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Geoffrey Strickland

Geoffrey Strickland is Reader in French in the University of Reading and author of Stendhal: The Education of a Novelist. His Structuralism or Criticism? will be publised later this year.

Poem: ‘The Dying Scholar’s Confession’

Geoffrey Strickland, 20 February 1986

Now I am about to die and the secret Of my ignorance dies with me. That I put it over them the more discerning Guessed, their eyes told me, but how much I fooled them None will ever know. My secret dies with me.

I die mercifully before the secret is out: The books I quoted and had not read, The names I hoarded from the talk of others And dropped into my own, The desperate webs I wove to fill...

Comparative Everything

Geoffrey Strickland, 6 March 1980

It is not the fault of the contributors to this volume, or even of the editor, if it reminds one of Dr Johnson’s objection to the yoking together by violence of heterogeneous ideas. Comparative Criticism is a product of comparative literature, the first chair of which was created for Francesco De Sanctis in Naples in 1871 in recognition of his services to literary history and the cause of the Risorgimento. René Wellek, appropriately, in this first volume commissioned by the British Comparative Literature Association, contributes an article on De Sanctis’ understanding of what could be meant by ‘realism’. ‘Comparative literature’, as the term was used in the 19th century, seems to have been part of the study of civilisation and to have expressed the 19th-century interest in the distinctiveness of national cultures. Mme de Staël, A.W. Schlegel and Sismondi are among its virtual originators. The usefulness of the original term derived from a passionate and often politically-motivated interest in national peculiarities and aspirations. (It obviously never occurred to De Sanctis, as a cultured European, that the study of literature could ever be confined to that of a single language.) The interest failed to survive two major European wars, and the term is today so loose in its application as to be – on the evidence of this volume, for example – almost unusable. Without some strong common directing interest, the field of comparative literature is bound to seem as vast as the human imagination, and there are bound to be within it many different kinds of specialist. If this volume lacks any obvious raison d’être, it is because this heterogeneity is made all the more conspicuous by their appearing between the same hard covers.

Letter

Literary Theory

17 October 1985

SIR: Professor Hough talks in his review of Criticism in the University (LRB, 17 October 1985) of the appalling state into which we have all driven ourselves, and the impatient young. W(h)ither academic criticism, indeed! There is, I think, a cure, and at the risk of sounding presumptuous, I would suggest that it lies in the organisation of university studies rather than in further ramifications of...

Against Theory

Gerald Graff, 21 January 1982

In the noisy polemical atmosphere of contemporary literary criticism, Geoffrey Strickland’s quiet ‘thoughts on how we read’ may not have got a fair hearing. His book is an...

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