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Manly Decency

Boris Ford, 23 April 1992

... To arrive in Cambridge to study English literature with F.R. Leavis in the mid-Thirties was an act, on my part, of unconsciously astute timing. Since coming to Downing in 1932 as Director of Studies in English, he had written New Bearings in English Poetry and Revaluation, among other books, and had helped to launch Scrutiny. His reputation for iconoclastic criticism, his demotion of Milton compared with Dryden, Pope, and the ‘Line of Wit’, or of Shelley compared with Wordsworth and Keats, underpinned by his close reading of ‘the words on the page’, had linked his name with Richards and Empson, two other Cambridge figures whose work had blown gusts of fresh air across the face of English literary studies ...

Maerdy Diary

Boris Ford: The last pit closes, 21 February 1991

... As the miners’ lamps at Maerdy, the last of the working pits in the Rhondda, are extinguished for the third and no doubt the last time, a short chapter in my revolutionary past comes back into sharp focus. It was at the end of my first year at Cambridge, in 1937, that I accepted a suggestion from Kay Garland, a fellow student, that we should go off to the Gower Peninsula for a fortnight and help run an inter-universities’ camp for unemployed miners from South Wales ...


Marilyn Butler, 2 September 1982

The New Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol. I: Medieval Literature Part One: Chaucer and the Alliterative Tradition, Vol. II: The Age of Shakespeare, Vol. III: From Donne to Marvell, Vol. IV: From Dryden to Johnson 
edited by Boris Ford.
Penguin, 647 pp., £2.95, March 1982, 0 14 022264 2
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Medieval Writers and their Work: Middle English Literature and its Background 
by J.A. Burrow.
Oxford, 148 pp., £9.95, May 1982, 0 19 289122 7
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Contemporary Writers Series: Saul Bellow, Joe Orton, John Fowles, Kurt Vonnegut, Seamus Heaney, Thomas Pynchon 
by Malcolm Bradbury, C.W.E. Bigsby, Peter Conradi, Jerome Klinkowitz and Blake Morrison.
Methuen, 110 pp., £1.95, May 1982, 0 416 31650 6
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... no longer offer them maps in which the Empire is coloured red. Penguin Books’ reissue of Boris Ford’s Pelican Guide to English Literature, which first appeared a quarter of a century ago as an alternative version to ‘authorised’ literary history, is a reminder that not much happens that is new in academic warfare. ...

Textual Harassment

Claude Rawson, 5 April 1984

The World, the Text and the Critic 
by Edward Said.
Faber, 327 pp., £15, February 1984, 0 571 13264 2
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The Deconstructive Turn: Essays in the Rhetoric of Philosophy 
by Christopher Norris.
Methuen, 201 pp., £4.95, December 1983, 0 416 36140 4
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The New Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol. VIII: The Present 
edited by Boris Ford.
Penguin, 619 pp., £3.50, October 1983, 0 14 022271 5
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... disapproving piece on formalism, structuralism and post-structuralism to the latest volume of Boris Ford’s ‘Pelican Guide’. It’s one of three essays broadly surveying the ‘theory’ scene, the other two being a statement about ‘British Philosophy since 1945’ by Michael Tanner, attractive but not really providing the expository account a ...

Under the Lime Trees

Mark Ford, 3 January 2013

... thought of the day!) jostling on a street corner beside an all but emptied rack of Boris bikes? Wolves living on wind, sur le Noël, mortesaison …                we do not feel the speck of dust that alights on our shoulder, nor its fatal cousin, the germ we inhale, unknowing, and cannot spit out. It slides through the unmapped ...

Even paranoids have enemies

Frank Kermode, 24 August 1995

F.R. Leavis: A Life in Criticism 
by Ian MacKillop.
Allen Lane, 476 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 7139 9062 7
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... Richards dared to write congratulating Leavis on his CH (‘Dead Sea fruit’, said his wife). Boris Ford was accused of killing Scrutiny off by stealing its contributors for the Penguin Guide to English Literature. Few friends, however loyal, escaped. Wilfrid Mellers, H.A. Mason and others all fell foul of him in one way or another. As to his ...

As if Life Depended on It

John Mullan: With the Leavisites, 12 September 2013

Memoirs of a Leavisite: The Decline and Fall of Cambridge English 
by David Ellis.
Liverpool, 151 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 1 84631 889 4
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English as a Vocation: The ‘Scrutiny’ Movement 
by Christopher Hilliard.
Oxford, 298 pp., £57, May 2012, 978 0 19 969517 1
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The Two Cultures? The Significance of C.P. Snow 
by F.R. Leavis.
Cambridge, 118 pp., £10.99, August 2013, 978 1 107 61735 3
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... Leavis himself was typically suspicious of the whole enterprise, convinced that the editor, Boris Ford, would not be able to find enough contributors of ‘the necessary calibre’. You have to admire the old curmudgeon’s inexhaustible refusal to be pleased. In the year of his retirement from his readership in the Cambridge English Faculty (he ...

