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Bernard Bergonzi obituary

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Poet, literary critic and professor of English at Warwick University known for his work on TS Eliot, HG Wells and Gerard Manley Hopkins

The poet and critic Bernard Bergonzi, who has died aged 87, was long associated with the teaching of 20th-century English literature at Warwick University. His books shed new light on the English writing of the first world war and the 1930s, and on developments in criticism since the 60s, which he largely disliked. Monographs on HG Wells, TS Eliot, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Thomas Arnold and Graham Greene showed Bergonzi at his sensible and lucid best.

Though principally known as a critic, it was as a poet that Bergonzi began to find a place in the English literary scene in the early 50s. Within a year of beginning research on the early writings of Wells in 1958, he was appointed assistant lecturer at Manchester University. A full lectureship soon followed. He published two books while at Manchester: The Early HG Wells (1961) and a study of the literature of the first world war, Heroes’ Twilight (1965), in which he gave innovative attention to David Jones and the nearly forgotten Henry Williamson. In the following year he was appointed senior lecturer at Warwick, where he remained until he formally retired in 1992. He became professor of English in 1971 and served as pro-vice-chancellor from 1979 until 1982. His career was closely tied to the ascending fortunes of the Warwick English department.

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