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‘The Chair’, Episode 5: Sandra Oh’s Character Defends Professional Literary Criticism

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You are reading a recap of episode 5 of the Netflix series The chair with writers Alison Kinney, Grace Lavery, Dan Sinykin and Rebecca Wanzo. Find our other episode recaps here.

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Rebecca: David Duchovny is so Game in this episode. It reminds me of that hilarious turn of Keanu Reeves playing a narcissistic version of himself in Always be my maybe. Kudos to them for keeping his cameo a secret and for the delightful send off from celebrity hunting institutions.

Dan: The Duchovny songs are fantastic. He’s great to play with a cocky asshole – and I love how his CV is true to life: Princeton, Yale, “The Schizophrenic Critique of Pure Reason in Beckett’s Early Novels”. I would have liked his thesis to be available for reading, but apparently you have to be on the Princeton campus to access it. His meeting with Ji-Yoon offers him a chance, which only we, the audience, can see, to take a stand for the discipline. She tells him that his thesis is an artefact of the past and that he missed three decades of development, that professional literary criticism is not a scene for dilettantes, that we have fields of knowledge built collectively by scholarship. who ask to be taken. seriously – an admission I’m not sure has ever been portrayed in popular culture so seriously.

Grace: The difference between today and 30 years ago, according to Ji-Yoon, is: “Effects theory, ecocriticism, digital humanities, new materialism, book history, developments in gender studies and critical theory of race”. I was not sure what to think of this as an account of the last decades, and especially not sure why “developments in gender studies and critical race theory” are timed differently from the rest of the world. listing. Ji-Yoon wants us the public to know that neither gender studies nor critical race theory has been invented over the past 30 years, but grouping them together in a different syntactic structure, and therefore in a different style of periodicity, I’m a little concerned that there is a feeling that the current white panic around, say, critical studies on race-informed approaches to high school curricula, remains unchallenged. A casual viewer of this show might think universities are threatened today by crowds of awakened youth, rather than crowds of white supremacists like those who gathered on campuses in Charlottesville, Seattle, Berkeley and elsewhere in 2017. The framing of the university’s broadcast as a political entity greatly exaggerates the risks of a so-called “culture of cancellation” and considerably underestimates the risks of fascist agitation. I have no idea the answer, gah.

And guess what? You can get a PDF of “The Schizophrenic Critique of Pure Reason in Beckett’s Early Novels”. (Thanks to my spy at Princeton for passing it on to me.) As much as I’d like to tear it to shreds, I have to say I think it’s… really pretty brilliant, for an undergrad? I would certainly listen to the author of “The Schizophrenic Critique” talk about Beckett for a semester, if only to explore the tantalizing proposition that “there is nothing Beckett doesn’t believe in.”

Dan: Bill, meanwhile, is somehow making his way into the affection of the Korean community, despite his dramatic misstep at Min-ji’s birthday party, where he is. drunk and drugged on weed and hydrocodone. He survives thanks to the benevolent supervision of Ju Ju. It’s billed as the titular “Last Bus in Town” episode for Ji-Yoon, but what a janky bus.

Alison: OK! I love the way the Min-ji party demonstrates the dynamic that ran through the whole show: Ju Ju is a little kid, but she has to deal with Bill, watch over him, lead him. (“Bill, it’s not cake time yet!”) It’s the job of every woman of color, to every white man, on this show.

Rebecca: This scene between Yaz and Elliot was painfully realistic. How many times have we heard someone say that a review won’t be taken seriously without negative feedback? Constructive criticism and peer review are essential to our profession. But if someone is exemplary, it’s ridiculous that you can’t say it. Yaz had every right to be enraged with him. But the conversation between Yaz and Ji-Yoon is made even more painful and realistic when it describes two friends and colleagues who feel betrayed by each other.

We got four academics together to discuss the show’s portrayal of academia, and they didn’t hold back. Read the recaps:

It comes back to the issue of the glass cliff. It’s not clear to me that anyone ever tried to interfere with anything Elliot did until Ji-Yoon, although the department has needed an intervention for a long time. Ji-Yoon barely has work for five seconds, and the dean is pressuring her about enrollments and retirements, she has the first black woman vying for promotion and also has to deal with the effects of long. date of sex discrimination. It’s just the everyday, without Bill’s crisis. Elliot was probably president for a long time and untouchable. It’s the all-too-familiar story of a department where there has been a cabal of people who have run it for a long time, and how women and people of color are disrupting the status quo – but only to an extent.

Alison: I was struck by the way these tensions manifest themselves in the classroom. Yaz tells Elliot he’s not a teacher because “you don’t have any students.” This is touched on so nicely in the last episode, but I’ve felt, watching the show so far, that those of us who teach have been challenged to ask what our standards are for good teaching, what are our commitments and if we’re working hard enough to renew and review them. I loved following the debates here on pedagogy and classroom engagement. Is it a good show – or a good roundtable – if it makes me wonder: what if I was an Elliot? What if I’m a Bill? What if I’m a Yaz? I can’t be the only person looking at this and wondering how I should improve my methods and my commitments.

Grace: I appreciate this framing of the educational styles of the show as non-hierarchical options. I’m afraid I’m an Elliot! Or, worse, a Duchovny …

This episode tries to offer an answer to the question I asked myself: what are we doing? The conversation with David Duchovny is also an important issue, because The chair must distinguish between selling in Hollywood, “content” and clickbait on the one hand, and rejuvenating the profession with a popular engagement pedagogy based on Twitter on the other. The move, which is more than a little underhanded, has been to align David Duchovny’s insipid ego-pedagogy with the elderly, personified in Harold Bloom, with whom Duchovny has been associated in previous episodes. I’m skeptical of this argumentative approach – I don’t think those looking to parachute vulgar into positions of academic influence have much in common with classic “dinosaurs,” to use Elliot’s word. But as a plot, it’s quite satisfying. This allows us to believe that the bad guys are all the same, even though (as we learn about the rifts between Ji-Yoon and Yaz here) the good guys have been split up.

