Englamouring the humdrum

Rosemary Ashton

  • Arguing with the past: Essays in Narrative from Woolf to Sidney by Gillian Beer
    Routledge, 206 pp, £25.00, August 1989, ISBN 0 415 02607 5
  • Samuel Richardson: Tercentenary Essays edited by Margaret Anne Doody and Peter Sabor
    Cambridge, 306 pp, £35.00, July 1989, ISBN 0 521 35383 1

Gillian Beer’s Arguing with the past, a collection of essays published in recent years (with one, on Richardson and Milton, dating from as long ago as 1968), is richly written, contains many sharp critical insights, and shows the author to have a good ear for nuances of language in the literary works she chooses to discuss. At the same time, she reveals some straining in her pursuit of the chief ‘argument’ – namely, that half-readings, ‘failed’ readings and forgettings of other authors can make up an important part of a writer’s experience and creativity.

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