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)

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)

58. (Leo Tolstoy)

Rather than say anything about Tolstoy, I want to try to explain what I think would be the sort of criticism on Tolstoy I’d like to read. I’ve always been averse to criticism about characters; too often, it feels like gossip. But Tolstoy is set apart from everyone else by his characters. They seem like real people. But saying that, the criticism rings hollow, both … Continue reading 58. (Leo Tolstoy)