Edward Thomas Lighting Out for the Territory

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At the end of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck plans “to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest.” As David Plank and Gary Sykes observe, “to ‘light out for the territory’ and a new life is the essential American story.” Twain, however, complicates Huck’s action by situating it amidst the contradictions and aporias of American westward expansion. Laurie Anderson, in her postpatriotic echo of Twain’s expression, similarly ironizes the prospect of escaping to “a new life.” Both writers are included here in order to illuminate the work of Edward Thomas. In his 1916 poem, “Lights Out,” Thomas took up and developed Twain’s complex relation to the romance of departure. What lies outside the boundaries of Huck’s “sivilised” becomes for Thomas somewhere radically unknown. I suggest, further, that this quality in Thomas’s late poetry corresponds with recent articulations of an environmentally attuned spatiality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-218
Number of pages22
JournalPhilological Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2018


  • Poetry
  • frontier colonisation
  • Ecocriticism
  • Landscape

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