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Why always Dorothea?

John Mullan: How caricature can be sharp perception

5 May 2005
The One v. the Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel 
by Alex Woloch.
Princeton, 391 pp., £13.95, February 2005, 0 691 11314 9
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... will no doubt be recognised as our most far-reaching account of fictional characterisation’. Here is a book, as its author says, about ‘how living persons get rendered into literary form’. AlexWoloch himself notes that literary theory has always been unhappy with the idea of ‘character’. He quotes, with I think unintended comic effect, the wonderfully solemn perplexity of Mieke Bal in ...

I say, damn it, where are the beds?

David Trotter: Orwell’s Nose and Prose

16 February 2017
Orwell’s Nose: A Pathological Biography 
by John Sutherland.
Reaktion, 256 pp., £15, August 2016, 978 1 78023 648 3
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Or Orwell: Writing and Democratic Socialism 
by Alex Woloch.
Harvard, 378 pp., £35.95, January 2016, 978 0 674 28248 3
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... a flourish. ‘Write on the unofficial death certificate, “suicide”.’ Or Orwell is an altogether different proposition, as its 61 pages of industrial-strength endnotes make abundantly clear. AlexWoloch’s purpose is to remedy the relative neglect visited on an ‘iconic political writer’ by ‘literary theory and criticism’ – despite, or perhaps because of, their increasing ...

Different Speeds, Same Furies

Perry Anderson: Powell v. Proust

19 July 2018
Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 509 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 241 14383 4
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... are so class-marked – the lift-boy, the gardener, the laundry girl – they don’t earn so much as a name. In other words, the ‘character-space’ of the two works, to use the term coined by AlexWoloch in his pioneering study of the relationship between major and minor figures in the novel, The One v. the Many, is quite distinct. Powell’s is demographically much richer. If we reckon that ...

Time Unfolded

Perry Anderson: Powell v. the World

2 August 2018
... popular subsequent device perhaps Greimas’s ‘semiotic square’, in which characters become so many ‘actants’ occupying six invariant positions in any given tale. ‘For a long time now,’ AlexWoloch writes in The One v. the Many, ‘characterisation has been the bête noire of narratology, provoking either cursory dismissal, lingering uncertainty or vociferous argument.’ Continuing ...

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