Literary Studies

Iris Murdoch and Brian Medlin

Jane Sullivan
Tuesday, 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 ...

James Ley: Searching for the Great American Novel

James Ley
Tuesday, 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 ...

David Malouf maps the emotional history of Australia

Kevin Rabalais
Tuesday, 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 ...

The love song of Henry and Olga

Ann-Marie Priest
Monday, 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 ...

Claire Thomas reviews 'The Road to Middlemarch'

Claire Thomas
Monday, 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 ...

William Heyward visits 'The Garden of Eros'

William Heyward
Friday, 28 February 2014

Great publishers seem to be scarcer than great writers, possibly because people grow up dreaming of being the next Hunter S. Thompson or Simone de Beauvoir rather than Sonny Mehta or Beatriz de Moura. Writers probably need publishers, but publishers definitely need writers. Such a fact has never seemed more tangible to me than as I read The Garden of Eros, Jo ...

Andy Lloyd James reviews 'Unsuitable for Publication'

Andy Lloyd James
Friday, 28 February 2014

When Queen Victoria died she had ruled the British Empire for sixty-three years. In the same year as her ascent to the throne, the capital of the colony of Victoria was christened Melbourne, after her first prime minister. She died in 1901, soon after Federation. After her death, her real character remained largely unknown for decades (Lytton Strachey’s seminal bi ...

Gillian Dooley reviews 'In So Many Words'

Gillian Dooley
Sunday, 19 January 2014

I have often thought that a large part of achievement is just fronting up; having an idea and acting on it, however unlikely success might seem. What you need is a resolution (or the disposition) not to be discouraged by failure and to be pleasantly surprised by success. If it doesn’t work, you try something else. You make the most of any opportunity. You sh ...

Alexander Howard reviews 'English as a Vocation'

Alexander Howard
Thursday, 28 November 2013

Christopher Hilliard’s meticulously researched and richly detailed English as a Vocation: The Scrutiny Movement opens with a historical anecdote regarding an after-hours, postwar negotiation ‘between literary analysis and popular culture’ undertaken in that most evocative of English holiday destinations: Scarborough. In these opening lines, ...

Ian Donaldson reviews 'Shakespeare Beyond Doubt'

Ian Donaldson
Thursday, 28 November 2013

It was not until the middle years of the nineteenth century, so far as we can tell, that anyone seriously doubted that the man from Stratford-upon-Avon called William Shakespeare had written the plays that for the past two and a half centuries had passed without question under his name. In the early 1850s, however, a private scholar from Connecticut named Deli ...