Literary critics used to adopt a persona claiming disinterested separation from the text being analysed. Critical theory, in particular post-colonial and gender studies, eroded this stance, showing that criticism is always self-interested, concealing or inadvertently revealing tacit assumptions stemming from the critic’s biography, class, gender, and political persuasions. As a result, it is common nowadays for critics to be more self-aware about their own value systems. In some ways, this returns us to a Romantic understanding of interpretation reflected in Hazlitt’s ‘It is we who are Hamlet’, Coleridge’s ‘I have a smack of Hamlet myself, if I may say so’, and Keats’s ‘axioms in philosophy are not axioms until they are proved on the pulses ... you will know exactly my meaning when I say, that now I shall relish Hamlet more than I ever have done’.
THE KING AND I
by Philippa Kelly
Continuum (Palgrave Macmillan), $42.95 pb, 128 pp, 978441111647
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R.S. White is Australian Professorial Fellow (ARC), Winthrop Professor of English at UWA, and a Programme Leader for the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. He has published extensively on Shakespeare and on the Romantics, his latest two books being Pacifism and English Literature: Minstrels of Peace (2001) and John Keats: A Literary Life (2010), both previously reviewed in ABR.
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