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Blake’s Tone

E.P. Thompson, 28 January 1993

Dangerous Enthusiasm: William Blake and the Culture of Radicalism in the 1790s 
by Jon Mee.
Oxford, 251 pp., £30, August 1992, 0 19 812226 8
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... Just under forty years ago David Erdman provided for William Blake historical contexts in abundance in Blake: Prophet against Empire (1954). It was a remarkable work of literary detection, which still dominates the field. Some Blake readers have felt that his attribution of correspondence between text and contemporaneous events was over-literal (as well as hazardous), and Jon Mee is one of these ...

Fiery Participles

D.A.N. Jones, 6 September 1984

Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic 
by David Bromwich.
Oxford, 450 pp., £19.50, March 1984, 0 19 503343 4
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William Godwin: Philosopher, Novelist, Revolutionary 
by Peter Marshall.
Yale, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy 
edited by Marilyn Butler.
Cambridge, 280 pp., £25, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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... to fry). To write about the works of Hazlitt, one needs a bias towards history and philosophy. David Bromwich’s study concentrates on the latter discipline, for he is appraising Hazlitt’s understanding of Abstract Ideas and his command of words to express them. But there is also a historical theme running through this excellent book, accompanying the ...

Watching Me Watching Them Watching You

Andrew O’Hagan: Surveillance, 9 October 2003

... there, but lives too, the life of a community and the failings of a welfare state. Venables and Thompson re-enacted something that day: they played out a fantasy of watching and being watched. Much of what they did – ‘let’s steal a kid,’ Thompson said – was based on a fantasy drawn from a home video they’d ...
Literature and Popular Culture in 18th-Century England 
by Pat Rogers.
Harvester, 215 pp., £22.50, April 1985, 0 7108 0981 6
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Eighteenth-Century Encounters: Studies in Literature and Society in the Age of Walpole 
by Pat Rogers.
Harvester, 173 pp., £22.50, April 1985, 0 7108 0986 7
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Order from Confusion Sprung: Studies in 18th-Century Literature from Swift to Cowper 
by Claude Rawson.
Allen and Unwin, 431 pp., £30, August 1985, 0 04 800019 1
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Jonathan Swift 
edited by Angus Ross and David Woolley.
Oxford, 722 pp., £6.95, June 1984, 0 19 281337 4
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... misleading. In Eighteenth-Century Encounters he reverts to his disagreement with E.P. Thompson about the Berkshire Blacks and the Waltham Black Act of 1723 which made it illegal for anyone to go disguised into woods. The particular issue between Thompson and Rogers is the bearing of the episode upon Pope. ...

The Hippest

Terry Eagleton, 7 March 1996

Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues 
edited by David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen.
Routledge, 514 pp., £45, February 1996, 0 415 08803 8
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... well enough. Far more than Raymond Williams or Perry Anderson, and more persistently than E.P. Thompson, Hall has been the Left’s finest instance of the strategic intellectual, the theorist as mediator and interventionist, broker and communicator, bringing the more arcane flights of Frankfurtian or Post-Structuralist theory to bear on questions of voting ...

Fiction and the Poverty of Theory

John Sutherland, 20 November 1986

News from Nowhere 
by David Caute.
Hamish Hamilton, 403 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 241 11920 0
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O-Zone 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 469 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 241 11948 0
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Ticket to Ride 
by Dennis Potter.
Faber, 202 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 9780571145232
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... A drunken American historian once lurched over to David Caute at a party and told him: ‘Having read your last novel, or part of it, I’d advise you to give up writing fiction – if you weren’t such a lousy historian.’ Caute, a connoisseur of masochism, tells the story against himself (in Contemporary Novelists, 1976 ...

