’, and ‘The Happy Autumn Fields’, from Collected Stories (Vintage).

Bowen (2)

Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen (1899-1973)


Anglo-Irish Novelist and short story writer. Born in Dublin, she spent much of her childhood at the family home in Co. Cork which she inherited in 1930 and described in Bowen’s Court (1942). In 1923 she published her first collection of short stories, Encounters, and married Alan Cameron. They lived for ten years in London, vividly evoked in many of her works; her skill in describing landscape, both urban and rural, and her sensitivity to changes of light and season are distinguishing features of her prose. Her novels include The Hotel (1927), The Last September (1929), The House in Paris (1935), A World of Love (1955), and Eva Trout (1969). The best known are probably The Death of the Heart (1938) and The Heat of the Day (1949).


The war inspired many of Elizabeth Bowen’s best short stories, including ‘Mysterious Kôr. A. Wilson in his introduction to her Collected Stories (1980) praised her as one of the great writers of the blitz. Other stories (e.g. the title story of The Cat Jumps, 1934) reveal subtle deployment of the supernatural. She writes most confidently of the upper middle and middle classes, but within that social range her perceptions of change are acute; her works already strike the reader with a powerful sense of period, through their accurate detail and keen response to atmosphere.

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