Every time I reread this, I become more dissatisfied with Bloom's central thesis about the poet's necessary "misprision" in order to clear the way forEvery time I reread this, I become more dissatisfied with Bloom's central thesis about the poet's necessary "misprision" in order to clear the way for creative expression. "Misreading," to me assumes a correct reading, and I had it up to here with professorially mandated "correct" readings decades ago in college. Age and experience has convinced me that every reader's engagement with a text is "correct" for that reader, the question is the ability to convey our ideas of the text.
I also believe that all literature is a constant conversation, so in that sense there shouldn't be an anxiety of influence at all.
That aside, the prologue to the new edition, basically a love letter to Shakespeare, is sheer pleasure to read....more
Right at the top of the foreword. ”Desire” has become an indispensable term for late-twentieth-century critics investigating psychologWhat a fun book!
Right at the top of the foreword. ”Desire” has become an indispensable term for late-twentieth-century critics investigating psychological intricacies of narrative. The word suggests the emotional force implicit in the acts of reading and writing fiction; it provides a means of linking the energies of characters within a text to those involved in creating and in responding to that text; it calls attention to latent as well as overt erotic elements in fiction.
I see about four really good panel discussion topics right there.
A bit later:
Samuel Johnson, for instance, appears to consider desire and fiction inextricably linked; he constructs a fable to illustrate the point. Rambler 96 [16 Feb 1751] opens with a discussion of truth: “ Truth is . . . not often welcome for its own sake; it is generally unpleasing because contrary to our wishes and opposite to our practice . . .”
She goes on to say that Johnson was ambivalent about fiction, but even so he calls attention to the importance of truth--not realism: truth as an issue in fiction.
Johnson scorns realism—said fiction by its nature made realism impossible. He perceived a strong distinction between truth and verisimilitude.
She then shifts out of idle and hits the freeway: I begin with a working hypothesis: fiction creates and conveys its truth through plot. The dynamic narrative organization of events we call plot engages our desire . . . and controls our comprehension. Modern theorists have explained in various ways the nature of plot. They have paid less attention to its functions—not only its meanings as a component of “art,” but its ways of reflecting “life.”
Desire—male and female versions and values—plot as a reflection of experience—how sub-categories of 18th C fiction are self-defeating, all of these subjects get a thorough tour in this book.
Spacks does give just a drive-by to the notion that one of the reasons one cannot really sub-categorize those early novels (saying so-and-so belongs to the epistolary school, and this author belongs to the incoherent plot category, etc) is that so many of them are dialogues, in effect, with one another. Engagement with previous novels has concerned scholars and readers ever since Spenser threw lobbed the fictional ball back at Ariosto. I first began thinking about this when I encountered Harold Bloom’s odd, almost Chicken Littleish The Anxiety of Influence.
But Spacks is focusing . . . “specifically to indicate ways of reading 18th century works with the perspective of twentieth-century assumptions, in search of the truth they tell us.”
Along the way we get delights like the quote from Godwin that makes it clear he was the first “deconstructionist” (It seems that the impression we derive from a book, depends much less upon its real contents, than upon the temper of mind and preparation with which we read it), we see how important Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote (certainly influenced Jane Austen)--we see that, particularly at the far end of the century, women novelists especially may seem to be paying lip-service to bourgeois values but are actually engaging in some fairly subversive though experiments on relations between men and women, between family members, and between those making up the social fabric.
Spacks includes female as well as the usual male suspects (Fielding, Richardson, Scott) in examining how plot is used for cultural criticism and to experiment with notions of cultural change. ...more
This book had me cracking up so hard I nearly fell off my chair a couple of times. I did wish it delved more deeply into just what is so satisfying abThis book had me cracking up so hard I nearly fell off my chair a couple of times. I did wish it delved more deeply into just what is so satisfying about romance reading for such an enormous variety of women across generations and socio-economic strata, but they are generous with mentions of more scholarly books, and in short, it's a delightful, in-your-face dare to diss romance just because women write it and read it....more
When I was young I imagined writing just such a book, but had no idea where to start--once I got to Europe, the archives at the university library andWhen I was young I imagined writing just such a book, but had no idea where to start--once I got to Europe, the archives at the university library and (I got one visit) the palace were so enormous, and there I was a dirt-poor student. (One without a head for the logic and rigor demanded of such a task.)
So I was thrilled to discover that someone had embarked on what I had wanted to do: tease out hints of social and cultural history from the Grimm Brothers' collections. Bottigheimer does what I think a superlative job--she quotes the relevant lines, she tracks down alternate version.
Her point that Germany suffered a type of group humiliation after Napoleon's depredations seems convincing; not just fairy tales but German poetry, plays, etc, reflected a hankering for their medieval past, and a taste for fantasy and other worlds all during the nineteenth century . . . all the while anti-Semitism was on the rise. She traces that, too, in these stories, showing how fertile a ground was prepared for Hitler's poison seed.
It's fascinating on so many levels. I first read it in the late seventies, as part of my "alien minds" project--to try to see through the eyes of mindIt's fascinating on so many levels. I first read it in the late seventies, as part of my "alien minds" project--to try to see through the eyes of minds utterly unlike mine, but with one sharing point (after I made an attempt with the Marquis de Sade, and was just repulsed, but I do not like horror). In this case, the touch point--I thought--was fantasy.
The full title includes the phrase "Imaginative Literature" but Wilson's six writers are not who I would have chosen to represent fantasy. I was actually glad--I wanted to learn what it was he saw worthwhile in Stein, for instance. I loved reports of what she said in the salons of Paris, but her writing was (and still is, to my eye) turgid and impenetrable.
I never bought the Symbolist movement--it seemed more self-consciously "Here I am so great" and pompously "art for the sake of art" than all the elite the expats scorned. Yet they were trying experiments, which I wanted to understand, even if I couldn't appreciate the effect.
Yeats I did come to value in later years; what Wilson gave me was a key to understanding, and appreciating, James Joyce....more
Written in an accessible, entertaining style, this book delves into myth in a variety of forms--showing how motifs and themes are used primarily in viWritten in an accessible, entertaining style, this book delves into myth in a variety of forms--showing how motifs and themes are used primarily in visual media. Any writer who has discovered a lack in education in mythology and who wants a quick, fun guide pointing in the right direction for further research should have this book at hand....more
I think this the best snapshot of the various damaged birds who performed so bitingly around that table. Immensely readable, gives some perspective onI think this the best snapshot of the various damaged birds who performed so bitingly around that table. Immensely readable, gives some perspective on Woollcott, whose stranglehold on the literary scene of the time is difficult to imagine now. ...more