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Obituary of Denis Donoghue | Literary criticism

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Denis Donoghue, formidable defender of traditional literary values, has died at the age of 92. From 1979, as the Henry James Chair of English and American Letters at New York University, he largely divided his time between Dublin and New York. He remained devoted to his Irish identity, but became a notable fighter in the American Cultural Wars of the Ronald Reagan years.

His occasional essays were collected in We Irish (1986) and Reading America (1987), but he was not particularly interested in Irish (or Americanity). Donoghue had no time for the idea that there were such metaphysical essences that the reviewer was forced to measure, rewarding passing marks for some, but not all. This kind of teacher’s report was a far cry from his scholarly and subtle analyzes of how writers cope with conditions that help or slow down the task of writing.

He viewed with contempt the labels too readily attached to cultural products. Cultural bureaucracies may have found it a useful dimension of their marketing strategies, but he argued that it made consuming art too easy. In any case, Donoghue does not want the public to become a “consumer” of modern art, nor that they be reassured or comforted by the cutting-edge literature that they read. Pop art, minimal art, confessional poetry, action paintings: each label seemed designed to replace bewilderment and hostility in the face of novelty with tolerant indifference – which was the least desired outcome of its pedagogy.

In his 1982 Reith lectures for BBC radio, The Arts Without Mystery, Donoghue set out to restore the element of mystery to the products of the imagination. He was not the friend of a self-confident self, categorically rejecting the idea that there should be some kind of peace between artist and society. In Adam’s Curse (2001), he explained his desire to return thunder to God, thus alluding to a book by John Crowe Ransom, God Without Thunder: An Unorthodox Defense of Orthodoxy (1930), which Donoghue hailed as “a book remarkable that must be recovered ”.

He had nothing but contempt for the practitioners of the radicalism which then raged in the humanities of American higher education. In this regard, Donoghue shared the often expressed hostility towards the campus radicals of George Steiner and Harold Bloom, if not quite their violent language. “If I listen to a Bartók quartet or read Nostromo,” Donoghue wrote in The Practice of Reading in 1998, “I should not take the opportunity to plan my next move in the class struggle or the war of all against all. “He rejects the francization of American intellectual life:” I hate the current ideology which jubilantly refers to the death of the author, to self-obsolescence, to the end of man, etc. “( Ferocious Alphabets, 1981) Donoghue considered this doctrine to be disgraceful and led to the death of critical intelligence.

Born in the Irish market town of Tullow, County Carlow, with its once-daily bus service to Dublin, Denis was the son of another Denis and his wife, Johanna (née O’Neill). He grew up in Warrenpoint, County Down, Northern Ireland, where his father was stationed as a sergeant in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. As a Catholic, he had no prospect of promotion. In a memoir, Warrenpoint (1990), and lectures he gave at Notre Dame University in 2001, Denis Jr. described their relationship: which never presumed intimacy.

Trained at Christian Brothers School in Newry, he continued to study Latin and English at University College Dublin, while enrolling at the Royal Irish Academy to study harmony and counterpoint. After obtaining his diploma, he obtained a post in the public service (1951-1954), which he left with pleasure. He moved from senior lecturer at UCD to professor of modern English and American literature in 1965, having spent the previous year as senior lecturer at Cambridge University.

Denis Donoghue receiving the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Prize for Humanist Studies in 2013, with his daughter Emma

At 6ft 7in, with tremendous energy and a useful literary style, Donogue was a charismatic tutor. The students noticed that he was teaching his lessons without grades and appreciated his spontaneity.

Donoghue could start with a text – say, two lines from Yeats ‘poem of September 1913 – and he spoke eloquently, drawing the audience of graduate students with him as he recounted the memory invoked by Yeats’ chorus: “L ‘Romantic Ireland is dead and gone / It’s with O’Leary in the grave’. The dream of romantic Ireland, this lost world of fullness and coherence, was quintessentially Yeatan. Donoghue’s essay on Romantic Ireland is collected in We Irish.

What the golden past meant to Yeats and his generation of writers reverberates in Donoghue’s work. He linked Yeats’ scathing refrain to Ireland as it was in 1972: “For a small country Ireland has had a lot of experience, a lot of chances if less choice. The best writers in Ireland are those who remember the most: I mean those who feel an immediate experience not only in itself but in relation to a long perspective, mythological and historical, pagan and Christian.

Donoghue’s students at New York University, and the much wider audience he has reached through the many articles he has published in the New York Times and the New York Review of Books, probably had no not intending to view “romantic Ireland” with scientific interest, or to be animated. by sophisticated proofreading by dead masters such as Swift, Yeats and Joyce. There were academic battles, new critical doctrines in the air, generational struggles greatly agitating the traditionalists, of which Donoghue was a part. But in the pages of New York’s major cultural outlets, Donoghue seized the opportunity to say something to American readers.

By the 1970s, the rigors of the new criticism and the reputation of its main representatives had begun to decline. In the New York Times in March 1987, Donoghue wrote: “When I was a student it was a doctrine article that I was to read poems and novels as if they were all written by Anon. I should not be diverted to biographical or historical questions. Donoghue’s extensive critical essays on Kenneth Burke, Yvor Winters (both 1968), John Crowe Ransom and Allen Tate (1969) and RP Blackmur (1981) were followed by a series of forceful and hostile plays on Geoffrey Hartman (1980), Paul de Man (1980, 1989) and Terry Eagleton (1983), who, despite the courteous politeness of Donoghue, set aside the main interpreters of the radical trend of the new turn in literary studies.

