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09 February 2011 @ 05:10 pm
a query  
Tell me, o my flist: what are the articles and books of literary criticism that you love? Not the ones you read so that you could be well-versed in something you wanted to write about (though if you read a book or article for this reason and loved it, please share!), and not necessarily ones that you agree with, but the ones that have mattered to you in some way. (They don't have to involve Shakespeare; I'm just curious.)

I haven't given this an incredible amount of thought (basically, the time it took me to walk from the Shakespeare aisles in the library over to the English department), but it strikes me that my list is quite small; at the moment it only consists of a wee handful:

--The Genius of Shakespeare, Jonathan Bate (although it's perfectly possible that I would no longer feel this way about that book, it meant a good deal to me in college)
--Shakespeare and Child's Play, Carol Chillington Rutter (about which I've posted a few times. Enter the Body should probably be here too.)
--Shakespeare and the Arts of Language, Russ McDonald
--most things I've read so far by Lynne Magnusson (yay modals! Though I am also quite fond of her piece on the sonnets, service, and subjectivity [the second chapter of Shakespeare and Social Dialogue], and "Language and comedy" in the Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Comedy.)
--it's not technically criticism, I suppose, but 1599 by James Shapiro
--"Not at All What a Man Should Be: Remaking English Manhood in Emma", Claudia L. Johnson. (I'm pretty sure I once said "Emma is totally a nationalist project!" in conversation once because of this article, in one of those "Austen never wrote about important historical stuff" debates.)

At one point The Madwoman in the Attic would have been here, because it was probably the first feminist criticism I read, and I discovered it on my own while taking a class on women writers of the Regency, so that was exciting. And possibly there should be a section of things I read on Elizabethan staging, because that was very important to me, but nothing in particular stands out as something I especially loved.

But even assuming that I've left out some things that I've forgotten or that I don't remember at all, I still feel like this list should be longer.
Ten O'Clock Medievalist: even more inappropriate monk lovetarimanveri on February 9th, 2011 10:26 pm (UTC)
Well, in my brief foray into medieval French literature for my comprehensive exams, I was a big fan of Simon Gaunt's Gender and Genre in Medieval French Literature (Cambridge, 1995), but I say that as an imposter among lit people.

I have a dozen or so historical works that I feel similarly about, though - works of history that I hope my baby historical efforts will grow up to be like.
tempestsarekind: books and flowerstempestsarekind on February 9th, 2011 10:49 pm (UTC)
Hee. Occasionally I am an imposter among historians, so I know how that goes. (I am quite fond of Susan Vincent's Dressing the Elite: Clothes in Early Modern England.)

But that's the question, I guess: what are the books that I would want *my* work to look like, and what do other people respond to in their choices? I'm not sure that I do have a really good sense of what it is I'm actually trying to write.
(no subject) - lareinenoire on February 10th, 2011 02:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
litlover12: CSLlitlover12 on February 9th, 2011 10:44 pm (UTC)
"An Experiment in Criticism," C. S. Lewis
"The Mind of the Maker," Dorothy L. Sayers

I may think of others, but those are the first two that come to mind. Sayers's is pretty unconventional, but I learned a lot from her concept of "Idea, Energy, Power."
tempestsarekind: freema reading is sexytempestsarekind on February 9th, 2011 10:53 pm (UTC)
Ooh, thanks! I don't think I've ever actually read a full essay by Lewis--snippets of things, and summaries, but never a whole piece.
a_t_raina_t_rain on February 9th, 2011 10:48 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure I have any. I just ... don't think criticism is all that lovable? Interesting, informative, thought-provoking, sure, if it's well-done. But not lovable.
tempestsarekind: all the world's a stagetempestsarekind on February 9th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC)
Well, it's possible that "love" might be less precise than I really want it to be. "Thought-provoking" is probably closer, except that I've had thoughts provoked by works that I didn't really like all that much. "Things that made a big impact on you, and are also interesting," I suppose.
Neaneadods on February 10th, 2011 01:02 am (UTC)
I'm a historian, so I'm going to come at this from an angle and recommend "Becoming Shakespeare" because it talks about how Shakespeare's plays have been edited and outright rewritten to fit what was considered "great" (or even just "proper") literature of the time. Like the 200 years when King Lear wasn't a tragedy.
tempestsarekind: the man himselftempestsarekind on February 10th, 2011 08:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, I haven't read that one yet! I've been seeing it in bookstores and the library, but I'm always slightly wary of books like that because sometimes they go a bit far with the whole "we only care about Shakespeare because of historical accidents; he was nothing special!" And my little Bardolatrous heart can't take that. :)
(no subject) - neadods on February 11th, 2011 12:05 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - enleve on February 11th, 2011 12:31 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - neadods on February 11th, 2011 01:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tempestsarekind on February 11th, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - neadods on February 11th, 2011 09:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tempestsarekind on February 11th, 2011 09:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - elliptic_eye on February 13th, 2011 08:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
La Reine Noire: Terms Commonly Usedlareinenoire on February 10th, 2011 02:24 am (UTC)
To steal from one of your comments:

what are the books that I would want *my* work to look like, and what do other people respond to in their choices? I'm not sure that I do have a really good sense of what it is I'm actually trying to write.

