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Joseph Conrad’s Flight from Poland

Frank Kermode, 17 July 1980

Conrad in the 19th Century 
by Ian Watt.
Chatto, 375 pp., £10.50, April 1980, 0 7011 2431 8
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... Ian Watt began work on this book in 1955, and the intervening years have seen a boom in Conrad studies: but the thought that there might be nothing left for him to say quite rightly didn’t enter his head. What’s more, he has only just got under way: for all that it contains close on 200,000 words, this book is merely an antechapel to the main building ...

On board the ‘Fiona’

Edward Said, 19 December 1991

In Search of Conrad 
by Gavin Young.
Hutchinson, 304 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 09 173524 6
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... America. But so also do Zdislaw Najder, with his emphasis on Conrad’s Polish perspective, and Ian Watt, whose exhaustive survey of the 19th-century background provides a wide array of sources for Conrad’s stranger ideas. Category two is what could be called RAFT, or the school of believers in a Relentlessly Argued Fundamental Thesis. Gustave ...

Where did he get it?

P.N. Furbank, 3 May 1984

Joseph Conrad: A Chronicle 
by Zdzislaw Najder, translated by Halina Carroll-Najder.
Cambridge, 647 pp., £19.50, February 1984, 0 521 25947 9
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Conrad under Familial Eyes 
edited by Zdzislaw Najder, translated by Halina Carroll-Najder.
Cambridge, 282 pp., £19.50, February 1984, 9780521250825
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... that unauthoritarian one known as ‘the common pursuit of true judgment’. What shall we say of Ian Watt’s remarkable Conrad in the 19th Century (1980)? Does it represent a whole further and new genre of literary biography, free from the objections so far mentioned? I shall want to come back to this and here shall merely quote his crucial ...

Homage to Marginality

Tony Tanner, 7 February 1980

Joseph Conrad: The Three Lives 
by Frederick Karl.
Faber, 1008 pp., £12.50, May 1980, 0 571 11386 9
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... edition of Conrad’s letters to Cunninghame Graham by C.T. Watts; certain key articles by Ian Watt – and this is not to mention the many critical works which incorporated biographical material, such as Eloise Knapp Hay’s The Political Novels of Joseph Conrad, and Edward Said’s Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography, nor to list the ...

Marshy Margins

Frank Kermode, 1 August 1996

The True Story of the Novel 
by Margaret Anne Doody.
Rutgers, 580 pp., $44.95, May 1996, 0 8135 2168 8
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... which we have many fine Greek and Latin examples, we choose to think of it as having started when Ian Watt said it did in The Rise of the Novel. Since Watt’s book is among the handful of postwar critical books that can comfortably be called classics of a genre that boasts very few, one sees that Doody is aiming ...

Unreasoning Vigour

Stefan Collini: Ian Watt, 9 May 2019

Ian WattThe Novel and the Wartime Critic 
by Marina MacKay.
Oxford, 228 pp., £25, November 2018, 978 0 19 882499 2
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... My​ military career was on the comic side.’ Self-protective irony was Ian Watt’s chosen register when describing his wartime experience some twenty years later. That experience began when the 24-year-old Lieutenant Watt was posted, along with the rest of the 5th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, to the Far East in the winter of 1941 ...

Word of Mouth

Edmund Leach, 3 March 1988

The Interface between the Written and the Oral 
by Jack Goody.
Cambridge, 328 pp., £27.50, July 1987, 0 521 33268 0
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... The debate about the social consequences of literacy started off with a paper by Jack Goody and Ian Watt first published in 1963 (reprinted as Chapter One of the 1968 symposium). This, and the essay by Kathleen Gough which follows it, should certainly be read by anyone who wants to assess the pros and cons of the overall argument. The Goody/...

Into the Future

David Trotter: The Novel, 22 March 2007

The Novel: Vol. I: History, Geography and Culture 
edited by Franco Moretti.
Princeton, 916 pp., £65, June 2006, 0 691 04947 5
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The Novel: Vol. II: Forms and Themes 
edited by Franco Moretti.
Princeton, 950 pp., £65, June 2006, 0 691 04948 3
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... terms, the novel is modern. The most influential version of this argument was formulated by Ian Watt in The Rise of the Novel (1957), who found in the writing of Defoe, Richardson and Fielding a new and radical preoccupation with the here-and-now. The name Watt gave this preoccupation was ‘formal ...