Donoghue considered himself a “latitudinarian,” but he knew which side he was on, and so did his readers. He made a strong case for rediscovering Burke, Ransom, Blackmur and Tate – and the neglected tradition of American criticism.

As a prolific author, Donoghue has divided his time between books collected from essay chapters on verse drama with a strong emphasis on plays by TS Eliot, and an assortment of other practitioners – The Third Voice. : Modern British and American Verse Drama. (1959); a study of 10 American poets in Connoisseurs of Chaos: Ideas of Order in Modern American Poetry (1966); and The Ordinary Universe: Soundings in Modern Literature (1968).

Decades later, more attention has been devoted to sustained investigations of individual authors, with Walter Pater: Lover of Strange Souls (1995) and Words Alone: ​​The Poet TS Eliot (2000). The status of Pater belongs to another level of cultural presence: little read these days, and for good reason, as Donoghue demonstrates with clinical precision. But the concerns he pursued in his book on Pater were not marginal. He describes his study of Pater as “an elegy irritated for the contemporary death of aestheticism”.

Pater’s life, almost a blank canvas, presented a tall order for a biographer, but by examining carefully the successive editions between 1873 and 1877 of Pater’s Studies on Renaissance History, Donoghue demonstrated the importance of the Pater’s belief that art should be concerned with its own affairs, without asserting moral intentions to its readers. All of this seemed like a desirable remedy at a time when “a work of art is only the illustration of a certain ideological formation”. Concluding his book on Pater, Donoghue cited Eliot as a champion of aesthetics: “Eliot was right: if you read literature, it is in literature that you should read it and not like something else. Another thing: politics, religion, democracy, any ideology we care to name.

Eliot, on the other hand, is probably the most analyzed poet in the English pantheon. Donoghue’s book contains 13 chapters tracing Eliot’s emerging style, language, beliefs, and evolving meanings. “To read Eliot is to wonder about the uncertainty of words, and their certain force of presence in relation to other values: silence, form, motif, speech…” He had been reading and commenting on Eliot for nearly ‘half a century, yet there were still things to be said, mysteries to be unraveled.

Baptized into the Church of England in 1927, Eliot spent the following decades giving lectures, radio broadcasts, and essays in search of a Christian society. Eliot found the means to defend “a fierce exclusivity”. In Donoghue, an interpreter and defender of the idea of ​​a Christian society enters the fray. Having traced Pater’s determination to exclude writing that made moral claims on its readers, the criticism he found in Eliot was “religious dogmatic and Christian.” Donoghue had reached an understanding of the enduring nature of Eliot’s achievement.

In 1951, he married Frances Rutledge, with whom he had eight children, David, Helen, Hugh, Celia, Mark, Barbara, Stella and Emma, ​​the novelist. Frances died in 2018 and he married Melissa Malouf, who had been his partner for over two decades. She and her children survive him.

Denis Martin Donoghue, literary critic, born December 1, 1928; passed away on April 6, 2021

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Annette Gordon-Reed’s Surprising Memories of Texas

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She didn’t understand then, but as she got older she realized how the breaking of the color line could be seen as a threat on both sides. Her parents’ decision to send her to a white school was interpreted by some black families as a vote of no confidence in the black school. And the integration project, as a whole, has undermined the solidarity, although imposed from the outside, felt within the black community. Integration involved both teachers and students; Gordon-Reed’s mother was assigned to the previously White Conroe High School. The experience there was not the same. “My mother confessed later in life that although she enjoyed all of her students, she had become a teacher ‘to teach black students.’ “I can’t talk to them like I used to anymore,” she said. What she meant was that it was harder to speak to black students in class and speak openly about their shared mission of advancing the black community. “

The seventh grade history class was very traditional when Gordon-Reed took it. “I cannot say for sure that slavery was never mentioned,” she wrote. But he received nothing like the attention he deserved. “Of course, I didn’t need school to tell me black people had been enslaved in Texas.” Juneteenth informed him of this every summer, and his parents and grandparents referred to slavery. Black children too. “A common line when another child – often a sibling – insisted that you do something for them that you didn’t want to do was, ‘The time of slavery is over. “

A staple of Texas history classes was the story of Cynthia ann parker, a white girl stolen by the Comanches on the Texas border and adopted into the tribe. She had a son, Quanah, who became the last great warlord of the Comanches. Gordon-Reed initially accepted the story as just being told, but the more she thought about it, as a black woman and a woman, the more complicated it became. “It seemed to me that so many bad things were wrapped up in this one story,” she wrote. She learned that the land the Comanches were defending against the Whites was land they had taken from other Indians. She discovered that the Indians held slaves, some for this reason siding with the Confederacy during the Civil War. As for the kidnapping itself: “No matter how much sympathy we have for a besieged people struggling for their very existence, there is no way to minimize the problem of kidnapping girls into wives. “

Gordon-Reed never lost his affection for Texas, even after he left. “When I was asked, as I have been so many times, to explain what I love about Texas, given everything I know about what happened there – and there always happening – the best answer I can give is this is where my first family and connections were, “she writes.” Love does not require taking an uncritical stance towards the objects of one’s affections. In truth, it often requires the opposite.We cannot truly serve the hopes we have for places – and people, including us – without a lucid assessment of their (and our) strengths and weaknesses.

The Juneteenth ritual in the Gordon House has evolved over time. His grandmother added tamales to the menu. Young Gordon-Reed joined the women in the long preparation. “Those hours seemed endless to me when I was a child, but they were actually fleeting,” she says. “This ritual was appropriate, and so Texan. People of African descent and, to be honest, of European descent, celebrating the end of slavery in Texas with dishes learned in slavery and a favorite dish of ancient Mesoamerican Indians who linked Texas to its Mexican past; so much Texas history brought together for this special day.

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Nurullah Ataç: Dean of Subjectivist Literary Criticism

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Nurullah Ataç is one of the few writers of Turkish literature who has not produced many works in his work except for reviews and essays.

