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Seen through the Loopholes

David Simpson: ‘War at a Distance’, 11 March 2010

War at a Distance: Romanticism and the Making of Modern Wartime 
by Mary Favret.
Princeton, 262 pp., £18.95, January 2010, 978 0 691 14407 8
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... When and where does modern war begin? With tanks or gas warfare in 1914-18? With the aerial bombardment of civilians in Mesopotamia in 1920? At Guernica in 1937? With the general conscription, guerrilla campaigns and worldwide conflict of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars between France and Britain and their allies between 1793 and 1815? Or with the destruction of civilian lives and ecosystems in the Thirty Years War of 1618-48 that depopulated a good part of Central Europe? Scholars and writers tend to claim transformational status for the war they happen to be writing about, as Paul Fussell did for the Great War – which was also declared exceptional by those who thought of it as the war to end all wars ...

Because He’s Worth It

David Simpson: Young Werther, 13 September 2012

The Sufferings of Young Werther 
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Stanley Corngold.
Norton, 151 pp., £16.99, January 2012, 978 0 393 07938 8
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... Goethe’s most famous novel was once a Europe-wide sensation. There were Werther-themed prints, figurines, jewellery, perfume, fans, crockery and men’s clothing. The novel itself first appeared in English in 1779, as a translation of a translation: The Sorrows of Werther: A German Story was based on the French version. Translations of French novels made up a large part of the fiction published in England in the 18th century; English authors on their own seem to have been unable to satisfy the expanding market, and the whiff of scandal associated with novels, only partly displaced by the Pamela cult of sentimental virtue, could be both disavowed and enjoyed when books were written by and for the French ...

Naming the Dead

David Simpson: The politics of commemoration, 15 November 2001

... Among the many things that changed after 11 September was the policy on obituaries in the New York Times. Since the attack on the World Trade Center, the newspaper has been printing fifteen or so brief remembrances a day of some of the approximately five thousand people who died in the towers, in the planes and during the rescue efforts. The leaders of corporations and other more or less public figures who are ordinarily assured a place on the obituary page continue to appear there ...

Are we there yet?

David Simpson: Abasing language, abusing prisoners, 17 February 2005

Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror 
by Mark Danner.
Granta, 573 pp., £16.99, February 2005, 9781862077720
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The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib 
edited by Karen Greenberg and Joshua Dratel.
Cambridge, 1284 pp., £27.50, February 2005, 0 521 85324 9
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... Where does it stop? The events at Abu Ghraib prison show no signs of vanishing into historical inertia. On the contrary, they seem to be replicating themselves throughout the defenceless body politic of the ‘coalition of the willing’: even the Danes now apparently have their scandal. The photographs of British misdeeds made public after a hapless soldier took his film to be developed at a shop on his local high street have given us Camp Bread Basket, another probable icon of infamy ...

Iwo Jima v. Abu Ghraib

David Simpson: The iconic image, 29 November 2007

No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture and Liberal Democracy 
by Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites.
Chicago, 419 pp., £19, June 2007, 978 0 226 31606 2
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... On 1 February 1968 Eddie Adams took a photograph of the South Vietnamese chief of police standing in the street and shooting a Vietcong suspect in the head. The picture is listed on the web as one of the ‘100 photos that changed the world’. For years I thought that it recorded the blood spurting out of the side of the man’s head as the bullet went into his temple ...

Speaking Azza

Martin Jay: Where are you coming from?, 28 November 2002

Situatedness; Or, Why We Keep Saying Where We’re Coming From 
by David Simpson.
Duke, 290 pp., £14.50, March 2002, 0 8223 2839 9
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... As a colleague of David Simpson at the University of California and a friend graciously thanked in his acknowledgments, can I pretend to have the disinterestedness necessary to write an objective review of his book? Or, as a reviewer opening with a confession of this sort – what in the lingo of our day is called a ‘full disclosure’ – have I then somehow neutralised my personal stake in such a way that I can offer my opinion as unbiased? Can such reflexivity work to undo the debilitating effects of situatedness? These are the kinds of question that agonise Simpson, who has written Situatedness in the hope of stemming the tide of what he calls, following Andrew Sullivan, ‘azza’ declarations – ‘as a colleague of David Simpson’; ‘as a white, middle-class male’ – in the age of identity politics ...


Peter Swaab, 20 April 1989

The Unremarkable Wordsworth 
by Geoffrey Hartman.
Methuen, 249 pp., £8.95, September 1987, 0 416 05142 1
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Wordsworth’s Historical Imagination: The Poetry of Displacement 
by David Simpson.
Methuen, 239 pp., £25, June 1987, 0 416 03872 7
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Romanticism in National Context 
edited by Roy Porter and Mikulas Teich.
Cambridge, 353 pp., £30, June 1988, 0 521 32605 2
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Romantic Affinities: Portraits from an Age 1780-1830 
by Rupert Christiansen.
Bodley Head, 262 pp., £16, January 1988, 0 370 31117 5
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... are perceived’, and it’s this faculty which malfunctions in Hartman’s more fanciful flights. David Simpson’s central subject is indicated by Hartman’s passing remark about Wordsworth’s ‘residual agrarian sensibility’. Wordsworth’s Historical Imagination is his second book on Wordsworth, following and complementing Wordsworth and the ...

