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Making a start

Frank Kermode

11 June 1992
Openings: Narrative Beginnings from the Epic to the Novel 
by A.D. Nuttall.
Oxford, 264 pp., £30, April 1992, 0 19 811741 8
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... A.D. Nuttall is among the most erudite contemporary academic literary critics, at ease with the Classics, much given to philosophy. He is also disconcertingly bold and curious, and his latest book, like some of its predecessors, is as odd as it is learned ...

Cave’s Plato

A.D. Nuttall

7 July 1988
In Defence of Rhetoric 
by Brian Vickers.
Oxford, 508 pp., £40, February 1988, 0 19 812837 1
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Recognitions: A Study in Poetics 
by Terence Cave.
Oxford, 530 pp., £40, March 1988, 0 19 815849 1
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... of Rhetoric is an attempt, copious, complex, armed at all points with telling examples, to meet and turn back this onslaught, which seems so confidently sure of its own rightness. If we define rhetoric as the art of persuasion, then, says Professor Vickers, it is neither evil nor good; it is simply an instrument. Thus far, I imagine, Plato, Kant ...

Really fantastic

A.D. Nuttall

18 November 1982
A Rhetoric of the Unreal: Studies in Narrative and Structure, especially of the Fantastic 
by Christine Brooke-Rose.
Cambridge, 380 pp., £25, October 1981, 0 521 22561 2
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... had stayed in Oxford, instead of migrating to France, she might have been rather like Helen Gardner. Her new book is written with a crispness and a briskness which at once evokes a certain atmosphere: a highly intelligent unresponsiveness to theory, a fear of subjectivity (she even recalls, with obvious relish, her ...
21 June 1984
A New Mimesis: Shakespeare and the Representation of Reality 
by A.D. Nuttall.
Methuen, 209 pp., £12.95, September 1983, 0 416 31780 4
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... syntactic) of passages selected from texts in some nine different languages, ranging from Homer and the Old Testament to Virginia Woolf, it assumes throughout that reality has an objective existence, is open to perception, and needs no apologetic inverted commas. It can be and ...

Dear God

Claude Rawson

4 December 1980
Overheard by God: Fiction and Prayer in Herbert, Milton, Dante and St John 
by A.D. Nuttall.
Methuen, 147 pp., £8.95, September 1980, 0 416 73980 6
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... brief, stylish book, citing Herbert’s ‘Dialogue’ (‘Sweetest Saviour, of my soul …’) and asking afterwards: ‘Is God pleased with what he reads?’ Professor Nuttall’s point is that such a question would have seemed perfectly natural in the 17th century. Many of ...

Getting Even

Adam Phillips

19 September 1996
Revenge Tragedy: Aeschylus to Armageddon 
by John Kerrigan.
Oxford, 404 pp., £40, April 1996, 0 19 812186 5
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Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure? 
by A.D. Nuttall.
Oxford, 110 pp., £20, June 1996, 0 19 818371 2
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... We wouldn’t think of anything as a tragedy if we did not have a deeply ingrained sense of order already there to be affronted. Tragedy in life, and as art, exposes by violation our mostly unconscious assumptions about how the world should be; and how often we take for granted that it is as it should be – a world in which, say, no one ever takes revenge, or dies ...

Everything is over before it begins

A.D. Nuttall: Milton criticism

21 June 2001
How Milton Works 
by Stanley Fish.
Harvard, 616 pp., £23.95, June 2001, 0 674 00465 5
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... The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of angels and God, and at liberty when of devils and Hell, is because he was a true poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.’ William Blake wrote these words near the end of the 18th century and set going the idea that Paradise Lost, Milton’s epic justifying the ways of God to men, had a twofold force: an orthodox ostensible meaning and a profoundly unorthodox unconscious meaning, the latter being far stronger than the former ...
23 April 1992
Uncritical Theory: Post-Modernism, Intellectuals and the Gulf War 
by Christopher Norris.
Lawrence and Wishart, 218 pp., £9.99, February 1992, 0 85315 752 9
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... have now been discredited (or shown up as just a figment of bourgeois ideology); that history and politics are textual ( = fictive) phenomena on a par with poems, novels, or whatever other ‘kinds of writing’ you care to name; and that henceforth the only ‘discourse’ that counts is one that cheerfully ...