Ataç, whose full name was Mehmet Ali Nurullah Ataç according to official documents, was born on August 21, 1898, in Beylerbeyi, an old quarter of Istanbul on the eastern side of the Bosphorus, to Mehmet Ata Bey, an Ottoman bureaucrat who translated the “Geschicte des Osmanischen Reiches” (“History of the Ottoman Empire”) by Joseph von Hammer and Münire Hanım. He was the seventh child of his parents. His ancestral origins are from the Black Sea region on his father’s side, while he was a member of the Kısakürek family from southern Kahramanmaraş on his mother’s side, making him distant cousins ​​of Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, a great poet of the time of Atac.

Ataç’s father, Mehmet Ata, known to the public reader of the time as the “hammer translator”, worked as a civil servant and bureaucrat in all parts of the Ottoman Empire for precisely half a century of 1869 until his death in 1919. His tomb is at the tomb of Sultan Mahmud II, who embraced many royal and intellectual bodies over the past three centuries in the Fatih district of Istanbul.

A lithograph by Austrian painter Adolf Dauthage depicts Joseph von Hammer, 1852.

Mehmet Ata Bey was also a teacher and a writer. He taught literature and ethics at Mekteb-i Sultani (Imperial Galatasaray High School), or the Ottoman Imperial High School in Galata-Serai in French, and several other high schools in Istanbul. He has written articles for various newspapers and magazines including Sabah, Diyojen, Servet-i Fünun, among others. Ata Bey has translated and written several volumes with fiction and non-fiction titles.

Mehmet Ata was an idealistic and hardworking person with a nervous disposition, which probably earned him the nickname “Mad Ata Bey”. On the other hand, he attached great importance to his son’s education and made him love literary works. Ataç adored Tevfik Fikret, the great poet of Servet-i Fünun, who was a friend of his father.

Ataç lost his mother Münire Hanım in 1909 and his father in 1919. He remembers his mother as an extremely conservative woman with superstitious beliefs. Münire Hanım never allowed her son to play certain games or fly kites because she believed they were a sin. Ataç wrote: “I didn’t have a childhood at all.

Ataç’s school life did not last long. He received an education in an idadi (the equivalent of high school) before enrolling in Mekteb-i Sultani, which he left four years later without graduating. He is learning French and reading dramas by Namık Kemal and poems by Tevfik Fikret, his favorite poet.

Western dating

Ataç moved to Geneva, Switzerland to attend a private college, which he left without graduating again. From his own memories, he didn’t like living abroad and missed his family too much. Yet he excelled in French and found the opportunity to read many literary texts in their original form in Geneva.

Ataç met Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu, a great fiction writer of the time, in Geneva when he was only 18 years old. He enjoyed engaging in literary conversations with the eminent author.

Tevfik Fikret was Nurullah Ataç's favorite poet.

Tevfik Fikret was Nurullah Ataç’s favorite poet.

Ataç lost his father and two of his siblings during his stay in Geneva. The family struggled to bear the cost of studying abroad after the death of his father. He was reluctant to return to Istanbul even though he didn’t like being abroad either. Another cause for this reluctance was that he fell in love with a Swiss girl named Claire. He even proposed to her but was rejected. He tried to find a job in Geneva but was unable to do so. Finally, Ataç returned to Istanbul after his older brothers wrote to him that they could no longer afford the cost of his living there.

In Istanbul, Ataç forgot about Claire and fell in love with Meliha Hanim, a distant cousin. However, Meliha Hanım was in love with another cousin and married him but died a few years later. Ataç attempted suicide because of his unrequited love for Meliha. Ataç would later marry Leman Hanım, another distant relative, in 1926. Leman Hanım offered immense support to Ataç for years. She was patient and even lived with their only child in Istanbul when Ataç was working in Ankara.

Ataç enrolled in the literature department in Darülfünun (now Istanbul University), from which he also did not graduate. Yet he became part of the literary circle of the poet and author Yahya Kemal Beyatlı comprising the poet, novelist, literary scholar and essayist Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, with whom Ataç clashed over old and new literature and also wrote about it years later. Tanpınar was a follower of Ottoman poetry while Atac denied any connection with tradition. He defended the idea that modern Turkish literature should be organized according to the Western model without any reference to the long Turkish tradition. For this reason, he supported the Garip literary movement of Orhan Veli and his friends, who fought against Yahya Kemal and the classic literary and ethical values ​​he represented.

A subjective critic

Ataç has worked as a French teacher at several educational levels. He has also translated books for the Ministry of Education. In addition, he worked as editor-in-chief for some official periodicals, including the legendary newspaper “Türk Dili” of the Turkish Language Association (TDK), which was the corporate representative of the Kemalist cultural revolution.

Nurullah Ataç became a literary critic after trying to write poetry and drama.  (File photo)

Nurullah Ataç became a literary critic after trying to write poetry and drama. (File photo)

Ataç began to write poetry and theater. But he only became a literary critic after realizing that he was not particularly gifted in either genre. Yet he refused the idea that he was writing literary criticism. He wrote: “Yakup Kadri should not appoint me literary critic. Because I am not. In fact, I wrote a few reviews, not more than the amount I guess each author should have written. What I write, in my opinion, are essays, they are the writings of a moralist.

Despite his own testimony, Ataç was revered as the prototype of the modern literary critic in Turkey. Even Hüseyin Cöntürk, the dean of objectivism and scientific approach in literary criticism, viewed Ataç’s work as the writings of a critic rather than an essayist. Cöntürk found a formula for placing Ataç in the context of literary criticism by calling him a subjectivist critic and defining his writings as critical essays.

