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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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... IanWatt 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 ...
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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... cover Conrad’s Indian and Pacific Ocean voyages, and his wanderings in Africa, Europe and Latin America. But so also do Zdislaw Najder, with his emphasis on Conrad’s Polish perspective, and IanWatt, 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 ...
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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... the Jungian account of Conrad by Gustav Morf; the psychoanalytic biography by Bernard Meyer; the impeccable edition of Conrad’s letters to Cunninghame Graham by C.T. Watts; certain key articles by IanWatt – 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 ...

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 IanWatt’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 ...

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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... Instead of thinking of the novel as something that began about two thousand years ago, something of which we have many fine Greek and Latin examples, we choose to think of it as having started when IanWatt 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 ...

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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... corpus but will confine myself to those parts of it to which The Interface makes a contribution. The debate about the social consequences of literacy started off with a paper by Jack Goody and IanWatt 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 ...
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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... on literary-critical discussion, to which a quite different contract or convention applies – that unauthoritarian one known as ‘the common pursuit of true judgment’. What shall we say of IanWatt’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 ...

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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... is made-over romance. It is an entirely customised genre (if it is a genre at all). To put it in historical terms, the novel is modern. The most influential version of this argument was formulated by IanWatt 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 ...

‘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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... into the shots of cinema. Each shot is a detail, a section of an implied larger space; a film is put together as a succession of details – not unlike the narrative of particulars that according to IanWatt 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 ...


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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... Rawson has revised his ‘Focus’ collection of pieces on Swift (1971) as The Character of Swift’s Satire: ten essays on many aspects of Swift’s life and work, with the contributors including IanWatt, Pat Rogers, and Ehrenpreis (on Swift’s letters ...


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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... misjudge when they suppose that dangerous irrationality is peculiar to religious life.’ I simply don’t believe that anybody as stupid as that has ever been granted the friendship of Donald Davie. IanWatt 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 ...


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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... how many have died or arrived at retirement, not necessarily early. Any series-editor would be proud of a team which includes Derek Brewer, Derek Traversi, D.W. Harding, L.G. Salingar, Peter Ure, IanWatt, 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 ...

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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... Republic’s review of Macdonald’s collected essays, published in 1957 under the asking-for-it title of Memoirs of a Revolutionist, was a paragraph which put the case very deftly (the reviewer was IanWatt, 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 ...

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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... the following: a narrative distancing which makes us work hard to assign thoughts, feelings and perceptions to particular characters; an unwillingness to present things directly; a commitment to what IanWatt 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 ...

Secret Purposes

P.N. Furbank

19 September 1985
Defoe and the Idea of Fiction: 1713-1719 
by Geoffrey Sill.
Associated University Presses, 190 pp., £16.95, April 1984, 0 87413 227 4
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The Elusive Daniel Defoe 
by Laura Curtis.
Vision, 216 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 85478 435 7
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Dofoe’s Fiction 
by Ian​ Bell.
Croom Helm, 201 pp., £17.95, March 1985, 0 7099 3294 4
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Realism, Myth and History in Defoe’s Fiction 
by Maximillian​ Novak.
Nebraska, 181 pp., £21.55, July 1983, 0 8032 3307 8
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... We owe a large debt to the famous chapter on Robinson Crusoe in IanWatt’s The Rise of the Novel. Watt really made us use our wits about that novel and forced us to relate it to our most serious interests. Reread after twenty years, moreover, the chapter still has all of its intellectual impact and ...

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