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A horn-player greets his fate

John Kerrigan, 1 September 1983

Horn 
by Barry Tuckwell.
Macdonald, 202 pp., £10.95, April 1983, 0 356 09096 5
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... At the climax of Browning’s strangest poem, a horn-player greets his fate undaunted by Death or Middle English Philology. Weary of questing and pestered by visions, Childe Roland reaches the Dark Tower with the names of fallen comrades ringing in his ears. The hills encircle him like sprawling giants. His death seems certain –                              And yetDauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,And blew ...

Rooting for Birmingham

John Kerrigan, 2 January 1997

The Dow Low Drop: New and Selected Poems 
by Roy Fisher.
Bloodaxe, 208 pp., £8.95, February 1996, 1 85224 340 6
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... furnace and the smoky atmospherics which he calls ‘Gothic’. But the poem is dedicated to John Cowper Powys, whose Atlantis, one of his most eccentric novels, is cited as a source. As Fisher himself points out, A Furnace inherits Powys’s ‘Romantic notion’ that ‘the making of all kinds of identities is a primary impulse which the cosmos itself ...

Birth of a Náison

John Kerrigan, 5 June 1997

The Political World of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, 1621-41 
edited by J.F. Merritt.
Cambridge, 293 pp., £35, March 1996, 0 521 56041 1
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The British Problem, c. 1534-1707: State Formation in the Atlantic Archipelago 
edited by Brendan Bradshaw and John Morrill.
Macmillan, 334 pp., £13.50, June 1996, 0 333 59246 8
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The Stuart Court and Europe: Essays in Politics and Political Culture 
edited by Malcolm Smuts.
Cambridge, 289 pp., £35, September 1996, 9780521554398
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Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, its Development and Literary Expression Prior to the 19th Century 
by Joep Leerssen.
Cork, 454 pp., £17.95, November 1996, 1 85918 112 0
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... John Major’s vision of Britain is history by now: a unitary state north and south of the Tweed, secured by consent, subject to one monarch and funded by a non-tartan tax system. When Major first published his views, however, in the punningly titled Historia Maioris Britanniae (1521), his innovativeness upset fellow Scots ...

Brave as hell

John Kerrigan, 21 June 1984

Enderby’s Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 160 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 156050 0
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Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Modern Edition 
edited by A.L. Rowse.
Macmillan, 311 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 333 36386 8
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... eyed askance or turned askew. Like Dedalus in the Irish National Library, trying to impress A.E., John Eglinton and Mr Best with his theory of Hamlet, the narrator of Nothing Like the Sun throws in lots of local colour, freely kitsched with quasi-Elizabethan compounds and archaic turns of phrase. Moreover, following Dedalus’s example in Ulysses, Burgess ...

Shakespeare and the Stage

John Kerrigan, 21 April 1983

Elizabethan Popular Theatre: Plays in Performance 
by Michael Hattaway.
Routledge, 234 pp., £14.95, January 1983, 0 7100 9052 8
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Shakespeare the Director 
by Ann Pasternak Slater.
Harvester, 244 pp., £18.95, December 1982, 0 7108 0446 6
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... to engage intelligently with Titus Andronicus – handled so well by Michael Hattaway – King John, or indeed any of the plays which made Shakespeare’s reputation in Elizabethan London. And she does not know where to begin with Cymbeline. Yet her contempt for Shakespeare’s non-naturalism remains unwavering. ‘Rumour painted full of tongues’ and ...

Diary

John Kerrigan: Lost Shakespeare, 6 February 1986

... Edward III in Stratford. It’s a rainbow copy of The Shakespeare Apocrypha, scribbled over by John Barton when he was at King’s, with blacklead for Shakespeare, green for Greene and, jokily, orange for Peele. This is the good thing about ‘Shall I die?’, that it drives you back to the ‘margins’ of the oeuvre. And what a play you find ...

When Eyesight is Fully Industrialised

John Kerrigan, 16 October 1997

Open Sky 
by Paul Virilio, translated by Julie Rose.
Verso, 152 pp., £35, August 1997, 9781859848807
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... Plunging in free-fall, a parachutist just out of an aeroplane sees the Earth spread out before him with the steadiness of a map. As his eyes resolve the detail, however, at about 600 metres, the ground seems to rush towards him, then split apart with dizzying speed: ‘The apparent diameter of objects increases faster and faster and you suddenly have the feeling you are not seeing them getting closer but seeing them move apart suddenly, as though the ground were splitting open ...

