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Looking for Bomma

James Clifford, 24 March 1994

In an Antique Land 
by Amitav Ghosh.
Granta, 400 pp., £6.99, February 1994, 0 14 014017 4
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... In his novel, The Shadow Lines, Amitav Ghosh writes of an Indian family whose members cross and recross two geopolitical borders. One border joins and divides Calcutta and London, the other Calcutta and Dhaka. Toward the end of the book the narrator’s failing grandmother prepares for a return visit to the city she left, years before, when India was partitioned: Dhaka, East Pakistan, now Bangladesh ...

Understanding Forwards

Michael Wood: William James, 20 September 2007

William JamesIn the Maelstrom of American Modernism 
by Robert Richardson.
Mariner, 622 pp., £15, September 2007, 978 0 618 43325 4
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... He was always around the corner and out of sight,’ Henry James wrote of his older brother William as a child. ‘He was clear out before I got well in.’ The philosopher C.S. Peirce said something similar about the grown man. ‘He so concrete, so living, I a mere table of contents.’ Josiah Royce, a life-long friend and Harvard colleague of William James, with whom he agreed philosophically scarcely ever, offered a fine parody of the pragmatism so closely associated with his companion’s name ...

Johnson’s Business

Keith Walker, 7 August 1980

A Dictionary of the English Language 
by Samuel Johnson.
Times, 2558 pp., £45, June 1980, 0 7230 0228 2
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Dictionary Johnson: Samuel Johnson’s Middle Years 
by James Clifford.
Heinemann, 372 pp., £10, February 1980, 0 434 13805 3
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... confuses Samuel Johnson the writer with Dr Johnson the ogre and bully portrayed by Boswell. James Murray, the author of the OED, succumbed to the same confusion, perhaps, when in a dream he imagined that Johnson was speaking of his Dictionary and Boswell, in an impish mood, asked ‘What would you say, Sir, if you were told that in a hundred ...

No Fear of Fanny

Marilyn Butler, 20 November 1980

Fanny 
by Erica Jong.
Granada, 496 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 246 11427 4
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The Heroine’s Text 
by Nancy Miller.
Columbia, 185 pp., £10, July 1980, 0 231 04910 2
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... Fanny has had a long gestation. In 1961, as an undergraduate, she was taught by the late Professor James L. Clifford, Johnson’s biographer, who had the admirable policy of inviting his class to imitate an 18th-century author instead of writing yet another academic paper on him. At the time, Ms Jong came up with a mock epic ...

No Escape

Bruce Robbins: Culture, 1 November 2001

Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress 
edited by Samuel Huntington and Lawrence Harrison.
Basic Books, 384 pp., £12.99, April 2001, 0 465 03176 5
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Culture/Metaculture 
by Francis Mulhern.
Routledge, 198 pp., £8.99, March 2000, 0 415 10230 8
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Culture: The Anthropologists’ Account 
by Adam Kuper.
Harvard, 299 pp., £12.50, November 2000, 0 674 00417 5
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... as a symbolic system treated in isolation from social organisation – and that of the later Clifford Geertz, who sees anthropology as a form of textual scholarship concerned not with people’s actions but with their interpretations of their actions. The limits of this view were exposed, Kuper argues, by the frightening abyss between Geertz’s ...

A Light-Blue Stocking

Helen Deutsch: Hester Lynch Salusbury Thrale Piozzi, 14 May 2009

Hester: The Remarkable Life of Dr Johnson’s ‘Dear Mistress’ 
by Ian McIntyre.
Constable, 450 pp., £25, November 2008, 978 1 84529 449 6
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... till quite the Evening of the Wedding Day.’ Her last poem as a single woman, published in the St James Chronicle in 1763, was entitled ‘Imagination’s Search after Happiness’. It therefore seemed natural to her to use her talents to charm her distant new husband, ‘so Instead of Dressing showily, or behaving usefully – I sate at home and wrote ...

Djojo on the Corner

Benedict Anderson, 24 August 1995

After the Fact: Two Countries, Four Decades, One Anthropologist 
by Clifford Geertz.
Harvard, 198 pp., £17.95, April 1995, 0 674 00871 5
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... Victor Turner (1920), Mary Douglas (1921), and Marshall Sahlins (1930). Right in the middle came Clifford Geertz, who was born in San Francisco in 1926. In the quarter-century between 1960, when he published his masterly The Religion of Java, and the middle Eighties, he was, after Lévi-Strauss, the most widely-known and influential anthropologist ...