Principal Ornament

José Harris, 3 December 1992

G.M. Trevelyan: A life in History 
by David Cannadine.
HarperCollins, 288 pp., £18, September 1992, 0 00 215872 8
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... and dominated popular understanding of the nations’s common past for more than half a century. David Cannadine’s characteristically spirited and combative study is more than just an intellectual biography: it is a work of piety, advocacy and passion. He uses the corpus of Trevelyan’s historical writings over fifty years – Wycliffe, Garibaldi, the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, 30 November 2017

Murder on the Orient Express 
directed by Kenneth Brannagh.
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... audio-visual life, but the relatively recent personifications by Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov and David Suchet dominate most memories. None of these figures much resembles the ‘short, stout, elderly man, his hair cut en brosse’ that Agatha Christie describes. Well, they often manage the stout bit, but for the rest they are tallish, more like ...

What are we telling the nation?

David Edgar: Thoughts about the BBC, 7 July 2005

Uncertain Vision: Birt, Dyke and the Reinvention of the BBC 
by Georgina Born.
Vintage, 352 pp., £10.99, August 2005, 0 09 942893 8
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Building Public Value: Renewing the BBC for a Digital World 
BBC, 135 pp.Show More
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... the BBC when Alan Yentob insisted that an aristocratic ex-Battle of Britain pilot be played by David Jason; ITV loved it, but made similar demands. Eventually, back at the BBC, the play got its perfect casting – Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Joanna Lumley – and was ‘bought’ in 1998 by the then BBC2 controller Mark ...

On the Rant

E.P. Thompson, 9 July 1987

Fear, Myth and History: The Ranters and the Historians 
by J.C. Davis.
Cambridge, 208 pp., £22.50, September 1986, 0 521 26243 7
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... is Frank McGregor, whose unpublished thesis on the Rangers (Oxford, 1968) has been pillaged by David wholesale, yet who gave to him the most interesting part of his case. For McGregor, in several articles, has himself developed the argument that George Fox and others used the odium of Ranterism as a useful disciplinary control, and, in the case of early ...

Fellow Freaks

Sam Thompson: Wells Tower, 9 July 2009

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned 
by Wells Tower.
Granta, 238 pp., £10.99, April 2009, 978 1 84708 048 6
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... the Paris Review, McSweeney’s and the New Yorker. He is also a journalist, specialising, like David Foster Wallace, in first-person-singular expeditions into curious reaches of American culture. Tower’s non-fiction adventures have included a bicycle odyssey along the New Orleans levee a year after Hurricane Katrina, a search for a possibly extinct ...

Will it hold?

Helen Thompson: Will the EU hold?, 21 June 2018

... law generally prevails over democratic discontent in spite of adverse electoral consequences. David Cameron must have looked on in envy: he’d tried to talk tough on immigration without any authority to reduce Britain’s openness to southern Europeans. Merkel meanwhile profited from continuing to talk up German openness while having ensured that Germany ...

Taking the hint

David Craig, 5 January 1989

The King’s Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, 1822 
by John Prebble.
Collins, 399 pp., £15, November 1988, 0 00 215404 8
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... before the levee at Holyrood, when he had worn ‘full Highland dress’, described by the painter David Wilkie as kilt and hose ‘with a kind of flesh-coloured pantaloons underneath’ and by a Lowland laird as ‘the Royal Tartan Highland dress with buff-coloured trowsers like flesh to imitate his Royal knees, and little bits of Tartan stocking like other ...

Designing criminal policy

David Garland, 10 October 1991

Reconstructing the Criminal: Culture, Law and Policy in England, 1830-1914 
by Martin Wiener.
Cambridge, 391 pp., £30, February 1991, 9780521350457
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... histories much more sceptical and critical than the first. Writers such as Douglas Hay, E.P. Thompson, Michael Ignatieff, and especially Michel Foucault, retold the story in a much more analytical and sophisticated way, showing how criminal justice developments were tied into wider social movements such as the rise of capitalism, the expansion of the ...

Is It Glamorous?

David Simpson: Stefan Collini among the Intellectuals, 6 March 2008

Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain 
by Stefan Collini.
Oxford, 544 pp., £16.99, July 2005, 0 19 929105 5
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... Collini makes no place for any equivalent consideration of the careers of Raymond Williams, E.P. Thompson, C.L.R. James and others whose impact on the political sphere was arguably greater. The price Perry Anderson pays for being discussed at length here is to be regarded as an example of an ‘intellectualist’ tendency that arranges a list of big names ...

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