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Uppish

W.B. Carnochan

23 February 1995
Satire and Sentiment, 1660-1830 
by Claude Rawson.
Cambridge, 309 pp., £40, March 1994, 0 521 38395 1
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... posthumous Remains in Verse and Prose, with a prefatory elegy by John Dryden, ‘Farewell, too little and too lately known’. Dryden’s poem has been much admired and praised – but not by ClaudeRawson, who calls it variously ‘pompous’, ‘self-serving’, ‘overrated’, ‘unctuously self-exalting’, ‘self-promoting’, ‘pontifical’ and ‘patronising’ Item: in a chapter on ...

A Spot of Firm Government

Terry Eagleton: Claude Rawson

23 August 2001
God, Gulliver and Genocide: Barbarism and the European Imagination 1492-1945 
by Claude Rawson.
Oxford, 401 pp., £25, June 2001, 0 19 818425 5
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... Criticism is becoming a minor offshoot of science fiction, even if it presents the exotic and outlandish only to upbraid such notions as imperialist. ‘We are obsessed with “barbarians”,’ ClaudeRawson remarks in this erudite, passionate book; but by ‘we’ he seems to be thinking of literary critics, not grapepickers or hairdressers. The good news is that the Home Counties view of ...

Purloined Author

Claude Rawson

5 February 1981
Writing and Reading in Henry James 
by Susanne Kappeler.
Macmillan, 242 pp., £15, January 1981, 0 333 29104 2
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... The starting-point for this study is Roland Barthes’s theoretical aphorism that the reader is properly the “writer” or “producer” of his text.’ By the end, it appears that the original author has changed places and become ‘the reader of his text’, while the critics go on writing it for him. And not necessarily a better reader than you or I or Ms Kappeler: ‘there is nothing in [James’s ...

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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... Imagine – if you can – God reading this poem.’ So begins this 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 Herbert’s poems are prayers or dialogues with God ...

Epireading

Claude Rawson

4 March 1982
Ferocious Alphabets 
by Denis Donoghue.
Faber, 211 pp., £8.95, October 1981, 0 571 11809 7
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... Denis Donoghue begins, a little self-indulgently, by reprinting six short BBC talks on ‘Words’. The excuse is that such radio talks offer a simple if incomplete model for Donoghue’s conception of literary discourse: as an address to an invisible audience, or dialogue for ever aborted by the absence of a second party. Print, unlike radio, is silent. But the writer also seeks a ‘communion ...
19 August 1982
Swansongs 
by Sue Lenier.
Oleander Press, 80 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 9780906672044
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Collected Poems 
by Sylvia Plath, edited by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 351 pp., £10, September 1981, 0 571 10573 4
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Devotions 
by Clive Wilmer.
Carcanet, 63 pp., £3.25, June 1982, 0 85635 359 0
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... Who would stay for such pedantries anyway? Who holds off from the lyrical afflatus, when it happens? Not Malcolm Bowie of Queen Mary College, London (‘all in a splendid surge of creativity’); not ClaudeRawson of the University of Warwick (‘no doubt of the power ... at the acute cutting edge of feeling’); not Elaine Feinstein, from Cambridge (‘the talent is unmistakable’). The truth is that ...

Moving Pictures

Claude Rawson

16 July 1981
English Subtitles 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 56 pp., £3.50, March 1981, 0 19 211942 7
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Unplayed Music 
by Carol Rumens.
Secker, 53 pp., £4.50, February 1981, 9780436439001
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Close Relatives 
by Vicki Feaver.
Secker, 64 pp., £4.50, February 1981, 0 436 15185 5
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... Peter Porter’s imagination tends towards the epigram, but not quite in the popular sense which suggests brief, pithy encapsulations of wit or wisdom: Believe me, Flaccus, the epigram is more than just a cracker-motto or an inch of frivolous joking to fill up a column. When, in 1972, he published the selection of translations called After Martial, he tended to avoid ‘the two-line squibs ... which ...
7 May 1981
... Since I am about to comment on other people’s published reactions to Martin Amis’s novel Other People, it seems right to state in summary form my own feelings on the main matters that divided the reviewers. I thought it a remarkable work, highly readable and enjoyable, not incomprehensible or unduly difficult. I have probably not fully solved the ‘mystery’, or totally mastered the intricacies ...
6 February 1986
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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... doesn’t disqualify anyone from reading the Dunciad: the poem survives on the choreography alone. Rogers’s scholarship would have it survive in both respects, topical and formal. Pat Rogers and ClaudeRawson write about many of the same 18th-century books, but they deal with them in quite different ways. Unlike Rogers, Rawson doesn’t spend much scholarly time in ‘that lowest of all high places ...

