Literary Studies

Brian Matthews reviews 'The Critic in the Modern World'

Brian Matthews
24 September 2014

Aproaching Thomas Wyatt’s great but notoriously resistant poem ‘They flee from me that sometime did me seek / With naked foot stalking in my chamber’, poet and critic Vincent Buckley wrote, ‘The sense of purposive yet mysterious activity created in this opening stanza is also a matter of its sensuousness … The critical problem is to define this … sensuou ... More

Lisa Gorton on 'The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson'

Lisa Gorton
24 September 2014

Shakespeare’s great contemporary Ben Jonson dressed an actor in armour to open his play Poetaster. The Prologue explained:

If any muse why I salute the stage,
An armèd Prologue, know, ’tis a
dangerous age,
Wherein who writes had need present
his scenes
Forty-fold proof against the conjuring
means
More

Philip Mead reviews 'Antipodean America'

Philip Mead
23 July 2014

Paul Giles has done important work reimagining North American literary history as allied rather than isolationist – revisioning American literature not as the definition of landlocked nation or exceptional homeland but as the product of transatlantic and continental traverses of forms and voices. In three books, Transatlantic Insurrections (2001), Atl ... More

Australia and Modernity

Susan Lever
30 April 2014

Australia was colonised in the period of modernity, with the Industrial Revolution driving much of its development and a belief in improving technology and political progress underlying its public institutions. The society may have been modern but its culture, in particular its art and literature, has borne the recurrent charge of backwardness. The centres of innova ... More

The new biography of Jonathan Swift

Robert Phiddian
30 April 2014

Twelve years after Swift’s death, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu showed a visitor to her house in Venice a commode lined with books by Pope, Bolingbroke, and Swift. This, she explained, ‘gave her the satisfaction of shitting on them every day’. We still don’t know exactly what it was that caused her to fall out with Swift, Pope, and their friends in the 1720s, bu ... More

Iris Murdoch and Brian Medlin

Jane Sullivan
29 April 2014

If you’re a bookish type of a certain age, chances are you went through your Iris Murdoch period. You binged on novels such as The Black Prince (1973) and The Sea, The Sea (1978); you immersed yourself in her world of perplexed, agonised souls searching for meaning, falling disastrously in love with absurdly wrong people, consoling themselves with a ... More

James Ley: Searching for the Great American Novel

James Ley
29 April 2014

Well, it’s Moby-Dick, obviously. Except when it’s Huckleberry Finn or Absalom, Absalom! or Invisible Man or Gravity’s Rainbow. The Great Gatsby will often do, if one is pressed for time.

There is something a bit ridiculous about the idea that a single book could become the definitive expression of an ent ... More

David Malouf maps the emotional history of Australia

Kevin Rabalais
29 April 2014

Some obsessions, present from the start, infiltrate a writer’s pages to the degree that they become synonymous with his body of work. This reaches beyond preoccupation and setting to include matters of style and sensibility. Such a combination allows the reader to discern, often in the space of a single sentence, one writer’s DNA from another’s. We return to c ... More

The love song of Henry and Olga

Ann-Marie Priest
28 April 2014

On an early spring evening in 1919, in a nearly empty cinema in the English seaside town of Lyme Regis, a slight, dark-haired figure slipped into a seat at the farthest edge of a row. From here, she would have a clear view of the profile of the youthful pianist who, sheltered behind a screen, accompanied the silent film. In white tie and tails, with her fair hair sl ... More

Claire Thomas reviews 'The Road to Middlemarch'

Claire Thomas
31 March 2014

In chapter fifteen of Middlemarch (1871–72), George Eliot writes about the germination of literary passion: ‘Most of us who turn to any subject we love remember some morning or evening hour when we got on a high stool to reach down an untried volume … as the first traceable beginning of our love.’ Rebecca Mead’s book on her own engagement with Mi ... More

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