The New Narrative

John Kerrigan, 16 February 1984

The Oxford Book of Narrative Verse 
edited by Iona Opie and Peter Opie.
Oxford, 407 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 19 214131 7
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Time’s Oriel 
by Kevin Crossley-Holland.
Hutchinson, 61 pp., £4.95, August 1983, 0 09 153291 4
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On Gender and Writing 
edited by Michelene Wandor.
Pandora, 166 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 86358 021 1
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Stone, Paper, Knife 
by Marge Piercy.
Pandora, 144 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 9780863580222
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The Achievement of Ted Hughes 
edited by Keith Sagar.
Manchester, 377 pp., £27.50, March 1983, 0 7190 0939 1
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Ted Hughes and Paul Muldoon 
Faber, £6.95, June 1983, 0 571 13090 9Show More
River 
by Ted Hughes and Peter Keen.
Faber, 128 pp., £10, September 1983, 0 571 13088 7
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Quoof 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 64 pp., £4, September 1983, 0 571 13117 4
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... support to most of the claims being made for ‘narrative poetry today’ – should have told John Haffenden in an interview for Viewpoints that he found Robert Frost’s fable of imagined unlived lives, ‘The Road Not Taken’, exemplary. If Fenton’s distinction between the narrative kinds is just, so is the note of regret and rebellion that he ...

Touching and Being Touched

John Kerrigan: Valentine Cunningham, 19 September 2002

Reading after Theory 
by Valentine Cunningham.
Blackwell, 194 pp., £45, December 2001, 0 631 22167 0
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... A few months before his early death from tuberculosis, John Keats scribbled these lines in his papers: This living hand, now warm and capable Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold And in the icy silence of the tomb, So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood So in my veins red life might stream again, And thou be conscience-calm’d – see, here it is I hold it towards you ...

Vendlerising

John Kerrigan, 2 April 1987

The Faber Book of Contemporary American Poetry 
edited by Helen Vendler.
Faber, 440 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 13945 0
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Selected Poems 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 348 pp., £16.95, April 1986, 0 85635 666 2
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The Poetry Book Society Anthology 1986/87 
edited by Jonathan Barker.
Hutchinson, 94 pp., £4.95, November 1986, 0 09 165961 2
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Two Horse Wagon Going By 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 143 pp., £5.95, October 1986, 0 85635 661 1
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... that poem is in some ways the centrepiece of Vendler’s book. The trouble is there’s more to John Ashbery than ‘The Painter’, ‘Drunken Americans’ and his other disquisitions on the Reflective Sublime. To compare Vendler’s choice with Ashbery’s, in the invaluable Selected Poems, is to find a troubling divergence. She gives us ...

The Ticking Fear

John Kerrigan: Louis MacNeice, 7 February 2008

Louis MacNeice: Collected Poems 
edited by Peter McDonald.
Faber, 836 pp., £30, January 2007, 978 0 571 21574 4
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Louis MacNeice: Selected Poems 
edited by Michael Longley.
Faber, 160 pp., £12.99, April 2007, 978 0 571 23381 6
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I Crossed the Minch 
by Louis MacNeice.
Polygon, 253 pp., £9.99, September 2007, 978 1 84697 014 6
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The Strings Are False: An Unfinished Autobiography 
by Louis MacNeice, edited by E.R. Dodds.
Faber, 288 pp., £9.99, September 2007, 978 0 571 23942 9
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... Scottish islands. In the Hebrides, Sorley MacLean had composed an elegy for MacNeice’s friend John Cornford, ‘marbh ’san Spàinn ’san aobhar naomh/is cridhe ghaoil mì-shocrach’ (‘dead in Spain in the sacred cause/and the heart of love uncomforted’). Within months he would start writing ‘The Cuillin’, which laments ‘the rotten wrack of ...

