Themes in Duns Scotus' Oxford

The ugliness of modern life

This theme is contained in the second quatrain. Urban sprawl has broken down the strict boundaries of the medieval city. Much as Hopkins liked variegated colours and shades, this new development merely obliterated the true inscape of the city, providing none of its own to substitute.

Mary as a channel of grace

This emphasis is what he praises Duns Scotus for in the last three lines - in effect the climax of the poem, though coming as somewhat of a surprise to most readers. Nothing really leads up to it.

Continuity and tradition

The first quatrain and the first tercet both emphasise that the traditional balance between nature and civilisation is the right one. People have to re-find the balance.

Investigating Duns Scotus' Oxford
  • Is there anything significant in ‘this air I gather and release'?
  • Do you find the last line a climax or rather an anticlimax?
    • Why?
  • Can you see any other themes in the sonnet?
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