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Family Dramas

J.A. Burrow, 2 July 1981

Symbolic Stories 
by Derek Brewer.
Boydell, 190 pp., £15, October 1980, 0 85991 063 6
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... This is a polemical book. From the time of Dryden to the mid-20th century, Dr Brewer argues, English literary culture has been dominated by what he calls ‘Neoclassicism’ – by a taste, that is, for the realistic representation of likely events. A.C. Bradley is in this sense a Neoclassical critic; and the most characteristic product of Neoclassical taste is the naturalistic novel ...

Carmina Europae

J.A. Burrow, 17 October 1985

Poetry of the Carolingian Renaissance 
by Peter Godman.
Duckworth, 364 pp., £29.50, February 1985, 0 7156 1768 0
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... It is hard to imagine how a future United Europe (supposing there is ever such a thing) could grow a literature of its own – distinct, that is, from the literatures of the nations which compose it. Yet there exists a precedent for such a development in the Latin writings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Once Latin had ceased to be recognisable as a language of the Italian peninsula, it was free to be employed as a transnational medium, available to educated writers regardless of their native speech ...

Sutton who?

J.A. Burrow, 21 January 1988

Old English Meter and Linguistic Theory 
by Geoffrey Russom.
Cambridge, 178 pp., £25, August 1987, 0 521 33168 4
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... It is hard to know why the English should nowadays take so little interest in their Anglo-Saxon predecessors. Perhaps the main reasons lie in 20th-century history. The Victorian statue of King Alfred of Wessex which stands in the market square of his birth-place, Wantage, testifies to a pride in that great founding father which modern England no longer feels ...


J.A. Burrow, 21 May 1987

The Mirour of Mans Salvacioune: A Middle English Translation of ‘Speculum Humanae Salvationis’ 
edited by Avril Henry.
Scolar, 347 pp., £35, March 1987, 0 85967 716 8
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... A German scholar has listed as many as 385 Medieval books which carry ‘mirror’ titles: The Mirour of Alkemy, Miroir de l’Ame, Spieghel Historiael, Speculum Ecclesiae, and so on. If titles such as these have since gone out of fashion, it is perhaps because readers no longer expect books simply to ‘reflect’ reality. Another reason may be that mirrors themselves are no longer convex, as they usually were until the 17th century, so that the word has ceased to carry the attractive promise of a larger reality compressed into a small and manageable compass ...

Life Spans

Denton Fox, 6 November 1986

The Ages of Man: A Study in Medieval Writing and Thought 
by J.A. Burrow.
Oxford, 211 pp., £19.50, May 1986, 0 19 811188 6
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... in the cycles of year, month and day, and in the linear time of history’. In the second half, Burrow turns from theory to practice, and examines how, in Medieval narratives, people are praised or blamed for conforming, or for not conforming, to the natural pattern of a man’s life. Chapter Three, on the ‘transcendence’ ideal, shows how men were ...


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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... prefaced by historical narrations, but periodised – is so often dead rather than alive. John Burrow’s new volume for the OPUS series on ‘English Literature and its Background’ has an advantage over its rival (first) volume in the Pelican Guide – that of single authorship. Burrow, who also contributes the ...

Oxford University’s Long Haul

Sheldon Rothblatt, 21 January 1988

The History of the University of Oxford. Vol. I: The Early Oxford Schools 
edited by J.I. Catto.
Oxford, 684 pp., £55, June 1984, 0 19 951011 3
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The History of the University of Oxford. Vol. III: The Collegiate University 
edited by James McConia.
Oxford, 775 pp., £60, July 1986, 9780199510139
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The History of the University of Oxford. Vol. V: The 18th Century 
edited by L.S. Sutherland and L.G. Mitchell.
Oxford, 949 pp., £75, July 1986, 0 19 951011 3
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Learning and a Liberal Education: The Study of History in the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester, 1880-1914 
by Peter Slee.
Manchester, 181 pp., £25, November 1986, 9780719018961
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... teaching and writing of history in English education in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. John Burrow, Reba Softer, Doris Goldstein, Donald Winch, Stefan Collini, Dwight Culler, Deborah Wormell and Rosemary Jann among others have written on one or another dimension. As a secondary but related argument, Slee says that scholars have tended to use the word ...

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