Biting Habits

Hugh Pennington: The Zika Virus, 18 February 2016

... reported case of human infection with the Zika virus was in 1964. Another Entebbe virologist, David Simpson, had a 36-hour fever, some back pain, a headache and a rash. Three days later he had recovered apart from some spots. For many years the Zika virus was thought to be unimportant. There was no evidence to suggest that it could do anything more ...

Powerful Moments

David Craig, 26 October 1989

Touching the void 
by Joe Simpson.
Cape, 172 pp., £10.95, July 1988, 0 224 02545 7
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by M. John Harrison.
Gollancz, 221 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 9780575036321
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... heart of the experience and don’t resort unduly to its more freakish terrors? The wonder of Joe Simpson’s escape back into life is both that he survived near death on the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes and that he has the power of recall to do justice in vivid and original phrasing to an episode which will remain as a true myth of survival through ...

Constable’s Plenty

John Barrell, 15 August 1991

by Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams.
Tate Gallery, 544 pp., £45, June 1991, 1 85437 071 5
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Romatic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition 
by Jonathan Bate.
Routledge, 131 pp., £8.99, May 1991, 0 415 06116 4
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... chosen policy. The key event here is the Richard Wilson exhibition of 1982-3, organised by David Solkin, whose thoughtful and carefully researched catalogue attempted to situate Wilson’s landscapes in a range of historical contexts including the moral and political ideas and ideals attached to the ownership of land in the 18th century. Editorials in ...

Marks of Inferiority

Freya Johnston: Wollstonecraft’s Distinction, 4 February 2021

Wollstonecraft: Philosophy, Passion and Politics 
by Sylvana Tomaselli.
Princeton, 230 pp., £25, December 2020, 978 0 691 16903 3
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... days after the birth of their daughter, the future Mary Shelley.Wollstonecraft was described by David Bromwich as ‘the first modern theorist of an idea of individuality’. She strove to effect change not only in the structures of male domination, suggesting, for example, that women should be represented in Parliament, but in the social and psychological ...

In the Sorting Office

James Meek, 28 April 2011

... only TNT,’ Leijten said. ‘The postal system is sick.’ On the eve of my journey to Holland, David Simpson, the earnest Ulsterman who is Royal Mail’s chief spokesman, took me to one of the facilities the company is most proud of, the Gatwick mail centre in Sussex. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with the nearby airport. It’s a giant mail ...

Wordsworth and the Well-Hidden Corpse

Marilyn Butler, 6 August 1992

The Lyrical Ballads: Longman Annotated Texts 
edited by Michael Mason.
Longman, 419 pp., £29.99, April 1992, 0 582 03302 0
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Strange Power of Speech: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Literary Possession 
by Susan Eilenberg.
Oxford, 278 pp., £30, May 1992, 0 19 506856 4
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The Politics of Nature: Wordsworth and Some Contemporaries 
by Nicholas Roe.
Macmillan, 186 pp., £35, April 1992, 0 333 52314 8
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... whose recent work is shown to supports hers are Marc Shell, Kurt Heinzelman, Jerome Christensen, David Simpson, Heather Glen, Paul Magnuson, Lucy Newlyn, Raimonda Modiano and Alan Liu. Titles which reflect their common interests include Heinzelman’s The Economics of Literature and Modiano’s ‘The Ethics of Gift Exchange and Literary ...

Cartwheels over Broken Glass

Andrew O’Hagan: Worshipping Morrissey, 4 March 2004

Saint Morrissey 
by Mark Simpson.
SAF, 224 pp., £16.99, December 2003, 0 946719 65 9
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The Smiths: Songs that Saved Your Life 
by Simon Goddard.
Reynolds/Hearn, 272 pp., £14.99, December 2002, 1 903111 47 1
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... and, more violently, how much they loved the heavily lipglossed singer in a band called Japan. David Sylvian was his name. The girls called him David. So far as I remember, the diary was a pretty spectacular fantasia of adolescent lusts and local hatreds: Dear Katherine, David came ...

Uncrownable King and Queen

Christopher Sykes, 7 February 1980

The Windsor Story 
by J. Bryan and Charles Murphy.
Granada, 602 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 246 11323 5
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... and friend that his ministers presumed, with apparent prescience, that he would soon tire of Mrs Simpson and add her to the growing scrapheap of discarded mistresses, friends and favourites. They were totally mistaken. When the love affair had led to the miserable anti-climax of abdication, her devotion to him wavered in later years, but never his to her. In ...

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