187. (Charles Williams)

When anyone remembers Charles Williams these days, it is probably for one of two reasons. Either they know of Williams through his association with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. He was a brief but dazzling member of the Inklings and features centrally in the enjoyable recent biography of that group, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip and Carol Zaleski. Otherwise, they know of Williams … Continue reading 187. (Charles Williams)

171. (T.S. Eliot)

  Among Eliot’s staunchest and nimblest readers, Christopher Ricks was unrelenting in his 1978 attack on Eliot’s late essay, “What is Minor Poetry?”  I offer first a series of quotations from Ricks’ piece, published in Ploughshares: Eliot is probably the only important critic who has bent himself to—or on—the distinction between major and minor, and yet even this master of elusiveness found himself out-eluded. For his … Continue reading 171. (T.S. Eliot)

166. (Christopher Ricks)

Ricks’ idiosyncratic, essentially inimitable (though it is irresistible, and can be valuable, to imitate its more superficial mannerisms and habits) critical intelligence is manifest nowhere more than in his writing so well on a poetical figure that he was first to discover: the anti-pun. The term features centrally in his essay on Robert Lowell, where he hears echoes of violence in words that Lowell intimates … Continue reading 166. (Christopher Ricks)

156. (Hannah Ginsborg)

My limited experience reading contemporary philosophers has convinced me that Wittgenstein, Kant, and Aristotle need to be read alongside one another, and that a tangle or confusion in one of the three is often worked out by the strength of a concept or line of argument in another; that view has itself been shaped and strengthened by the concurrent realization that the contemporary interlocutors and … Continue reading 156. (Hannah Ginsborg)

154. (William Wordsworth)

For Wordsworth, the greater existential, ontological unity of which humankind forms a part at times coincides with the longing for division, and at times coincides with the helplessness of isolation and alienation; the failure of human society and actions exacerbates both the longing and the helplessness, which are to some extent inevitable, but it is also the secret strength of the sympathetic imagination and the world … Continue reading 154. (William Wordsworth)

142. (Marguerite Yourcenar)

These days especially, everyone ought to know the closing paragraphs of the opening essay, “Faces of History in the Historia Augusta” (1958), in Yourcenar’s collection The Dark Brain of Piranesi and Other Essays: It is not for us, so myopic when it comes to evaluating our own civilization, its errors, its chances of survival, and the opinion of it the future will have, to be astonished that … Continue reading 142. (Marguerite Yourcenar)

70. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

This year, Emerson dawned on me. Piecemeal–not as piecemeal as aphoristic bumper-stickers and magnets–but in units of language that span sentences (or periods). The passage which overcame my objections comes near the start of “Self-Reliance”: In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson … Continue reading 70. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)