Bard of Tropes

Jonathan Lamb: Thomas Chatterton

20 September 2001
Thomas Chatterton and Romantic Culture 
by Nick Groom.
Palgrave, 300 pp., £55, September 1999, 0 333 72586 7
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... had done a great deal to popularise antiquarian poetry. At the same time, Chatterton was innocently eager for their applause. In this collection of essays he has a chameleon presence. He is seen by ClaudeRawson as a fluent parodist in the Augustan mode, and by Carolyn Williams as a pioneer of post-colonial resistance to the hegemony of Received Standard English. As several essays here make clear, he ...

Little People

Claude Rawson

15 September 1983
The Borrowers Avenged 
by Mary Norton.
Kestrel, 285 pp., £5.50, October 1982, 0 7226 5804 4
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... When once you have thought of big men and little men, it is very easy to do all the rest,’ said Dr Johnson of Gulliver’s Travels. This might do for a put-down of Swift, whom Johnson disliked, perhaps from a sense of likeness. But big men and little men have old folkloric origins, so the idea in itself was not new: as more than one character says in Mary Norton’s Borrower books, ‘our ancestors ...

Kelpers

Claude Rawson

17 June 1982
St Kilda’s Parliament 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 87 pp., £3, September 1981, 0 571 11770 8
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Airborn/Hijos del Aire 
by Octavio Paz and Charles Tomlinson.
Anvil, 29 pp., £1.25, April 1981, 0 85646 072 9
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The Flood 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 55 pp., £3.95, June 1981, 0 19 211944 3
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Looking into the Deep End 
by David Sweetman.
Faber, 47 pp., £3, March 1981, 0 571 11730 9
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Independence 
by Andrew Motion.
Salamander, 28 pp., £5, December 1981, 0 907540 05 8
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... The title poem of St Kilda’s Parliament is about a local institution ‘quite unlike Westminster’, a gathering ‘by interested parties to discuss the day’s work and any other issues that needed to be talked over’: On either side of a rock-paved lane, Two files of men are standing barefooted, Bearded, waistcoated, each with a tam-o’-shanter On his head, and most with a set half-smile That ...

Bananas

Claude Rawson

18 November 1982
God’s Grace 
by Bernard Malamud.
Chatto, 223 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 7011 2647 7
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... In Genesis 6 God said: ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth.’ He was behaving like a certain kind of satirist, and an untutored reader might even suppose that a satirical author was speaking through Him. The Houyhnhnm Assembly in Gulliver’s Travels was similarly given to debating ‘Whether the Yahoos should be exterminated from the Face of the Earth’ (a type of ...

Blistering Attacks

Claude Rawson

6 November 1980
The Oxford Book of Satirical Verse 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Oxford, 454 pp., £8.50, September 1980, 0 19 214110 4
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... You wouldn’t guess it from Mr Grigson’s anthology, but satire was once a deadly activity. It literally killed, or was believed to, which sometimes had the same result. Robert Elliott’s classic study of The Power of Satire tells us that poems were used as weapons of war in pre-Islamic Arabia, and it is not only there, or in the curses of primitive tribesmen remote from our literary tradition ...

Catastrophe

Claude Rawson

1 October 1981
The Sinking of the Titanic 
by Hans Magnus Enzensberger.
Carcanet, 98 pp., £3.95, April 1981, 0 85635 372 8
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Paul Celan: Poems 
translated by Michael Hamburger.
Carcanet, 307 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 0 85635 313 2
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Talk about the Last Poet 
by Charles Johnston.
Bodley Head, 78 pp., £4.50, July 1981, 0 370 30434 9
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... Hans Magnus Enzensberger wrote The Sinking of the Titanic in German. From information supplied in the poem, which in its present form is much preoccupied with the process of its composition, he began writing it in Havana in 1969, and completed it in Berlin in 1977: the poem is thus a close contemporary of Doctorow’s Ragtime, with which it shares several features of its subject-matter, including the ...

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