Barbara Johnson

Barbara Johnson a professor of English and comparative literature at Harvard, is the author of The Wake of Deconstruction.

Real Absences

Barbara Johnson, 19 October 1995

‘Reading others people’s letters, like reading private diaries, offers thrilling and unexpected glimpses into the lives of others,’ claims the dustjacket of The Oxford Book of Letters. In contrast, Vincent Kaufmann cheerfully introduces his study of writers’ letters by admitting that ‘there is nothing more tedious in a writer’s work than his correspondence.’

Mallarmé gets a life

Barbara Johnson, 18 August 1994

Stéphane Mallarmé was the darling of French Symbolism and the demon of Existentialism. Later, in the Sixties and Seventies, he was a central figure for critical movements from psychoanalytic and thematic criticism to structuralism, semiotics and deconstruction. We have had analyses of his work by Charles Mauron, Jean-Pierre Richard, Robert Greer Cohn, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, Leo Bersani, Malcolm Bowie and others. It might seem surprising, therefore, not to find a single full-length biography published between Henri Mondor’s 1941 Vie de Mallarmé and Gordon Millan’s Mallarmé: A Throw of the Dice. Millan notes in his Introduction that ‘the man himself has been all but forgotten, eclipsed and overshadowed by his writings. Anyone reading recent Mallarmé criticism could be forgiven for wondering whether he ever had a life.’

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