Seeing through Fuller

Nicholas Penny, 30 March 1989

Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace 
by Peter Fuller.
Chatto, 260 pp., £15, November 1988, 0 7011 2942 5
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Seeing through Berger 
by Peter Fuller.
Claridge, 176 pp., £8.95, November 1988, 1 870626 75 3
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Cambridge Guide to the Arts in Britain. Vol. IX: Since the Second World War 
edited by Boris Ford.
Cambridge, 369 pp., £19.50, November 1988, 0 521 32765 2
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Ruskin’s Myths 
by Dinah Birch.
Oxford, 212 pp., £22.50, August 1988, 9780198128724
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The Sun is God: Painting, Literature and Mythology in the 19th Century 
edited by J.B. Bullen.
Oxford, 230 pp., £27.50, March 1989, 0 19 812884 3
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Artisans and Architects: The Ruskinian Tradition in Architectural Thought 
by Mark Swenarton.
Macmillan, 239 pp., £35, February 1989, 0 333 46460 5
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... It has been respectable for some while now to admit to being bored by the huge, flat, ‘pure’ abstracts on the white walls of the museums of modern art. And yet non-representational paintings on a fairly large scale seem still to be what art students are most encouraged to make. Critics now incline to applaud in them evidence of a strenously physical relationship with paint ...

New-Found Tribes

William Davies: In Brexitland, 4 February 2021

Brexitland: Identity, Diversity and the Reshaping of British Politics 
by Maria Sobolewska and Robert Ford.
Cambridge, 391 pp., £15.99, October 2020, 978 1 108 46190 0
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... I am legally a ‘UK citizen’, but only I can know if I feel British.Maria Sobolewska and Robert Ford’s Brexitland is a sweeping and rigorous demographic and attitudinal study of recent British history, which uses the 2016 EU referendum as a way of exploring the shifting sands of political identity since the Second World War. The political significance of ...

Eternal Feminine

Ian Gregson, 7 January 1993

by Mark Ford.
Chatto, 51 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 7011 3750 9
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The English Earthquake 
by Eva Salzman.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, May 1992, 1 85224 177 2
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Bleeding Heart Yard 
by William Scammell.
Peterloo, 63 pp., £6.95, May 1992, 1 871471 28 1
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The Game: Tennis Poems 
by William Scammell.
Peterloo, 48 pp., £6, June 1992, 1 871471 27 3
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Marconi’s Cottage 
by Medbh McGuckian.
Bloodaxe, 110 pp., £6.95, May 1992, 1 85224 197 7
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... The excitable, exuberant surface of Mark Ford’s poems makes them instantly attractive. They speak with a bewildered urgency: See, no hands! she cried Sailing down the turnpike, And flapped her arms like a pigeon, And from the backseat Solomon, her spaniel, answered her By woofing ever more madly at each passing car! Here, in the title poem, the crucial analogy with travel is at its most explicit; there’s the sense in both cases of simultaneous thrill and disorientation; the imagery of these poems unsettles and excites through unfamiliar angles of perception and exotic juxtapositions ...

The Raging Peloton

Iain Sinclair: Boris Bikes, 20 January 2011

... Brixton riots, will have carried a special charge for Barlow. ‘On yer bike!’ Hovis preceded Boris (Mayor Johnson) as sponsor of the cult of cycling, but the whole business, so attractive to ad men and lavishly rewarded imagineers, never moved far from Scott’s syrupy terrain. (Scott was a cycle obsessive. His first short film, made in 1965 in his ...


James Wood: These Etonians, 4 July 2019

... both effectively scholarship boys. He was the real thing, a King’s Scholar (three years ahead of Boris Johnson); in my case, when my parents demonstrated financial need, the school eventually helped out with a bursary. I was lucky – my religious parents would have insisted on ‘blessed’ – and savoured that luck, grateful to be at such a school, though ...

The Real Magic

David Sylvester, 8 June 1995

A Biographical Dictionary of Film 
by David Thomson.
Deutsch, 834 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 233 98859 9
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... fervour also seems to me to come into play in the contrast between his distaste for John Ford and his love of Howard Hawks, perhaps the perfect no-brow. The clue to Hawks’s greatness is that this sombre lining is cut against the cloth of the genre in which he is operating. Far from the meek purveyor of Hollywood forms, he always chose to turn them ...


J. Hoberman: Did the Jews invent Hollywood?, 7 March 2002

Hollywood and Anti-Semitism: A Cultural History up to World War Two 
by Steven Alan Carr.
Cambridge, 342 pp., £42.50, July 2001, 9780521798549
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... Jews’. The perceived crisis was aggravated by the near-simultaneous publication of Henry Ford’s two articles ‘The Jewish Aspect of the “Movie” Problem’ and ‘Jewish Supremacy in the Motion Picture World’ in his own newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, in February 1921. ‘As soon as the Jew gained control of the “movies”, we had a ...

The Girl Who Waltzes

Laura Jacobs: George Balanchine, 9 October 2014

Balanchine and the Lost Muse: Revolution and the Making of a Choreographer 
by Elizabeth Kendall.
Oxford, 288 pp., £22.99, August 2013, 978 0 19 995934 1
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... them. ‘You have to look everywhere, everything, all the time,’ he told the dancer Ruthanna Boris, when she asked him how to be a choreographer. ‘Look at the grass in the concrete when it’s broken, children and little dogs, and the ceiling and the roof. Your eyes is camera and your brain is a file cabinet.’ Balanchine didn’t want to list ...

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