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Christopher Ricks, 2 December 1982

T.S. Eliot: The Critical Heritage 
edited by Michael Grant.
Routledge, 408 pp., £25, July 1982, 0 7100 9226 1
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... admission: the thoughts of Pound, Aiken, Leavis, D. W. Harding, Helen Gardner, John Crowe Ransom, Hugh Kenner and Davie shine again. But there is a lot of dross, and there are too many ill-judged omissions. If Stevie Smith’s piece on Murder in the Cathedral fails to be a review, it succeeds in being admirably inaugurative. Even the immediate ...


John Bayley, 22 June 1989

The Essential Wyndham Lewis 
edited by Julian Symons.
Deutsch, 380 pp., £17.95, April 1989, 0 233 98376 7
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... in pursuit of his view that men are really machines pretending to be human. T.S. Eliot and Hugh Kenner thought very highly indeed of Monstre Gai and Malign Fiesta, published in 1955 with the first part of The Childermass as The Human Age, Kenner even going so far as to say that Lewis here is ...

Wizard Contrivances

Jon Day: Will Self, 27 September 2012

by Will Self.
Bloomsbury, 397 pp., £18.99, August 2012, 978 1 4088 2014 8
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... the puppetmaster and assert: ‘This is how I think.’ This is Self’s way of dealing with what Hugh Kenner called the ‘Uncle Charles Principle’. Wyndham Lewis criticised Joyce for describing Uncle Charles ‘repairing’ to his outhouse in A Portrait of the Artist, arguing that ‘people repair to places in works of fiction of the humblest ...

The Ultimate Novel

William Empson, 19 August 1982

by Hugh Kenner.
Allen and Unwin, 182 pp., £10, March 1980, 0 00 480003 6
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A Starchamber Quiry: A James Joyce Centennial Volume 1882-1982 
edited by E.L. Epstein.
Methuen, 164 pp., £9.50, February 1982, 0 416 31560 7
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... It is wonderful how Professor Kenner can keep on about Ulysses, always interesting and relevant and hardly repeating himself at all. His book gives a survey of books about Ulysses, mentioning only two previous ones by himself. He weeds out bad ideas and adds more promising ones, always with acknowledgement to other critics: and it is impressive that he had plenty more material available for the centenary collection, A Starchamber Quiry, just after printing his own book ...

What’s wrong with that man?

Christian Lorentzen: Donald Antrim, 20 November 2014

The Emerald Light in the Air: Stories 
by Donald Antrim.
Granta, 158 pp., £12.99, November 2014, 978 1 84708 649 5
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... epiphanies, only anti-epiphanies. One way to think about Antrim is as a stoic comedian, the term Hugh Kenner applied to Flaubert, Joyce and Beckett (as well as Buster Keaton). ‘The stoic,’ Kenner wrote, ‘is one who considers, with neither panic nor indifference, that the field of possibilities available to him ...

All There Needs to Be Said

August Kleinzahler: Louis Zukofsky, 22 May 2008

The Poem of a Life: A Biography of Louis Zukofsky 
by Mark Scroggins.
Shoemaker and Hoard, 555 pp., $30, December 2007, 978 1 59376 158 5
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... current reputation is based on a questionable reading of the work. Modernist critics such as Hugh Kenner, Guy Davenport and Kenneth Cox were earlier advocates and all wrote with enthusiasm and insight about Zukofsky, all three regarding him as the pre-eminent American poet born in the 20th century, although Cox later changed his mind. Donald ...

Pound & Co.

August Kleinzahler: Davenport and Kenner, 26 September 2019

Questioning Minds: Vols I-II: The Letters of Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner 
edited by Edward Burns.
Counterpoint, 1817 pp., $95, October 2018, 978 1 61902 181 5
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... part in the forming of our thoughts.’ This wouldn’t have come as news to Marshall McLuhan, Hugh Kenner’s mentor at the University of Toronto in the mid-1940s who in 1967 published The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. McLuhan once got Kenner to drive him (he didn’t drive) to visit Ezra Pound in ...

Condy’s Fluid

P.N. Furbank, 25 October 1990

A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture 
by Samuel Hynes.
Bodley Head, 514 pp., £20, October 1990, 0 370 30451 9
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Killing in Verse and Prose, and Other Essays 
by Paul Fussell.
Bellew, 294 pp., £9.95, October 1990, 0 947792 55 4
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... these writers to the war merely barren. Pound, who was to write the magnificent lines about it in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (‘These fought in any case,’ etc), had already produced a memorable ‘war poem’ in ‘Homage to Sextus Propertius’, of which he wrote that ‘it presents certain emotions as vital to me in 1917 faced with the infinite and ineffable ...

