Dead from the Waist Down: Scholars and Scholarship in Literature and the Popular Imagination

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9780300098402: Dead from the Waist Down: Scholars and Scholarship in Literature and the Popular Imagination

At the end of the 16th century, scholars and intellectuals were seen as Faustian magicians, dangerous and sexy. By the 19th century, they were perceived as dusty and dried up, "dead from the waist down", as Browning so wickedly put it. In this study, a literary critic explores the various ways we have thought about scholars and scholarship through the ages. A.D. Nuttall focuses on three people, two real and one fictitious: the classical scholar Isaac Casaubon who lived from 1559 to 1614; Mark Pattison, 19th-century rector at Oxford; and Mr Casaubon in George Eliot's "Middlemarch". The three are intricately related, for Pattison was seen by many as the model for Eliot's Mr Casaubon and he was also the author of the best book on Isaac Casaubon. Nuttall offers a penetrating interpretation of "Middlemarch" and then describes how Pattison recorded his own introverted intellectual life and self-lacerating depression. He presents Isaac Casaubon, on the other hand, as a fulfilled scholar who personifies the ideal of detailed, unspectacular truth-telling, often imperilled in our own culture. Nuttall concludes with a meditation on morality, sexuality and the true virtues of scholarship.

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Book Description:

In this erudite and entertaining book, a renowned literary critic explores the ways we have thought about scholars and scholarship through the ages. How is it, he asks, that in the nineteenth century, scholars became seen as dead from the waist down” anemic and servile, impotent figures of ridicule? 

From the Back Cover:

"Nuttall has written a book thoroughly alive and enlivening. It entertains, endlessly, but it also illuminates and returns emotion and love to scholarship and criticism."-Harold Bloom

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