183. (J.R.R. Tolkien)

I don’t think it’s much use denying that Tolkien’s mythology is in some ways racist: growing from Anglo-Saxon ideologies of race prevalent in the early twentieth-century world in which he grew into consciousness. I don’t think either that it is essential that we associate his characters with any one ethnicity, that anything falls if we imagine some of the characters as he does not describe … Continue reading 183. (J.R.R. Tolkien)

160. (William Gaddis)

Charles Dickens appears as a character in Gaddis’ The Recognitions, published in 1955, and it is hard not to believe that Gaddis did not, if he did not arrive there himself, come to an appreciation of Dickens through the praise of Edmund Wilson, written some fifteen years earlier and carrying others in its wake since. In The Recognitions, Charles Dickens attempts suicide, and later, after a stay … Continue reading 160. (William Gaddis)

127. (George Eliot)

This post will open with George Eliot and then drift, possibly to return. For a starting point, consider one of the most beguiling and frustrating of passages in nineteenth-century British literature: Her finely-touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great … Continue reading 127. (George Eliot)

105. (Thomas Carlyle)

A featherless bipedal puzzle, but with wings: that Carlyle seems a distinctly queer, yet central, Victorian voice; that the word “queer” proves nebulous in theory and evasive in practice. Let me begin with an orientation. Rather than turn to Foucault and Butler, I’ll enlist two social scientist cousins, one an anthropologist and the other a sociologist, to characterize what “queer” might mean: First, the sociologist, … Continue reading 105. (Thomas Carlyle)

77. (R.H. Hutton)

One of the chief differences between eighteenth- and nineteenth-century voices of critical prose is that the former wrote for the salon or coffee house; for rooms that could hold fewer voices, where no voice dominated quite as easily. The critical prose of the nineteenth-century, on the other hand, comes, with Hazlitt being a definitive early case, to be written for a lecture hall, in the … Continue reading 77. (R.H. Hutton)