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Ian Donaldson

Ian Donaldson

Ian Donaldson is an Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. He is General Editor of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson (2012), and author of Ben Jonson: A Life (2011). He was the Oxford theatre reviewer for The Guardian (London) for a decade.

ABR/La Trobe University Annual Lecture, 2006 - Ian Donaldson

November 2006, no. 286 08 November 2022
Once neglected within the academy and relegated to the dustier recesses of public bookstores, biography has made a notable return over recent years, emerging, somewhat surprisingly, as a new cultural phenomenon, and a new academic adventure. In a move that’s perhaps indicative of this revival, the British bookseller Waterstones recently placed their biography section at the very front of their s ... (read more)

Ian Donaldson reviews 'Shakespeare the Thinker' by A.D. Nuttall

February 2008, no. 298 01 February 2008
Shakespeare the Thinker is the final and posthumously published book of the Oxford critic A.D. Nuttall, who died unexpectedly in January 2007. Pitched at a wider readership than most of his earlier writings, the book is the culmination of Nuttall’s lifetime thinking about Shakespeare, and the work by which his remarkable originality as a critic will no doubt be most widely recognised. ... (read more)

Ian Donaldson reviews 'Maurice Bowra: A life' by Leslie Mitchell

July-August 2009, no. 313 01 August 2009
Sir Maurice Bowra, renowned as the most lively and learned don in Britain, if not in all Europe, reigned supreme as Warden of Wadham College Oxford for more than three decades until his retirement in 1970. This long-expected biography, diligently researched for many years by the late Michael Davie, London-based author, journalist, and former editor of the Melbourne Age, has now been expertly compl ... (read more)

Ian Donaldson reviews 'On Late Style: Music and literature against the grain' by Edward W. Said

February 2007, no. 288 01 February 2007
During the last dozen years of his life, from the initial diagnosis of leukaemia in September 1991 until his death in September 2003, Edward Said continued to lead an astonishingly active life: travelling, lecturing, writing, conversing with seemingly undiminished energy, even as his physical powers sharply declined. When his New York physician gently suggested it might be wise to slow down, he re ... (read more)

Ian Donaldson reviews 'In Pursuit Of Civility: Manners and civilization in early modern England' by Keith Thomas

January-February 2019, no. 408 18 December 2018
‘Civilization’, a seemingly tranquil notion, has always somehow managed to start quarrels and divide the room. In the classical world, where the concept was largely shaped, it managed, more startlingly, to divide the human race itself. On the one hand, so the notion appeared to imply, were people whose speech you could more or less understand, whose customs and habits roughly resembled your ow ... (read more)

Ian Donaldson reviews 'Simon Leys: Navigator between worlds' by Philippe Paquet, translated by Julie Rose

April 2018, no. 400 22 March 2018
The Belgian-born scholar Pierre Ryckmans, more widely known to the world by his adopted name of Simon Leys, was widely hailed in the Australian press at his death in 2014 as ‘one of the most distinguished public intellectuals’ of his adopted country, where he had lived and taught for many years – first in Canberra, later in Sydney – and where, after a titanic battle with the Belgian bureau ... (read more)

Ian Donaldson reviews 'The Unknown Judith Wright' by Georgina Arnott

November 2016, no. 386 24 October 2016
Literary biographers and their intended subjects at times agree and at times disagree about the stories they think should be told. J.D. Salinger and Vladimir Nabokov – the one, fastidious about his privacy, the other, insistent on his version of history – famously took their biographers to court and emerged victorious. Such tussles are settled at times more quietly, through compromise, withhol ... (read more)

Ian Donaldson reviews 'Hegel's Owl: The life of Bernard Smith' by Sheridan Palmer

August 2016, no. 383 21 July 2016
Hoping to travel to Vienna in the summer of 1950 through a part of Austria then under Soviet control, Bernard Smith sought an interview in Prague with an officer of the Red Army. 'You are English?' asked the officer, glancing at his passport and visa. 'Australian,' said Smith. 'It is the same thing', replied the officer curtly. 'No,' came the measured response, 'not quite.' The officer was lucky p ... (read more)

Ian Donaldson reviews 'Hamlet' (Bell Shakespeare)

ABR Arts 22 July 2015
Hamlet belongs to the final years of Elizabeth’s reign, when the system of espionage the old queen had created through her spymaster-general, Francis Walsingham – the network of ‘watchers’, as Stephen Alford calls them in a recent brilliant study of this phenomenon – had become an acknowledged part of everyday life in England. In the theatre, these modern spooks competed with the more tr ... (read more)

Ian Donaldson reviews 'Lost Plays in Shakespeare's England' edited by David McInnis and Matthew Steggle

May 2015, no. 371 29 April 2015
‘The art of losing isn’t hard to master,’ Elizabeth Bishop once famously wrote; ‘So many things seem filled with the intent / to be lost that their loss is no disaster.’ Much modern technology seems designed specifically to counter this natural human propensity towards loss. We have key rings that respond obediently to their owner’s whistle, immediately disclosing their location. We ha ... (read more)
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