Ataç died of multiple organ failure on May 17, 1957 in Istanbul. He wrote numerous volumes of critical essays and journals, while his interviews and letters were published posthumously. Important authors such as Tahir Alangu, Metin And, Hüseyin Cöntürk and Asım Bezirci have written separate volumes on Ataç’s work, while his daughter Meral Ataç Tolluoğlu has published a biography of the late critic. Many theses and academic works at university and doctoral levels have been written on the life of Ataç.

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Gabriel Pearson obituary | Literary criticism

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My father, Gabriel Pearson, who died at the age of 88, was an academic, critic and professor of literature. He spent most of his career at the University of Essex, joining its newly established Literature Department in 1965. Even after his official retirement in 1995, he held various part-time positions in Essex, before quitting. to work in 2009, when he became a professor emeritus.

He was born into a Polish Jewish family in West London. Her father, Nathan Pearson, was a cabinetmaker and her mother, Annie (née Jacobovitch), was a tailor. At the start of World War II, Gabriel first stayed in the city and remembered sleeping in the Russell Square tube station during the blitz. He was subsequently evacuated to various locations in the countryside, most luckily to a village near Banbury in Oxfordshire.

Partly because of these disruptions, Gabriel didn’t learn to read until he was nine years old. From that point on, however, he consumed literature voraciously, and after attending Highbury County School in London, he went to Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated from first class in English. In Oxford, he founded, with Raphael Samuel, Charles Taylor and Stuart Hall, the radical Universities and Left Review, which later merged with the New Reasoner to become the New Left Review.

Between 1957 and 1963, he taught literature at Keele University, where he met Susan Locke. After getting married in 1962, they moved the following year to the United States, where Gabriel held a two-year position at the University of Michigan. In 1965, they returned to the United Kingdom and he joined the University of Essex, where he was appointed professor in 1974.

Gabriel did his job when university literature professors were assessed not so much on the basis of specializations but on how well they knew a wide area of ​​literature and how enlightening their ideas about it were. His ability to quote from memory a wide range of world literature and continually generate new, improvised ideas was extraordinary. Colleagues and students often spoke of Gabriel’s sparkling intelligence and warm intellectual generosity.

His interests ranged from writing about film and reviewing books for the New Statesman and The Guardian, to writing scholarly publications on Dickens (Dickens in the Twentieth Century, 1962) and Robert Lowell (a 1969 essay in the Review from which Lowell would have learned more about himself than anything he had ever read). He later played an important role in bringing Lowell to Essex in the 1970s to participate in student workshops. Together with his colleague Jonathan Lichtenstein, he also developed a Masters module in Shakespeare Studies which turned into a comprehensive course in Theater Studies. He loved the theater.

He is survived by Susan, their children, Olivia and I, and three grandchildren, and her brother, David.

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People reveal their all-time favorite literary critic in hilarious Twitter thread

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“Pride and Prejudice – Just One Bunch of People Going to Each Other”: People Reveal Their Favorite Overwhelming Reviews of Classical Literature

  • Chloe Ellen from Glasgow, racked up 33,000 retweets on a book review thread
  • Post on Twitter, shared a hilarious one-star review of Pride and Prejudice
  • Others were quick to contribute to the funny literary reviews they spotted online.

Hobbyist literary critics have gotten creative with their reviews, as evidenced by these fun articles spotted in online bookstores.

Chloe Ellen from Glasgow, who has nearly 2,000 subscribers on Twitter, shared a one-star Amazon review for Price and Prejudice as his all-time favorite literary review.

The funny review of the literary classic said, “Just a bunch of people going to other people’s homes.”

Racking up over 33,000 retweets, others quickly began contributing comments that made them laugh while choosing a book to buy, including an individual who dubbed James Joyce’s Ulysses “complacent drivel.”

Another accused Dr Seuss of One fish, two fish, goldfish, blue fish of having a political agenda.

Here FEMAIL shares some of the best reviews …

Chloe Ellen from Glasgow, sparked a thread of hilarious reviews on online bookstores – including a contributor who James Joyce dubbed Odysseus, “complacent drivel”

To be left on the shelf at bedtime!  One person wrote a lengthy review of the children's book One Fish, Two Fish, Goldfish, Blue Fish accusing author Dr. Seuss of having a political agenda

To be left on the shelf at bedtime! One person wrote a lengthy review of the children’s book One Fish, Two Fish, Goldfish, Blue Fish accusing author Dr. Seuss of having a political agenda

The viral thread began after Chloe posted a review of Pride and Prejudice that described the story as

The viral thread began after Chloe posted a review of Pride and Prejudice that described the story as “one group of people going to the other’s house”

Don't waste your time!  Amazon buyer advised others to read a summary of Homer's Odyssey instead of reading the full book

Don’t waste your time! Amazon buyer advised others to read a summary of Homer’s Odyssey instead of reading the full book

One person complained that Dante's Hell had too many Italian names and places, although the book had an Italian author

One person complained that Dante’s Hell had too many Italian names and places, although the book had an Italian author

Another person gave the children's book Cars, Trucks and Things That Go five stars, while being enthusiastic about its portrayal of America.

Another person gave the children’s book Cars, Trucks and Things That Go five stars, while being enthusiastic about its portrayal of America.

Should be listed as an eyesore!  Twitter user contributed to newspaper review focusing on Wizard of Oz deaths

Should be listed as an eyesore! Twitter user contributed to newspaper review focusing on Wizard of Oz deaths

One person said that Karl Marx would be

One person said Karl Marx would be “very upset” that he had to pay for a copy of the Communist Manifesto

Another Amazon reviewer was impressed with Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition, writing a lengthy review saying it's no coincidence JK Rowling fans are also making a purchase

Another Amazon reviewer was impressed with Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition, writing a lengthy review saying it’s no coincidence JK Rowling fans are also making a purchase

Confusion!  Reviewer who struggled to understand book on atheism said they had to stop reading because the book scared them

Confusion! Reviewer who struggled to understand book on atheism said they had to stop reading because the book scared them


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Laurent Rainey Obituary | Literary criticism

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My thesis supervisor, Lawrence Rainey, who died at the age of 66, was a leading literary critic and authority on Anglo-American modernism. He wrote and edited critical studies and groundbreaking editions, and was co-founder and co-editor of Modernism / modernity, the award-winning journal of the Modernist Studies Association.