We shall not be moved

John Bayley, 2 February 1984

Come aboard and sail away 
by John Fuller.
Salamander, 48 pp., £6, October 1983, 0 907540 37 6
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Children in Exile 
by James Fenton.
Salamander, 24 pp., £5, October 1983, 0 907540 39 2
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‘The Memory of War’ and ‘Children in Exile’: Poems 1968-1983 
by James Fenton.
Penguin, 110 pp., £1.95, October 1983, 0 14 006812 0
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Some Contemporary Poets of Britain and Ireland: An Anthology 
edited by Michael Schmidt.
Carcanet, 184 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 85635 469 4
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Nights in the Iron Hotel 
by Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 48 pp., £4, November 1983, 0 571 13116 6
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The Irish Lights 
by Charles Johnston and Kyril Fitzlyon.
Bodley Head, 77 pp., £4.50, September 1983, 0 370 30557 4
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Fifteen to Infinity 
by Ruth Fainlight.
Hutchinson, 62 pp., £5.95, September 1983, 0 09 152471 7
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Donald Davie and the Responsibilities of Literature 
edited by George Dekker.
Carcanet, 153 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 9780856354663
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... also means the popular and the recondite, are characteristic of the poetry of any age. But, as Hugh Kenner points out in a typically brilliant if somewhat perverse essay called simply ‘Responsibilities’, Davie’s concern for poetic language is really a concern for culture as the modern equivalent of theology. ‘The Englishman who was pulled in ...

A Susceptible Man

Ian Sansom: The Unhappy Laureate, 4 March 1999

Living in Time: The Poetry of C. Day Lewis 
by Albert Gelpi.
Oxford, 246 pp., £30, March 1998, 0 19 509863 3
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... of admiring scholars, and a certain amount of courage for the critic to resist the urge to please. Hugh Kenner, an adept in the art of winning friends and influencing people, recalls in his preface to The Invisible Poet: T.S. Eliot (1960) that ‘at my one meeting with Mr Eliot, I offered to complete a book on his literary career without pestering ...

Space Wars

Fredric Jameson, 4 April 1996

The Invisible in Architecture 
edited by Ole Bouman and Roemer van Toorn.
Academy, 516 pp., $115, February 1994, 1 85490 285 7
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The Classical Vernacular: Architectural Principles in an Age of Nihilism 
by Roger Scruton.
Carcanet, 158 pp., £19.95, October 1994, 1 85754 054 9
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... that way, by the stimulation and vigorous reactivation of its own internal relations and circuits. Hugh Kenner once observed the not-so-subterranean formal influence on books like Ulysses of the existence of dictionaries and encyclopedias as proudly linear modes of organisation. Mallarmé imagined in vain a book that would remodel itself perpetually, like ...

The Verity of Verity

Marilyn Butler, 1 August 1996

Essays in Appreciation 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 363 pp., £25, March 1996, 0 19 818344 5
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... of others’ work is low, especially by American standards, and with the single exception of Hugh Kenner no practising fellow academic earns the accolade of even approaching classic status. Ricks’s sympathy and magnanimity, two great ‘principles’ of his criticism (of which more anon), are reserved here for the dead. Ricks does indeed ...

Kermode and Theory

Hayden White, 11 October 1990

An Appetite for Poetry: Essays in Literary Interpretation 
by Frank Kermode.
Collins, 242 pp., £15, November 1989, 0 00 215388 2
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... back to the basics of literary criticism, and he aligns himself with similarly inclined critics (Hugh Kenner, John Hollander, Richard Poirier, Lionel Trilling, and above all Empson) who use theory, when they use it at all, for the most part to clear the ground for attentive reading. The phrase which serves as the title of the collection is taken from ...

Early Lives

P.N. Furbank, 5 June 1986

The Inner I: British Literary Autobiography of the 20th Century 
by Brian Finney.
Faber, 286 pp., £14.95, September 1985, 0 571 13311 8
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... not matter in an autobiography. In reading Ford Madox Ford’s autobiographies I am worried, as Hugh Kenner does not seem to be, by the sense that Ford neither knows nor cares what truth is; it disturbs me not to know whether some strange thing actually happened to Swinburne, or whether Ford just made it up. But Conrad, Sartre and Yeats were all men ...

All your walkmans fizz in tune

Adam Mars-Jones: Eimear McBride, 8 August 2013

A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing 
by Eimear McBride.
Galley Beggar, 203 pp., £11, June 2013, 978 0 9571853 2 6
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... head’, though the mother, choosing not to see, has ‘turned her good eyes blind’. The word Hugh Kenner chose in The Stoic Comedians to describe the style of phrasemaking in Ulysses was ‘unmortared’. Joyce brought together words that seemed to have no affinity and made them fit flush against each other, leaving no gap. He built dry-stone walls ...

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