Talking Back to Emily Dickinson, and Other Essays

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9781558497870: Talking Back to Emily Dickinson, and Other Essays

This collection makes the case for literary criticism as an informed, aggressive, personal, and often humorous response to writers and writing. An unrepentant academic, William Pritchard nonetheless finds himself looking vainly , in much current professional study of literature, for what he sees as criticism 's central task. This involves in part, an attentiveness to the performing voice e of the novelist, poetry, or essayist under discussion. to bring out this quality, the critic must exploit, with invention and intrepidity, his or her own responsive voice―must "talk back" to the work of art.

The essays, all of them about English and American writers, are arranged chronologically, beginning with Shakespeare, an Edmund Burke, and proceeding through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to end with contemporaries like Kinglsey Amis, V. S. Naipaul, and Doris Lessing. Pritchard writes with equal authority about poetry and fiction; the collection also includes assessments of critics such as Matthew Arnold and Thomas Carlyle, Ford Madox Ford and R. P. Blackmur.

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About the Author:

William H. Pritchard is Henry Clay Folger Professor of English at Amherst College.

From Kirkus Reviews:

As demonstrated in these essays (most of which appeared in the Hudson Review), Pritchards sympathetic, kinetic engagement with the canon has always distinguished him from other voices of the academy. Maybe thats because Pritchard (English/Amherst; Frost: A Literary Life Reconsidered, 1993, etc.) believes less in great books than in great writing. His immersion in literature is emotional and philosophical, as well as technical and professional. Exemplifying this is his essay ``Responding to Blake,'' which first appraises Harold Bloom's erudite yet arid response to the poet, then illuminates the critical temptation (felt by others, at any rate) to dodge full imaginative engagement. Pritchard offers similarly wise counsel in his approaches to Wordsworth, Byron, Hawthorne, and even Norman Mailer; the range of his taste summons fiction, poetry, and theory without strain. He complains tunefully about biographers (e.g., Juliet Barker, whose subject is the Bronts). He acknowledges his mixed feelings about Byrons letters while seeming to admire the poets confirmed skepticism. A fair-minded skepticism also seems to guide Pritchard. In the subdued, candidly bewildered title essay, for instance, he reconsiders the emotional enigmas that have driven an industry of Dickinson criticism to putty the gaps between admiration and affection for her verse. His own critical uncertainty about her revolves around the fact that Dickinson's mode of address is so elliptical and so remote that her poetic imagination becomes a currency unto itself, not easily exchanged in the marketplace where authors and readers interact. Like the other pieces, the Dickinson essay is concise and well wrought. One always has the sense with Pritchard that he has taken up his pen for a true purpose, whether to address the question of value, as with Dickinson, or the careful resuscitation of the critical reputation of Ford Madox Ford. Seemingly unswayed by our eras critical grandstanding, this professor of English reminds us that visionary criticism is an act of possibility whose highest task is not persuasion but expansion of minds. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Book Description University of Massachusetts Press, United States, 2012. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. This collection makes the case for literary criticism as an informed, aggressive, personal, and often humorous response to writers and writing. An unrepentant academic, William Pritchard nonetheless finds himself looking vainly, in much current professional study of literature, for what he sees as criticism s central task. This involves, in part, an attentiveness to the performing voice of the novelist, poet, or essayist under discussion. To bring out that quality, the critic must exploit, with invention and intrepidity, his or her own responsive voice - must talk back to the work of art. Bookseller Inventory # AAN9781558497870

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Book Description University of Massachusetts Press, United States, 2012. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. This collection makes the case for literary criticism as an informed, aggressive, personal, and often humorous response to writers and writing. An unrepentant academic, William Pritchard nonetheless finds himself looking vainly, in much current professional study of literature, for what he sees as criticism s central task. This involves, in part, an attentiveness to the performing voice of the novelist, poet, or essayist under discussion. To bring out that quality, the critic must exploit, with invention and intrepidity, his or her own responsive voice - must talk back to the work of art. Bookseller Inventory # AAN9781558497870

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