Born in Chicago, Lawrence was the grandson of Estonian immigrants. He was raised by his mother, Emma Rainey, who worked full-time as a secretary, doubling down on weekends and two evenings a week as a sales assistant at iconic Marshall Field’s department store in Chicago. At school, Lawrence wore a black armband to protest the Vietnam War and encouraged others to follow suit, for which he was suspended.

Nonetheless, he earned a degree in classical languages ​​from the University of Valparaiso, Illinois, and a doctorate in English from the University of Chicago. In 1987 he was appointed assistant professor at Yale University, where he worked – from 1993 as an associate professor – until 1998, when he moved to England as a professor of modernist literature at York University.

Lawrence’s first monograph, Ezra Pound and the Monument of Culture (1991), built on detailed archival research into Pound’s obsession with Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini, Italy, and its wider implications for the poet’s work. It was while researching the book on a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Fellowship in Italy that he met Sonia Marathou, and they were married in 1987. Lawrence’s second highly influential book, Institutions of Modernism (1999), argues that Modernists have responded to the commodification of mass culture in complex and often contradictory ways, falling back on a form of exclusivity embodied in patronage, luxury publishing and small magazines. .

His highly researched third monograph, Revisiting the Waste Land (2005), established an accurate timeline for TS Eliot’s highly modernist masterpiece, while advancing important new readings; with its innovative contextual edition of the poem, The Annotated Waste Land with Eliot’s Contemporary Prose (2005), the book won the 2006 Robert Motherwell Book Prize and the 2007 Fredson Bowers Memorial Award.

At the time of his death, Lawrence was completing a monograph on the emergence and cultural history of the typist, secretary or stenographer in the early decades of the 20th century.

As of 2016, Lawrence suffered from poor health. He is survived by Sonia, their son, Evan and Emma.

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Catherine Belsey Obituary | Literary criticism

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Students of English literature now tend to take for granted politicized readings of fiction and the ability to talk about Shakespeare in the same breath as Mills and Boon. But things weren’t always that way, and the discipline owes much of its current freedom and focus to the work of Catherine Belsey, who died at the age of 80 from a stroke.

His book Critical Practice (1980) made a name for itself and transformed the discipline of English literature. In the 1970s, academic literary analysis was, in Kate’s words, “distinctly dusty in appearance” in its belief that works were part of a canon to be passed down from generation to generation, which criticism aimed to carry. value judgments and that a text was the unique expression of a creative genius.

Kate brushed aside these conservative tendencies by revealing how canon and value judgments are political reinforcements of privilege, and that texts are products of cultural and linguistic systems.

The critical practice of Catherine Belsey, 1980, made a name for itself and transformed the discipline of English literature

For example, in her discussion of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, she examined how the stories subscribe to the larger Victorian and Edwardian cultural belief in the power of “logical deduction and the scientific method” to publicize the unknown. . At the same time, however, fiction consistently refuses to pay much attention to female sexuality, which remains an enigmatic force on the fringes of Holmes’ adventures.

It wasn’t Conan Doyle himself’s fault, Kate concludes. Rather, it was an indication of the contradictions of her time: everything was meant to be open to scientific analysis, but the patriarchal values ​​of the time left female sexuality beyond the realm of explicit consideration.

Why Shakespeare? (2007) examined how the playwright told folklore and fairy tales in a new way. Kate first saw most of the pieces when the Old Vic staged the complete works over a five-year period as a child in London. In turn, she reiterated Shakespeare in radically new ways, putting theory to work in interpretations that called attention to the linguistic nuances of his texts while revealing their political relevance in explorations of family roles and values, of desire and subjectivity.

In her subsequent publications, Kate repeatedly returned to her belief that literary texts should be studied alongside other forms of culture and that English literature was limited as a discipline if left unchecked, among other things. , movies, paintings, fashion, advertising, and architectural. We can learn a lot about modern family values ​​from Shakespeare’s early comedies, she pointed out, but we can also learn from 17th-century tombs and toilets, as they also present the cultural assumptions of the time.

Delegates to a large college conference in 1999 were shocked when Kate arrived with a box of Corn Flakes over three feet tall and began to find out what the packaging was suggesting to consumers about nature, health and “the good life”.

His latest book, Tales of the Troubled Dead (2019), urged readers to take ghost stories seriously – not for their veracity, but for their ability to “disrupt conventional ways of understanding the world” by allowing us to ” think beyond the limited categories. orthodoxy takes it for granted ”.

Ghosts occupy a strange realm between life and death, fact and fiction, presence and absence, and their shifting appearances in fiction across the centuries indicate what cultures have struggled to name and know. .

“If ghost stories retain their appeal in our skeptical and scientific age, where the answers to every conceivable question are readily available on Google at the touch of a button,” she concluded, “it may be. -be because the great stories continue to give tenuous substance to hopes. and fears that remain beyond the reach of science or psychology.

Catherine Belsey's latest book, Tales of the Troubled Dead, 2019
Catherine Belsey’s latest book, Tales of the Troubled Dead, 2019

Born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, Kate was the daughter of Rita (née Mallett), a schoolteacher, and Jack Prigg, a chemical engineer. From Godolphin and Latymer School in Hammersmith, West London, in 1959, she went to Somerville College, Oxford, to study history, but quickly switched to English language and literature.

