Category Archives: Literary Criticism

A Radically Altered Human Species

The implicit starting point for Sebald’s literary essays is the melancholy conviction that, during the course of the twentieth century, the history of mankind finally showed itself to be on a downward path and that, therefore, the two disastrous world … Continue reading

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Abandoning a Good (Great) Book?

I dislike novels of the Dickensian type that insist on neat resolutions, tucking away every story line. Endings are troublesome; they suggest the possibility of a conclusiveness that simply does not exist. They are a problem of narrative of which I am always … Continue reading

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Where I’m Reading From by Tim Parks

For a whimsical purchase one Sunday afternoon, I’m pleased with the rich provocations in Tim Parks’s Where I’m Reading From, a collection of powerful essays written for the New York Review of Books. Parks’s clear incisive discussion of contemporary criticism, translation and … Continue reading

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Forster and the Literary Forebears

When EM Forster lectured at Trinity College in 1927, he opened his series of lectures on the novel (collected in Aspects of the Novel) provocatively: No English novelist is as great as Tolstoy-that is to say, has given so complete … Continue reading

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Language and Style

Ideas are certainly important-who would deny that?-but the fact is, the ideas that operate in novels and poems, once they are unpicked from their context and laid out on the laboratory table, usually turn out to be uncomplicated, even banal, … Continue reading

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Form Becomes the Preoccupation

Anthony Uhlmann quoted Beckett in Samuel Beckett in Context on language as a barrier to communication, and why, as a consequence ‘form itself becomes a preoccupation,’ so it was good to track down the whole quotation below: …there will be … Continue reading

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All That Exists is Egotism

Few beings have ever been so impregnated, pierced to the core, by the conviction of the absolute futility of human aspiration. The universe is nothing but a furtive arrangement of elementary particles. A figure in transition toward chaos. That is … Continue reading

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How Rubens Sees Orpheus

In Hinges: Meditations on the Portals of The Imagination Grace Dane Mazur asks of Rubens’ Orpheus painting, “Pretend that you do not know what this painting is about. Look at it with eyes fresh and innocent and unknowing; ask yourself … Continue reading

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Katie Roiphe’s In Praise of Messy Lives

That Gawker regularly vent their unsophisticated spleen on Katie Roiphe may be thought a reason to read her books. Much of the other invective that streams towards Roiphe appears to be a result of her mid-90’s polemics on campus rape. … Continue reading

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Uncommon Readers

A genuine interest in criticism is an achievement in creation. Marianne Moore In selecting the title for this post, I should point out that it in no way refers to that dreadful Alan Bennett novel, but is a term that … Continue reading

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