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Posts Tagged ‘literary criticism

Teach your children well…


“Good day, perverts!”

“A collection of the world’s finest academic writing”:  Thanks, Textbooks.


This tip if not that helpful


As we leave no child behind, we might recall that it was on this date in 1871 that Dante Gabriel Rossetti responded to the anonymous attack on his work, “The Fleshly School of Poetry,” by publishing “The Stealthy School of Criticism” in Athenaeum (and later, as pictured below, in pamphlet form)…

…Here is a full-grown man, presumably intelligent and cultivated, putting on record for other full-grown men to read, the most secret mysteries of sexual connection, and that with so sickening a desire to reproduce the sensual mood . . . that we merely shudder at the shameless nakedness. We are no purists in such matters . . . but it is neither poetic, nor manly, nor even human, to obtrude such things as themes of whole poems. It is simply nasty.

– from “The Fleshly School of Poetry,” by “Thomas Maitland” (later revealed to be Scottish poet Robert Buchanan)

[The accusation] is not against the poetic value of certain work, but against its primary and (by assumption) its admitted aim. And to this I must reply that so far, assuredly, not even Shakespeare himself could desire more arduous human tragedy for development in Art than belongs to the themes I venture to embody, however incalculably higher might be his power of dealing with them…

Who will then fail to discern all the palpitations which preceded his final resolve in the great question whether to be or not to be his acknowledged self when he became an assailant? And yet this is he who, from behind his mask, ventures to charge another with “bad blood,” with “insincerity,” and the rest of it (and that where poetic fancies are alone in question); while every word on his own tongue is covert rancour, and every stroke from his pen perversion of truth.

– from “The Stealthy School of Criticism”

Cat fight!





Written by LW

December 16, 2012 at 1:01 am

Special Edition: Out of the Frye-ing pan…

Today would be Northrop Frye‘s 100th birthday.  His first book,  Fearful Symmetry (1947), led the resurgence of interest in the poetry of William Blake; his  Anatomy of Criticism (1957)– the first postulation of a systematic theory of literary criticism– is considered a foundational work of Twentieth Century scholarship… and they’re simply representative of his 35 other books, half-dozen edited collections, and numerous chapters and articles.

Reading Frye, like reading Erich Auerbach, is to be reminded, as Richard Handler put it, “how amazingly unschooled and unread most of us are and continue to be. And how much we’ve forgotten of our own inheritance from Western culture, the Bible itself, the common code for a civilization, being the prime example.”  Indeed, that most stringent of judges, Harold Bloom, considered Frye “the foremost living student of Western literature.”  Frye died in 1991.

Written by LW

July 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Spinning a (World Wide) Web…


click here for larger, interactive version

In commemoration of Chrome’s birthday, Google enlisted Hyperakt and Vizzuality to create a celebratory chart of the evolution of the internet…  The interactive timeline has bunch of nifty features– your correspondent’s fave: clicking a browser icon allows users to see how the browser’s window has changed in each release…  a stroll down “memory lay-out,” if not memory lane– and a concrete reminder of the importance of design.

[TotH to the ever-remarkable Flowing Data]


As we resolve yet again to clean out our bookmark cache, we might wish an acerbic Happy Birthday to journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, and critic Henry Louis “H. L.” Mencken; he was born on this date in 1880.  Mencken is the auuthor of the philological work The American Language, and is remembered for his journalism (e.g., his coverage of the Scopes Trial) and for his cultural criticism (and editorship of American Mercury— published by Alfred Knopf, also born on this date, but 12 years after Mencken ) in which he championed such writers as D.H. Lawrence, Ford Madox Ford, and Sherwood Anderson.  But “H.L.” is probably most famous for the profusion of pointed one-liners and adages that leavened his work…

The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

I believe in only one thing and that thing is human liberty. If ever a man is to achieve anything like dignity, it can happen only if superior men are given absolute freedom to think what they want to think and say what they want to say. I am against any man and any organization which seeks to limit or deny that freedom. . . [and] the superior man can be sure of freedom only if it is given to all men.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

Truth would quickly cease to be stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it.

H.L. Mencken, photograph by Carl Van Vechten (source)



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