I would want my work to sound like Paul Strohm or Laurie Maguire. Both are somehow simultaneously complex, dense, and ultimately comprehensible. They use theory as it's meant to be used -- a tool, not drowning in it.
tempestsarekind: books and flowerstempestsarekind on February 10th, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
I've only had a chance to read the first chapter of Laurie Maguire's Shakespeare's Names so far, but I definitely liked what I read. I remember thinking "ah yes, I could get behind this method."
(no subject) - lareinenoire on February 11th, 2011 01:05 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tempestsarekind on February 11th, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Elliptic Eye: We've *all* got knives.elliptic_eye on February 10th, 2011 04:29 am (UTC)
Well, I'm very new to the whole game. (In fact, it's still a bit of an inscrutable mystery how I was accepted to grad school, considering that I have no background in lit crit at all.) So my list is very short and potentially embarrassing. And mostly only sort of literary criticism? But such as it is:

Donna Haraway, Cyborg Manifesto
Eve Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet
Foucault, Madness and Civilization and Archaeology of Knowledge
Butler, Undoing Gender
Mary Carruthers, The Craft of Thought and The Book of Memory

I wouldn't say that I love Madwoman, but it's important to me. I love Ian Hacking's stuff, too.
tempestsarekind: very few dates in this historytempestsarekind on February 10th, 2011 08:26 pm (UTC)
In fact, it's still a bit of an inscrutable mystery how I was accepted to grad school, considering that I have no background in lit crit at all.

Oh goodness, this is *so* true of me! When I graduated from college, I'm not even really sure I knew theory even existed, and I'd only read the tiniest bit of criticism (mostly from writing my thesis).

I definitely want to give The Book of Memory a go, one of these days. Of course, it's always checked out at the library, which doesn't help. :)
(no subject) - elliptic_eye on February 12th, 2011 08:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tempestsarekind on February 13th, 2011 08:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - elliptic_eye on February 13th, 2011 08:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tempestsarekind on February 13th, 2011 08:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Enlevéenleve on February 10th, 2011 10:59 am (UTC)
I do have some Shakespeare ones. There was an essay about what might have been in the letters Regan and Goneril were sending each other, in the paperback book that I first read King Lear from. That really helped me understand what might be their point of view, and to sympathize with them.

Also, I came across a book about references to syphilis in Shakespeare when I was writing an essay. It was called "Shakespeare and the New Disease: The Dramatic Function of Syphilis in Troilus and Cressida, Measure for Measure, and Timon of Athens" by Greg W. Bentley. It gave me a new perspective on the plays and helped me understand more of the innuendo.

Shakespeare in the Bush also turned my head around, thinking about the universality of Hamlet or other plays, and how much is culturally dependent.

Shakespeare's Insults. Not exactly lit-crit, but I did get quite a bit of enjoyment out of it. Most of the insults work best taken out of context, which is odd, because I thought it would work the other way around.

The Origin of the Modern Public podcasts from CBC radio give historical context, and I learned about printed ballads from them, and some other popular references in Shakespeare that I hadn't previously known about (though I had known about some).

Actors Talk About Shakespeare by Mary Z. Maher has given me food for thought. One thing memorable was the interview with William Hutt, where he says that part of the key to acting is knowing the most important word in a phrase, and to emphasize it, then gives the example of Lady MacBeth's line "Who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him?"

Hutt said that most actresses go for the word "blood" or for the phrase "so much". He said those are not bad choices, but that really the best one is "in". "Who would have thought the old man to have so much blood *in* him?"

I think there has also been a cumulative effect of me reading various criticism. Also, seeing the plays performed and listening to interviews with actors have had a big impact.

I think also books about writing have made an impact on me. The ones by David Gerrold, Ursula Leguin, Nancy Kress, among others.
tempestsarekind: globetempestsarekind on February 10th, 2011 08:29 pm (UTC)

That sounds like an interesting piece on King Lear. I'm definitely of the camp that thinks that Regan and Goneril at least start out making pretty reasonable demands, before everything goes spectacularly wrong.

And I've only read the Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline bits of Actors Talk About Shakespeare (it had to go back before I could read the rest), but I remember getting some useful mileage out of Kline's Falstaff while teaching 1 Henry IV.
(no subject) - cisic on February 13th, 2011 03:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tempestsarekind on February 13th, 2011 08:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Cisiccisic on February 13th, 2011 03:16 pm (UTC)
This is a great question, I've added it to my memories so I remember to take a look at some of these books.

As an actor, I highly recommend the "Shakespeare in Production" series. They are publishing them slowly, and they are pricey, but they take the text of a play and discuss choices different actors have made moment to moment. Fascinating stuff.
tempestsarekind: all the world's a stagetempestsarekind on February 13th, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
I think I remember seeing a couple of the "Shakespeare in Production" editions in the library, but I was a bit worried that all the information might be overwhelming unless I was looking at one scene. But I'll have to take another look!
Cisiccisic on February 13th, 2011 03:19 pm (UTC)
I also found Shakespeare's Shakespeare very interesting -- Jack Meagher discusses Shakespeare's stage directions that are written into the text, including the implications of doubling. I also enjoy when an author's prejudices are clearly out in the open, so I find it amusing to read his take on Cordelia, whom he hates.
tempestsarekind: globetempestsarekind on February 13th, 2011 08:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks--that's not one I'd heard of before!