Bernard Bergonzi

Bernard Bergonzi is a professor of English at the University of Warwick. He is currently working on a book to be called English after Leavis.

An English Vice

Bernard Bergonzi, 21 February 1985

In parts of our literary culture the idea of the self is derided as a bourgeois fabrication, ripe for deconstruction. But most readers remain very attached to selves, their own and other people’s, and like reading about them in biographies and autobiographies. Such books are evidently popular with publishers, and accounts of them regularly fill the review columns of the Sunday papers. But the idea of the self may be less simple than naive readers imagine; the writer of an autobiography may be not so much expressing a self as creating one in the process of writing his book, a point made in these two new studies of autobiography. It was once regarded as just as much a form of literature as poetry or fiction, but with the institutionalising of literary study it has been comparatively neglected by academic critics. Roy Pascal’s Design and Truth in Autobiography, published nearly twenty-five years ago, remains an indispensable pioneering work; more recently John Pilling’s Autobiography and Imagination provided some interesting studies of particular autobiographies by eminent Anglophone or Continental writers but without much discussion of the nature of autobiographical form. Jerome Hamilton Buckley and A.O.J. Cockshut take the discussion further, in complementary studies of developments since 1800.



9 May 1996

Anthony Julius’s deliberately adversarial book is cogent, well-informed and unsettling; it has a real case to make but frequently overstates it. His indictment of Eliot as an anti-semitic poet is based on the first three poems in the Ara Vos Prec collection of 1920, ‘Gerontion’, ‘Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar’ and ‘Sweeney among the Nightingales’; plus ‘Dirge’ from...


21 July 1994

The lines which Frank Kermode cannot identify (LRB, 21 July), ‘Earth that grew with joyful ease/Hemlock for Socrates,’ are by the young war poet, Charles Sorley (1895-1915). They come from an untitled poem of which the first line is ‘All the hills and vales along’. Sylvia Townsend Warner’s easy familiarity with the lines did not stop her from misquoting them; the first words should be ‘Earth...


22 February 1990

Alan Sinfield (Letters, 7 March) insists that value is always culturally specific, related to a particular context. This implies an extreme degree of ethical relativism; we, here and now, may find torture, for instance, repugnant to our idea of how human beings ought to be treated, whilst recognising that in other times and places other ideas and practices have been, and are, common. On Sinfield’s...

Unsaying: Thomas Arnold’s Apostasies

Philip Davis, 15 April 2004

Roughly every ten years there was a crisis and an upheaval. In 1847, in his early twenties, he lost his faith, but in 1856 he converted to Catholicism. In 1865 he returned to Anglicanism, only to...

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In March 1889 Edward Arber applied for the vacant chair of English Literature and Language at University College London. Arber’s career had been unusual. He began his working life at 17 as...

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Frank Kermode, 22 May 1986

The advantages and disadvantages of modernity have long been canvassed, so that you could say the topic is ancient. Pancirolli wrote a very popular book on it in the 16th century, and it was...

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Graham Hough, 5 March 1981

Ruth and Lucille are sisters, living in Fingerbone on Fingerbone Lake. At the bottom of the lake lies their grandfather, who was guard on a train that plunged off the bridge one night, years...

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