Literary Studies

'The tyranny of the literal' by James Ley

James Ley
Monday, 23 September 2019

For there is always going on within us a process of formulation and interpretation whose subject matter is our own selves.

These words appear towards the end of Erich Auerbach’s study of representation in Western literature, Mimesis. First published in 1946, the book has become a classic of twentieth-century literary criticism, but is almost as famous for the circumstances under which it was composed as for its content. It was written between 1942 and 1945 in Istanbul, where Auerbach, a German Jew, was living in exile.

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J.M. Coetzee and the Ethics Of Reading is both a deeply scholarly response to the work of a brilliant and challenging writer, and an act of advocacy for a particular mode of reading, which Derek Attridge characterises variously as ethical, literary, ‘attentive’ and scrupulously responsive to the text. This mode draws on practices of ‘close reading’, while proposing the ethics of ...

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Beyond the Ancient Quarrel: Literature, philosophy and J.M. Coetzee is a new collection of essays on J.M. Coetzee, perhaps the most important author of imaginative literature in the world today. Unifying the diverse strands of argument animating this thoughtful volume, the book’s editors, noted Coetzee scholars ...

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On the dust jacket of Elements of Surprise is the well-known picture by John Tenniel, illustrator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), depicting Alice gazing up at the grinning Cheshire Cat perched on a branch of a tree. I felt very much like Alice while reading Vera Tobin’s book, as if I had fallen into a world in which the rules, concepts, and vocabulary were completely alien to my own ...

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Harold Evans, the celebrated former editor of London’s The Sunday Times and ex-president of Random House USA, is angry. He fulminates against lazy journalism, against the impenetrability of government announcements, and against the pseudo-legal language of terms and conditions we ...

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‘The Drover’s Wife’ was one of the first stories I read when I arrived in Australia. I was living in the bush then, in hard beautiful country, and though my difficulties were First World Problems I shared the Wife’s nostalgia for nights in comfortable hotels, reliable transport, medical services. I did admire the story, though its ...

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The Western world was well into the swing of our proverbial digital age when Patrick White passed away at his home on Martin Road in Centennial Park at the age of seventy-eight in 1990. Yet, as Christos Tsiolkas suggests at the outset of this taut and lively meditation on Australia’s greatest novelist, Patrick White is often ...

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In 1787, at a time when literary culture was shifting from private patronage and coterie circulation into a new professionalism, the London publisher, bookseller, and journal editor Joseph Johnson offered the position of staff writer to Mary Wollstonecraft, who had already published Thoughts on the Education of ...

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In this collection of more than thirty pieces of fiction, journalism, criticism, academic papers, and ephemera (acceptance speeches, parliamentary questions, university course outlines), Frank Moorhouse gives evidence of, and attempts to explain, the durability of Henry Lawson’s classic short story ‘The Drover’s Wife’ in ...

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Plenty of novelists begin life as poets. Few, though, have managed to maintain their status as poet–novelists quite so impressively as David Malouf. But even Malouf, in his ‘middle period’, more or less dropped poetry for his ‘big’ novels ...

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