After a short stint in publishing and a casual post at London Zoo, in 1966 she went for postgraduate work at the new University of Warwick, which was still partly a muddy yard where new spaces were taking shape. . A master’s degree was followed by her doctoral dissertation on models of conflict in English moral pieces, supervised by GK Hunter, and she received her doctorate in 1973.

After a brief period as a member of New Hall, Cambridge, Kate moved to University College, Cardiff (UCC) as an English lecturer in 1975. There was a great deal of resistance to the appointment of a woman to Cardiff College, and Kate learned on arrival that her office was in a different building from the rest of the department and that her salary was lower than that of male colleagues in similar roles. “If I wasn’t already a feminist,” she said several years later, “I was after that.

Critical Practice was born from her marginalized early years in Cardiff, but Kate’s commitment to radical change was not limited to the page. She remained active in local politics until the end of her life and was president and vice-president of the UCC branch of the Association of University Teachers during a period of institutional mismanagement in the 1980s which resulted in led to a financial crisis and the merger of UCC and the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology. This resulted in the formation of what is now Cardiff University, where she was appointed professor in 1989. Kate’s fearless leadership within the union has prevented large-scale layoffs.

Interviewed by Somerville College 50 years after arriving there, Kate noted that she was “driven out of full-time college life in 2003 by the growing bureaucracy that forced me to choose between writing books and compiling reports. on the books I had already written. , could write, would write if only a space could be made among all the follow-ups, planning and funding requests ”.

Although she hated the merchant managerialism of higher education, after her full retirement from Cardiff in 2006, she held visiting positions at Swansea University and Derby University, where she encouraged young people generations to fight for a better university and a fairer future. She has never lost her radical optimism about the difference the humanities can make.

In 1965, Kate married the philosopher Andrew Belsey. They eventually separated and he passed away in 2019. She is survived by her brother, Simon.

Catherine Belsey, scholar and cultural critic, born December 13, 1940; passed away on February 14, 2021

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Three memories of Sunil Kumar, the historian who resisted majority policy

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Rukun Advani

Fourteen years ago, Sunil Kumar held in his hands a copy of his first big book: The emergence of the Delhi Sultanate, 1192-1286 (Permanent Black, 2007). He hadn’t bothered to try to get it published in any of the big American or British university presses, although they all took it as a blow. It had been a very long time since anything substantially new and revealing had been written about the Delhi Sultanate, and Sunil, considered a dilatory perfectionist whose motto was far too ardently “better never than now”, was known to have written it. for more than a decade. He could have chosen the publisher.

A few years later he emailed saying he was tired of being a reader at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He could have been in London forever or gone from there to the redder-leaf pastures of the Ivy League. By this time his book had brought him recognition as a scholar and his teaching had earned him a reputation for dedication to students in an area of ​​specialization that had little of his caliber. He knew Persian and Urdu and could have chosen from Western university departments.

Looking back, I think there were several reasons for his decision to be with Permanent Black as an editor and in his Sultanate city as a teacher, and they suggest what he looked like as a anybody. He was first of our pre-Facebook generation in a real sense – in that he didn’t want to draw attention to himself on a daily basis. I don’t know how much he has used social media, but I see him as the kind of old world person who only uses it in the best interests of deepening knowledge and keeping students up to date with the news. information.

Second, I think Permanent Black was his choice because even the tenuous ties of an old friendship meant more to him than international fame: he and I were in the same batch at the same school in Lucknow in the early 1960s. His father, a policeman, was stationed there intermittently. I remember Sunil – he wasn’t known as Saddie until his college days – joining and joining our class, depending on when his father was posted to Lucknow.

His appearances and disappearances struck me when editing his book as being similar to those he attributes to the Sultanate of Delhi – one of his arguments in the book is that the Sultanate was less a solid political entity than ‘a fluid formation that could fade into the landscape before resurfacing (perhaps some sort of inspiration for the Congress Party now).

Later, we were teammates in college, and although we didn’t frequent the same circles, our passing exchanges in the dining room were still affectionate. The reason I saw him little in our college years was that he had gained a formidable and enviable reputation in two areas: basketball and romance. It was hard to tell in our three years of living within five minutes of each other (1972 to 1975) whether Saddie was more dedicated to holding a basketball or his college girlfriend Anjali, above which it dominated, more than six feet.

He was usually seen carrying her on his shoulders near a basketball court. At that time, Sunil was universally referred to as Saddie, after the comic book character Sad Sack, due to his usual expression of melancholy. The melancholy may have been caused by the difficulty of smuggling her daughter into her hostel room; or because, with one hand still holding a basketball, he found himself handicapped in having to take care of her as well; or because he had tried to throw her through the net and missed it, and she had let it be known that her future was either her or basketball.

We emailed each other quite often about books he needed for review in the Journal of Economic and Social History of India. Everyone knew he was the mainstay of the journal, with the other editors all finding teaching positions overseas. He swore he was working on other books and would send them all to me for publication. I thought it was very generous of her: her book had been so meticulously written that I hadn’t written a word in it.

Or maybe because, as he told me during a visit to Ranikhet with Anjali, because I had in fact contributed only one word to his book: the word “Honey”. Almost everyone who has read Saddie’s book has commented on the first sentence of the book’s conclusion. Here is the sentence:


An impatient reader of this book might rightly ask in exasperation at this moment, “So, my dear, when did the Sultanate of Delhi appear? “

This non-academic phrase, he said, was the consequence of one of my exasperated questions he had asked him during the editing, and he had wanted it to be worded exactly that way in the book. It lightened the mood for a heavy monograph, he said.

Later, during one of our chance encounters, he said that the phrase once flabbergasted even the mighty Aligarh: during his interview as a professor at Delhi University, one of them had opened his book to this page and asked him how he could have allowed such a sentence to pass.

