D(ennis) J(oseph) Enright 1920–
English poet, novelist, critic, and editor.
Enright is an important literary figure whose poetry and criticism exhibit a liberal, humanistic outlook. Underlying the witty, ironic, and sometimes irreverent tone of his writing is a sensitivity to the human suffering Enright has witnessed in England and during his many years of teaching abroad. Many of Enright's stylistic and thematic concerns are typical of those of The Movement, a literary group with which he is sometimes associated. As editor of the anthology Poets of the 1950s (1955), Enright is partially responsible for bringing what would become known as The Movement to the attention of readers and critics. The anthology includes poems by Kingsley Amis, Donald Davie, Philip Larkin, and Enright, among others. Enright is also well known as a literary critic whose reviews have appeared in the New Statesman, Encounter, and London Magazine.
Enright spent over twenty years teaching English literature in Egypt, Japan, West Germany, Thailand, and Singapore. Many of his works are informed by his experiences in these countries. Enright's first novel, Academic Year (1955), for example, concerns three expatriate Englishmen in Egypt with thematic emphasis on the conflict between Western and Eastern sensibilities.
The suffering and powerlessness of the individual which Enright observed in impoverished countries appears as a major theme in much of his poetry, most notably in his collection Some Men Are Brothers (1960). Political power and hypocrisy are themes which Enright develops through foreign settings but which he also applies to situations in England. The Terrible Shears: Scenes from a Twenties Childhood (1973) is an account of Enright's youth in a working-class family and his early recognition of human suffering. Paradise Illustrated (1978) and A Faust Book (1979) are tongue-in-cheek revisions of the biblical tale of the Garden of Eden and the Faust legend.
Enright's literary criticism displays the same mistrust of established authority as his poetry and fiction. In The Apothecary's Shop: Essays on Literature (1957) and Conspirators and Poets (1966) he examines classical and contemporary literature, questioning conventional interpretations of the works of numerous important authors. Similarly, in Shakespeare and the Students (1970) Enright questions traditional academic approaches to Shakespeare's plays and advocates more pragmatic interpretations based on character analysis.
(See also CLC, Vols. 4, 8; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 1; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 27; and Something about the Author, Vol. 25.)