Joke Book?

A.D. Nuttall

23 November 1989
The Anatomy of Melancholy: Vol. I 
by Robert Burton, edited by Thomas Faulkner, Nicholas Kiesslingand Rhonda Blair.
Oxford, 675 pp., £70, October 1989, 0 19 812448 1
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... In the Cathedral at Christ Church in Oxford, between the recumbent knight with the false nose and the tomb of Saint Frideswide, who eluded her too amorous suitor by hiding among pigs, stands the funerary monument of Robert Burton. Already, it will be noticed, I am giving more information than is strictly necessary ...

True Words

A.D. Nuttall

25 April 1991
The Names of Comedy 
by Anne Barton.
Oxford, 221 pp., £22.50, August 1990, 0 19 811793 0
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... The French call it pain, the Germans call it Brot and we call it bread; and we are right, because it is bread.’ So wrote (I have been told though I have not been able to verify the reference) an English theorist of language in the 17th century. The thought is at once robust and lunatic ...
28 September 1989
Young Hamlet: Essays on Shakespeare’s Tragedies 
by Barbara Everett.
Oxford, 232 pp., £22.50, June 1989, 0 19 812993 9
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‘Timon of Athens’ 
by A.D. Nuttall.
Harvester, 164 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 7108 1006 7
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... consists of her four Northcliffe Lectures, given at University College London in 1988, on Hamlet and the other ‘major’ tragedies, together with a number of shorter pieces on Romeo and Juliet, Troilus and Cressida, Othello, Twelfth Night, and quite ...

Hail to the Chief

Frank Kermode

10 January 1991
Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Routledge, 188 pp., £25, January 1991, 0 415 90173 1
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... in this latest collection an account of his own ‘intellectual trajectory’, which features a decisive revulsion from his teachers at Yale, a submission to ‘the intellectual power and moral authority’ of Raymond Williams at Cambridge, and the almost inadvertent invention of the ...

Point of Wonder

A.D. Nuttall

5 December 1991
Marvellous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Oxford, 202 pp., £22.50, September 1991, 0 19 812382 5
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... Greece, having been subjected, subjected her wild conqueror and introduced culture into boorish Rome.’ The poet Horace, himself a Roman, can take a stylish pleasure in describing the Roman conquest of Greece, even though – or rather because – it piquantly entails the intellectual and artistic near-humiliation of the conqueror ...
18 August 1994
Essays, Mainly Shakespearean 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 386 pp., £40, March 1994, 0 521 40444 4
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English Comedy 
edited by Michael Cordner, Peter Holland</a>and John Kerrigan.
Cambridge, 323 pp., £35, March 1994, 0 521 41917 4
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... Humane, learned, un-showily stylish and at times moving in their tender intelligence, these essays by Anne Barton, ranging from a richly ‘mellow’ piece first published in 1953 – a period when even undergraduates wrote as if they were middle-aged – to the magnificent ‘Wrying a Little’, on Cymbeline, Jacobean marriage law and female desire, are nourishing to the spirit ...

A Kind of Scandal

A.D. Nuttall

19 August 1993
Shakespeare and Ovid 
by Jonathan Bate.
Oxford, 292 pp., £35, May 1993, 0 19 812954 8
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... Ovid was Shakespeare’s favourite poet. The fact is central to his genius, crucial to the understanding of his work. Shakespeare himself remains visible to posterity; Ovid is now, through the decay of Classical learning, almost invisible. The Shakespeare industry roars on, but the number of people for whom Actaeon, Adonis, Arachne, Echo, Narcissus, Philomel and Tereus are mere un-meaning names grows greater with each successive year ...

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