Faint Sounds of Shovelling

John Kerrigan: The History of Tragedy, 20 December 2018

Ladies’ Greek: Victorian Translations of Tragedy 
by Yopie Prins.
Princeton, 297 pp., £24, April 2017, 978 0 691 14189 3
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Greek Tragic Women on Shakespearean Stages 
by Tanya Pollard.
Oxford, 331 pp., £60, September 2017, 978 0 19 879311 3
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Eclipse of Action: Tragedy and Political Economy 
by Richard Halpern.
Chicago, 313 pp., £34, April 2017, 978 0 226 43365 3
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Samson Agonistes: A Redramatisation after Milton 
by John Kinsella.
Arc, 109 pp., £10.99, October 2018, 978 1 911469 55 1
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... the Troubles, or Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie’s version of the Antigone in an Islamist setting, or John Kinsella’s new update of Samson Agonistes. As it happens​ , Halpern’s insights can unlock much in those works. His account of Samson Agonistes, for example, goes a long way towards explaining what impelled Kinsella to ...

Travellers

John Kerrigan, 13 October 1988

Archaic Figure 
by Amy Clampitt.
Faber, 113 pp., £4.95, February 1988, 0 571 15043 8
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Tourists 
by Grevel Lindop.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £6.95, July 1987, 0 85635 697 2
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Sleeping rough 
by Charles Boyle.
Carcanet, 64 pp., £5.95, November 1987, 0 85635 731 6
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This Other Life 
by Peter Robinson.
Carcanet, 96 pp., £5.95, April 1988, 0 85635 737 5
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In the Hot-House 
by Alan Jenkins.
Chatto, 60 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 7011 3312 0
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Monterey Cypress 
by Lachlan Mackinnon.
Chatto, 62 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 7011 3264 7
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My Darling Camel 
by Selima Hill.
Chatto, 64 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 7011 3286 8
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The Air Mines of Mistila 
by Philip Gross and Sylvia Kantaris.
Bloodaxe, 80 pp., £4.95, June 1988, 1 85224 055 5
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X/Self 
by Edward Kamau Brathwaite.
Oxford, 131 pp., £6.95, April 1988, 0 19 281987 9
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The Arkansas Testament 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 117 pp., £3.95, March 1988, 9780571149094
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... the primacy of the ludicrous in good travel-writing. At least since the 15th century, when Sir John Mandeville collated his vegetable lambs and anthropophagi, travelogues have profited from being written out of speculation, preferably in a well-endowed library. Philip Gross and Sylvia Kantaris combine their considerable gifts to create a colourful peopled ...

Slavery and Revenge

John Kerrigan, 22 October 2020

... In his Narrative of a Five Years’ Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (1796), John Gabriel Stedman describes meeting a man who had been a prince in Africa but was ‘surprized, taken, and bound’ while on a raid ‘to revenge his [father’s] death’. Yet some who wrote about the plantations also correctively maintained that, whatever ...

Keeping the show on the road

John Kerrigan, 6 November 1986

Tribute to Freud 
by H. D.
Carcanet, 194 pp., £5.95, August 1985, 0 85635 599 2
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In Dora’s Case: Freud, Hysteria, Feminism 
edited by Charles Bernheimer and Claire Kahane.
Virago, 291 pp., £11.95, October 1985, 0 86068 712 0
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The Essentials of Psychoanalysis 
by Sigmund Freud, edited by Anna Freud.
Hogarth/Institute of Psychoanalysis, 595 pp., £20, March 1986, 0 7012 0720 5
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Freud and the Humanities 
edited by Peregrine Horden.
Duckworth, 186 pp., £18, October 1985, 0 7156 1983 7
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Freud for Historians 
by Peter Gay.
Oxford, 252 pp., £16.50, January 1986, 0 19 503586 0
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The Psychoanalytic Movement 
by Ernest Gellner.
Paladin, 241 pp., £3.50, May 1985, 0 586 08436 3
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The Freudian Body: Psychoanalysis and Art 
by Leo Bersani.
Columbia, 126 pp., $17.50, April 1986, 0 231 06218 4
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... The Professor was not always right,’ declared H.D. after analysis in Vienna. Her judgment seems rather generous. Reading her Tribute to Freud, one can’t ignore the emotional and interpretative coercion that went on at 19 Berggasse under the name of science. To an alarming degree, theory preempted argument. H.D. had been abandoned by her husband, Richard Aldington, for another woman, during a difficult pregnancy in which mother and child seemed doomed; her love affair with the feminist Bryher was fraught; writing set up its own strains: but Freud already knew, amid this welter of anxieties, what really worried the patient ...

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