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Believing in Unicorns

Walter Benn Michaels: Racecraft, 7 February 2013

Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life 
by Karen Fields and Barbara Fields.
Verso, 302 pp., £20, October 2012, 978 1 84467 994 2
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... The historian Barbara Fields and her sister, the sociologist Karen Fields, open Racecraft, their collection of linked essays, by denying that there are such things as races. Race today does not, they point out, refer to ‘a traditionally named group of people’ but to ‘a statistically defined population ...

Barbara Pym’s Hymn

Karl Miller, 6 March 1980

... writes, nearby, about one of them, and I would like to write about another – the novelist, Barbara Pym. To think of her in relation to a literary world, with its apparatus of publicity and reward, gives a sense of incongruity, but, of course, there’s a tale that hangs on the connection – the story of how this world turned from her in middle ...

Freddie Gray

Adam Shatz, 21 May 2015

... to the free states, and partly because of its substantial population of free blacks. But as Barbara Jeanne Fields argues in her classic study, Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground, slavery in Maryland was by no means benign, and free blacks could never feel secure under its shadow. According to ...

Ground Floor

Barbara Wootton, 15 October 1981

Women in Top Jobs 
by Michael Fogarty, Isobel Allen and Patrick Walters.
Heinemann, 273 pp., £14, July 1981, 0 435 83806 7
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... the top. That brings me to my second excuse for breaking my vow. In some overwhelmingly masculine fields, which have not reached even the ‘statutory woman’ stage, surveys of ‘Women in ...’ are still as desirable as ever. Particularly is this relevant where the road to the summit even for men is uncharted, as in industry, where no specific ...


Barbara Graziosi: Sebald is my husband, 20 December 2012

... mountains in the distance, the high-lying forests, the autumn light, the frozen watercourses and fields, and the fruit trees in blossom in the meadows, touched my heart more powerfully than I could have anticipated; but nevertheless, for various reasons partly to do with the Swiss attitude to life and partly to do with my position as a teacher, I did not ...

Two Poems

Alistair Elliot, 19 January 1989

... Cavorting round their forms, and saw the fox (Corrected by our little son to Vox) Touring his fields, his land as much as ours. We had to move, but carried off the room In the box of memory like something sacred. Allow us back to entertain our heirs – I almost think you could untangle time. That simple one-way tide makes such confusion. How much we’d ...

Minute Particulars

David Allen, 6 February 1986

New Images of the Natural in France: A study in European Cultural History 1750-1800 
by D.G. Charlton.
Cambridge, 254 pp., £25, December 1984, 0 521 24940 6
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Voyage into Substance: Art, Science, Nature and the Illustrated Travel Account 1760-1840 
by Barbara Maria Stafford.
MIT, 645 pp., £39.95, July 1984, 0 262 19223 3
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... reason the French were far behind in penetrating beyond the comparative cosiness of the woods and fields into the starker wilds, in appreciating the beauty of mountains and the sea. In the same way they seem to have been distinctly backward in exhibiting a sympathy for animals. There is room here for some interesting speculation, which the author, perhaps ...

Five Poems

John Ashbery, 17 August 2006

... a lot. It’s good to be painful because it will come round again and we won’t be ready: Barbara Allen’s cruelty, the night wind biting at scarves, pedestrians hurrying along. And if I so longed for you as to make the original millennial blush go away, us back to our pets, things we had to learn at school, I’d be ashamed of my distance from ...

Ailments of the Tongue

Barbara Newman: Medieval Grammar, 22 March 2012

Medieval Grammar and Rhetoric: Language Arts and Literary Theory, AD 300-1475 
edited by Rita Copeland and Ineke Sluiter.
Oxford, 972 pp., £35, May 2012, 978 0 19 965378 2
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... or ‘speculative grammar’, that treated the modes of signification. Akin to such contemporary fields as linguistics, semiotics and the philosophy of language, it anticipates the theory of a universal grammar, more controversially developed by Chomsky. Few scholars other than elementary teachers remained grammarians for life. Together with rhetoric and ...


Nicholas Wade, 20 September 1984

A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock 
by Evelyn Fox Keller.
Freeman, 235 pp., £13.95, July 1984, 0 7167 1433 7
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A Slot Machine, A Broken Test Tube 
by S.E. Luria.
Harper and Row, 229 pp., £12.50, May 1984, 0 06 015260 5
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... or later, usually sooner, by someone else. This is more true, not less, in particularly important fields, which also tend to be the most crowded. So hard does the throng of researchers bear down on nature’s secrets that the same discovery is often made by two or more different groups within a few weeks of each other. In pre-modern science, before research ...

Poetry and Soda

Barbara Everett, 5 February 1981

The Penguin Book of Unrespectable Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Penguin, 335 pp., £1.75, November 1980, 0 14 042142 4
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The Penguin Book of Light Verse 
edited by Gavin Ewart.
Penguin, 639 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 14 042270 6
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... out of these poems, some of the depressingness goes away: Carroll’s ‘In winter, when the fields are white’ (whose desolation gave me nightmares when I read it as a young child) just turns into premature Wallace Stevens, as Praed’s beautiful ‘Goodnight to the Season’ is Regency Philip Larkin. But all Victorian-and-later light verse has, I ...

Saving the World

Barbara Wootton, 19 June 1980

Sage: A Life of J.D. Bernal 
by Maurice Goldsmith.
Hutchinson, 255 pp., £8.95, May 1980, 9780091395506
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... then confirmed by aerial photograph. Modern battles, it seems, are won, not so much on the playing fields of Eton, as in the bathrooms of the aristocracy and the pages of medieval French poets. When the invasion was actually launched, Bernal crossed with the troops, though there is some dispute as to whether this was on D-day itself or with reinforcements a ...

Dad & Jr

Christian Lorentzen: Bushes Jr & Sr, 4 December 2014

... who came by his folksiness via California and Yale, where he was a friend of Bush’s daughter Barbara before joining the White House speechwriting team in 2003 and rising through the ranks during the lame duck years. This time around the intended audience seems to be 11-year-olds of all ages. In the acknowledgments Bush calls Michel – or maybe Michel ...

Dolls, Demons and DNA

Barbara Herrnstein Smith: Bruno Latour, 8 March 2012

On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods 
by Bruno Latour.
Duke, 157 pp., £12.99, March 2011, 978 0 8223 4825 2
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... have been taken up by scholars across the social sciences and humanities, many of them in fields far from the orbit of science studies. In some quarters Latour’s ideas have proved unsettling, not to say infuriating. His statements, often in garbled versions, were targets of choice for science warriors throughout the 1990s and continue to be cited ...

Larkin and Us

Barbara Everett, 4 November 1982

Larkin at Sixty 
edited by Anthony Thwaite.
Faber, 148 pp., £7.95, May 1982, 9780571118786
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The Art of Philip Larkin 
by Simon Petch.
Sydney University Press, 108 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 424 00090 3
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... like these, bringing        the priest and the doctor In their long coats Running over the fields. In this way, ‘Days’, though it has larger and more interesting ends in view, throws some light on the odd gaps between ‘life’ and ‘literature’, and on the always obscure and tangled relations that exist between them before ‘days’ become ...

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