Saddie said he smiled sweetly at Sweetie’s interview and told her it was the result of a conversation with his editor – the guy had called him Sweetie when asking him the question, and it was. had decided to keep it in the same form. because of their old friendship.

When Saddie told me that, I felt as elated as his basketball, throwing cleanly and happily through the high net he was always aiming for. My dissatisfaction with his early departure runs much deeper. Despite our physical distance from each other, we were instinctively close. In fact, I have rarely loved a college friend so instinctively because Saddie, in my opinion, was the ideal scholar: quietly learned, outspoken in his opinions, selflessly caring for students, full of warmth to those he. loved and politically sane in a philosophy within which so many have succumbed to the baseness of those in power.

Muzaffar Alam

Sunil was a great friend, a perfect gentleman. Whenever I was in Delhi he insisted on having a long and relaxed meeting with me to talk about my work and teaching experience in Chicago. He listened intently to the issues I was facing with the limited resources of my areas of interest, my desperate efforts to make sense of it, and whatever else I would think of to relate to my work. In response, he flashed a beaming smile with the suggestion that I should prepare a draft early and send it for discussion and review for publication.

He knew that I was slow, even lazy, and that I would not act so effectively on his advice. He would always be very kind and generous and interpret my failure and slowness in terms of a perfectionist. Then I would have my turn, feeling encouraged to remind him of his long-standing promise to finish a great track he had on Tughlaqabad.

I read it decades ago in the 1990s when I was at Jawaharlal Nehru University and incorporated it into my classes on medieval India. Even then, it read like an almost complete, well-researched and well-argued monograph on these historic ruins of pre-Mughal Delhi.

Sunil was very helpful to our young friends, students and colleagues as well, who had recently written excellent theses on the social and cultural history of South Asia. He encouraged them to send their articles to him for publication in IESHR.

He has indeed published several good articles, and thus gave, with Sanjay Subrahmanyam, a new direction to IESHR. One of the last conversations he had with my friend Rajeev Kinra was about his article on the Mughal Indian sulh-i-kull, and he wished Rajeev had sent it to him at IESHR. Another friend, Manan Ahmed Asif, writes that he was “a model of an ethical historian who stood firm against majority politics. He was a meticulous scholar and a kind mentor ”.

Nayanjot Lahiri

Sunil was first described to me as the tall “Saddie” basketball player who had a girlfriend who was half his height. Anjali was his name and he had to bend down to put his arm around her. They soon married and had two children. At that time, or even before that, Sunil disappeared to study for his doctorate and it was only when he returned that I officially met him for the first time.

I was studying for my doctorate at the Department of History at the University of Delhi which he had just joined. Considering that the department was made up of a lot of middle-aged foggers then, much like us today, his young personality and American way of speaking was a wonderful change.

I then joined the department and we became colleagues until 2015. In the early years, we used to attend an Mr. Phil seminar on history books that were worth sketching out and it is because of him that I read and liked Georges Duby The three orders and that of Peter Brown The worship of saints. I also remember the enthusiasm with which he took history students, his own and those of other institutions, to visit the medieval sites of Delhi. On many occasions I have heard vivid descriptions of how much they enjoyed being with him in Tughalakabad and the Qut’b complex.

What I remember most about Sunil is that he freely expressed his opinions on the discipline, on history books and on his colleagues. Around 2007-2009, when many talented historians had been appointed to the department, he was on leave. However, when the new course for the masters program was sent to him, he wrote to say that “the infusion of talent” had made “such a difference for the academic environment of the institution”, “I can feel change and vitality is in the air and I can’t wait to be back, ”he added.

In the same email, he simultaneously objected to the names of some college professors he described as forming “dal mein cockroach ”and pleaded that the favoritism posts that had previously been created for these teachers do not linger.

Sunil was much loved and respected by students and academics, but it was mostly this – his propensity to shoot from the hip – that I will always remember.

This article first appeared on the Permanent black blog.

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Book Profile: BY MANY A HAPPY ACCIDENT: Memories of a Lifetime by Mr. Hamid Ansari – India Education | Latest Education News | Global education news

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Fortuitous or not, By Many a Happy Accident is the tale of a lifetime of unforeseen events that took Mr. Hamid Ansari away from his favorite desire for academia to professional diplomacy, then was co-opted into public life and catapulted to the second highest position. in the country for two consecutive terms. None of his predecessors, except Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, had known this honor.

In addition to chairing the Rajya Sabha and shedding interesting light on some of its functional aspects, Ansari has used the vice-presidency as a formidable chair to speak candidly on a range of issues at different points in the changing political landscape of India.

Their overarching theme was the need for modern India to re-engage with the constitutional principles of justice, liberty, equality, and brotherhood, the values ​​of a composite culture, and for corrective action in politics regarding identity, security and empowerment of the weakest. segments of our society.


MOHAMMAD HAMID ANSARI was Vice President of India and President of the Rajya Sabha for two consecutive terms from 2007 to 2017. A former diplomat, he was Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, in as High Commissioner of Australia and as Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York.

Ansari has been a visiting professor at the Center for West Asian and African Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University and at the Academy of Third World Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia. He was vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, distinguished member of the Observer Research Foundation, member of the National Security Advisory Council and chairman of the National Commission for Minorities. He chaired one of the five working groups established by the Prime Minister’s second roundtable on J&K in April 2006.

In 2005, he edited the proceedings of an international conference on Iran, Twenty-five years after the Islamic revolution. In 2008, he published a collection of his own writings, Traveling through Conflict: Essays on the Politics of West Asia. Excerpts from his speeches have been published under the titles Teasing Questions (2014), Citizen and Society (2016) and Dare I Question? (2018).

Delivered : BY MANY A HAPPY ACCIDENT: Memories of a lifetime by Mr. Hamid Ansari

Editor: Rupa & Co.

Price: INR595,

Heading: 350

Genre: Non-fiction

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