Monday, January 18, 2016

Times Literary Supplement, May 30, 2003

My New Year's resolution is to read, summarize and discard a 2-foot high pile of literary reviews I have had sitting around for well over a decade.

Here is what I learned this time:

Lorna Hutson reviews a book by Alastair Fowler, a distinguished Renaissance art historian, who argues that single-point perspective was not the Copernican revolution that is presented in introductory art history classes, so much as one of several ways of seeing which gradually became predominant. Fowler then goes to apply this observation to the analysis of contemporary literature arguing, for example, that there are sequences in Shakespeare's plays that are not intended to represent strict temporal succession - Hutson seems not quite ready to reach the same conclusion about literature.

"Potent Brews: A Social History of Alcohol in East Africa 1850-1999" by Justin Willis describes, among other things, how beer became firmly established as the signifier of success and wealth in preference to indigenous home brews (there's more to it than that)

A poet of whom I have never heard, Tom Raworth, is prolific enough to have a 600 page compendium published.

A feminist literary critic named Terry Castle issues a collection of essays called "Boss Ladies, Watch Out!" in which she vents her frustration with what she considers the dreariness of feminist literary criticism as it developed in the 1980s.  In regretting that the proliferation of academic study of 18th and 19th century women writers has inflated some reputations, she mentions a number of books that I have never heard of and may or may not ever read: Sarah Fielding's "David Simple", "The Female Quixote" by Charlotte Lennox, Eliza Fenwick's "Secresy" ("excruciating") and Sarah Scott's "Millennium Hall" (called proto-feminist, even as it describes "the supposed consolations of living in a grim all-female community where one does nothing but sew all day and read aloud from Scripture with one's pious fellow virgins." Castle also regrets the amount of time she spent on the Gothic genre but this reminds me that I have not read "The Mysteries of Udolpho" and "Melmoth the Wanderer" and still might like to. The reviewer, John Mullan, says overall the collection is excellent and one should not be put off by the title, or the jacket blurb from Susan Sontag which employs the adjective "sassy."

Malcolm Muggeridge and George Orwell had some (previously) unpublished correspondence from the last year or two of Orwell's life.

This being 2003, high-brow journals were obliged to devote some space to The Matrix and Harry Potter - in the case of the former, attempting to make sense of the second of the trilogy before the third had come out was inevitably an uphill battle.

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