Fuming

Richard Altick, 19 July 1984

Thomas Carlyle: A Biography 
by Fred Kaplan.
Cambridge, 614 pp., £25, January 1984, 0 521 25854 5
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Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages 
by Phyllis Rose.
Chatto, 318 pp., £11.95, March 1984, 0 7011 2825 9
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A Carlyle Reader 
edited by G.B. Tennyson.
Cambridge, 544 pp., £25, May 1984, 0 521 26238 0
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... His present-day biographer inherits a tradition of controversy dating back a full hundred years. James Anthony Froude, the first of the succession, had been Carlyle’s friend and disciple for thirty years, and it was to him that Carlyle entrusted the keeping of his posthumous fame. As he worked over his master’s papers, Froude never forgot his ...

Thick Description

James Peacock, 15 July 1982

Negara: The Theatre State in 19th-Century Bali 
by Clifford Geertz.
Princeton, 297 pp., £13.10, December 1980, 0 691 05316 2
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... To be heard or read, the ethnographic description of out-of-the-way behaviours must imply. Clifford Geertz once said, concerning the particularised, exotically localised microscopic reports of ethnographers: ‘small facts’ must be made to ‘speak to large issues’. The points to which Negara is made to speak are two. The first, which primarily ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Flirtation, Seduction and Betrayal, 5 September 2002

... writer on the NS whose contributions I could not stomach – I found his writing intolerable.’ Clifford Sharp, Martin’s predecessor, wasn’t much of a fan either, even though he appointed Uncle Ellis on double the salary of the previous incumbent, Desmond MacCarthy. Still, Sharp wasn’t one to hold his tongue. As Martin writes in his second volume of ...

Poor Rose

Christian Lorentzen: Against Alice Munro, 6 June 2013

Dear Life 
by Alice Munro.
Chatto, 319 pp., £18.99, November 2012, 978 0 7011 8784 2
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... not just of our time but of any time ought to go without saying by now.’ ‘Alice Munro,’ James Wood wrote in the LRB in 1997 on the publication of her Selected Stories, ‘is such a good writer that nobody bothers anymore to judge her goodness … her reputation is like a good address.’ It’s an address I wouldn’t want to move to, and I didn’t ...

Ye must all be alike

Catherine Gallagher, 27 January 1994

Writing Women in Jacobean England 
by Barbara Kiefer Lewalski.
Harvard, 431 pp., £35.95, February 1993, 0 674 96242 7
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... The reign of James I has long been considered a period in which patriarchal orthodoxy revived in an especially virulent form to counteract 45 years of female rule. Barbara Kiefer Lewalski quotes King James’s advice to his son to illustrate what she frequently calls the era’s ‘dominant ideology’: Ye are the head, [your Wife] your body; It is your office to command, and hers to obey; but yet with such a sweet harmonie as she should be as ready to obey, as ye to command ...

Suffocating Suspense

Richard Davenport-Hines, 16 March 2000

Cult Criminals: The Newgate Novels 1830-47 
by Juliet John.
Routledge, 2750 pp., £399, December 1998, 0 415 14383 7
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... Bulwer-Lytton himself had inaugurated the fashion for this brand of crime fiction with Paul Clifford (1830), and restrained the tendency to verbosity and false pathos that marks his other fiction. He believed, he wrote in an essay of 1838, that in the portraiture of evil and criminal characters lies the widest scope for an author profoundly versed in ...
... He had a mind so fine that no idea could violate it’: T.S. Eliot writing of Henry James in the Little Review of August 1918. I want to take exception, not to the truth of Eliot’s pronouncement (he was right about James), but to the set of lofty assumptions calmly towering behind it ...

Dear Miss Boothby

Margaret Anne Doody, 5 November 1992

The Letters of Samuel Johnson: Vol. I: 1731-1772, Vol. II: 1773-1776, Vol. III: 1777-1781 
edited by Bruce Redford.
Oxford, 431 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 19 811287 4
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... The editor very occasionally supplies material from published biography, but his usual source is James Clifford, and one can tire of Clifford’s editorialising – for instance, on Hester Thrale’s behaviour after the death of her husband: ‘Mrs Thrale’s usual reaction to death was to run away.’ If we’re ...

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