Terence Hawkes

Terence Hawkes taught English at Cardiff University for many years. He was the general editor of the Accents on Shakespeare series, and his books include Structuralism and Semiotics (1977), Meaning by Shakespeare (1992) and Shakespeare in the Present (2002). He died in 2014.

Putting on Some English: Eagleton’s Rise

Terence Hawkes, 7 February 2002

In the United States, ‘English’ can mean ‘spin’: a deliberate turn put on a ball by striking it so that it swerves. It’s a subtle epithet, perhaps recording a canny colonial take on the larger distortions inseparable from imperial rule. But the truth is that as the English invented ‘Great Britain’ and then began the process of large-scale...

Until recently, the notion that the academic subject called ‘English’ had any sort of history would have seemed rather odd. Hadn’t it always just, well, existed? Surely, at his Stratford grammar school, the lad Shakespeare mugged up his Chaucer, if not the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads and Pride and Prejudice like the rest of us? How otherwise could he have written plays full of ‘characters’ who, as all O and A-level candidates know, endlessly, remorselessly, ‘develop’? Admittedly, Stephen Potter’s The Muse in Chains had offered to blow the gaff in 1937. But pell-mell postwar expansion, to say nothing of Potter’s decline into a chronicler of comfy national foibles, soon settled its hash. ‘English’ seemed to be just there: as natural as Syrup of Figs or Marmite, and as volcanically cleansing or as briskly bracing as either to the costive national soul. Gloomy siftings of the details of the subject’s invention could be dismissed as further evidence of a crisis whose other barely distinguishable symptoms were marijuana, acne and the vapourisings of feckless French fumisterie.‘


Sonic Boom

16 July 1998

John Sturrock (LRB, 16 July) is quite right and his account of the delusions of poor Sokal and poor Bricmont gets to the heart of the matter. Their confident belief in a readily-graspable distinction between ‘discourse and language’ on the one hand and the ‘facts’ to which these refer on the other, indicates simple-mindedness of a rare perfection. No doubt Sokal finds it acceptable that his...

Lore and Ordure: Jonson and digestion

Terence Hawkes, 21 May 1998

In 1616, the year in which Shakespeare died, Ben Jonson became the first English dramatist to publish a collected edition of his own plays. No doubt The Workes of Beniamin Jonson, a folio volume of more than a thousand pages, brought a sharp satisfaction to its author. The indignities of an earlier career as a bricklayer could scarcely have been more roundly redeemed. Only the malice of a contemporary wit,


Knowing What You Like

1 January 1998

According to James Wood, Iris Murdoch just ‘knows’ that Shakespeare and Tolstoy are great artists (LRB, 1 January). The ‘strange, quasi-philosophical circularity’ of this view quite dazzles him. In my experience, it’s the sort of judgment undergraduates come up with all the time. One’s own marginal comments tend to be shorter, and ‘quasi-philosophical’ is not usually among them. What’s...


Frank Kermode, 11 February 1993

Faithful readers of this journal will remember Terence Hawkes’s article ‘Bardbiz’, if only because it provoked, between March 1990 and September 1991, one of the most protracted...

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