Early Kermode

Stefan Collini, 13 August 2020

... of Literacy, though thanks to the tribulations of libel law it wasn’t published until 1957; that Ian Watt was giving final form to the book that became The Rise of the Novel, again published in 1957; and that Raymond Williams was drafting the bulk of what became Culture and Society, submitted to the publisher in 1956, eventually published in 1958. These ...

Wizard Contrivances

Jon Day: Will Self, 27 September 2012

by Will Self.
Bloomsbury, 397 pp., £18.99, August 2012, 978 1 4088 2014 8
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... to particular characters; an unwillingness to present things directly; a commitment to what Ian Watt called ‘delayed decoding’, describing objects in unfamiliar terms so as to ambush the reader with the shock of recognition. Such works are essentially nostalgic: the techniques once hailed as assaults on literature’s tired codes of ...


Christopher Ricks, 16 September 1982

Dissentient Voice: Enlightenment and Christian Dissent 
by Donald Davie.
University of Notre Dame Press, 154 pp., £11.85, June 1982, 0 268 00852 3
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These the Companions 
by Donald Davie.
Cambridge, 220 pp., £12.50, August 1982, 0 521 24511 7
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... believe that anybody as stupid as that has ever been granted the friendship of Donald Davie. Ian Watt and Matthew Hodgart, who are the friends who had just been mentioned in the vicinity of Voltaire, have been able to write as well as they have done about Conrad and about Johnson just because their respect for the Enlightenment has never been so ...

‘Who is this Ingrid Bergman?’

Gilberto Perez: Stroheim and Rossellini, 14 December 2000

by Arthur Lennig.
Kentucky, 514 pp., £25, December 1999, 0 8131 2138 8
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The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini 
by Tag Gallagher.
Da Capo, 802 pp., £16.95, October 1998, 0 306 80873 0
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... together as a succession of details – not unlike the narrative of particulars that according to Ian Watt constitutes the ‘formal realism’ of the novel. Had Griffith already achieved a novelistic ‘formal realism’? Not exactly. As a storytelling medium, cinema lies somewhere between theatre and the novel, and Griffith remained pretty close to ...

Every Latest Spasm

Christopher Hitchens, 23 June 1994

A Rebel in Defence of Tradition: The Life and ‘Politics’ of Dwight Macdonald 
by Michael Wreszin.
Basic Books, 590 pp., £17.99, April 1994, 0 465 01739 8
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... of Memoirs of a Revolutionist, was a paragraph which put the case very deftly (the reviewer was Ian Watt, author of The Rise of the Novel): Macdonald has genuine analytic power, but he is perhaps best as a satirist; with his quick allergy to cant he in many ways resembles Mencken, and has traces of the latter’s tendency to view the spectacle of ...


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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... of a team which includes Derek Brewer, Derek Traversi, D.W. Harding, L.G. Salingar, Peter Ure, Ian Watt, J.C. Maxwell, L.C. Knights, D.J. Enright, Roy Strong, John Broadbent, Arthur Humphreys, Philip Collins, Pat Rogers, D.W. Jefferson and John Preston. What is disturbing is that everyone made his reputation elsewhere, often in the format which is ...


Christopher Ricks, 3 May 1984

Swift: The Man, His Works and the Age: Vol III. Dean Swift 
by Irvin Ehrenpreis.
Methuen, 1066 pp., £40, December 1983, 0 416 85400 1
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Swift’s Tory Politics 
by F.P. Lock.
Duckworth, 189 pp., £18, November 1983, 0 7156 1755 9
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Jonathan Swift: Political Writer 
by J.A. Downie.
Routledge, 391 pp., £25, March 1984, 0 7100 9645 3
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The Character of Swift’s Satire 
edited by Claude Rawson.
Associated University Presses, 343 pp., £22.50, April 1984, 0 87413 209 6
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... Satire: ten essays on many aspects of Swift’s life and work, with the contributors including Ian Watt, Pat Rogers, and Ehrenpreis (on Swift’s ...

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