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Umbah-Umbah

Jerome McGann, 22 June 1989

Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century 
by Greil Marcus.
Secker, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1989, 0 436 27338 1
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... Around 529 BC the armies of the Persian Empire tried to conquer a mysterious and reclusive people who lived somewhere to the east of the Caspian Sea – to this day we do not know exactly where. The Persians acted simply because of Cyrus the Great’s overweening ambition. As it turned out, Cyrus’s armies were defeated and he was killed in the battle ...

George Crabbe: Poetry and Truth

Jerome McGann, 16 March 1989

George Crabbe: The Complete Poetical Works, Vols I-III 
edited by Norma Dalrymple-Champneys and Arthur Pollard.
Oxford, 820 pp., £70, April 1988, 0 19 811882 1
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... No one who has read Crabbe’s poetry has ever denied the power of his portraits or his stories. ‘Peter Grimes’, one of the embedded sections of his great work The Borough (1810), is justly famous, and, were it better known, the story ‘Delay has danger’, part of the very uneven Tales of the Hall (1819), would be known for what it is, a masterpiece ...

Ezra Pound and Evil

Jerome McGann, 7 July 1988

The Genealogy of Demons: Anti-Semitism, Fascism and the Myths of Ezra Pound 
by Robert Casillo.
Northwestern, 463 pp., $34.95, April 1988, 0 8101 0710 4
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A Serious Character: The Life of Ezra Pound 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Faber, 1005 pp., £20, May 1988, 0 571 14786 0
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... No English-speaking poet of this century has been the subject of as much biographical scrutiny as Ezra Pound. As in the case of Byron, Pound’s literary works and his personal life were deeply entwined from the first, and this condition of his poetry’s existence raises – as Byron’s work has always raised – serious problems for our ordinary understanding of what poems do and how they are to be read ...

Theory of Texts

Jerome McGann, 18 February 1988

Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts: The Panizzi Lectures 1985 
by D.F. McKenzie.
British Library, 80 pp., £10, December 1986, 0 7123 0085 6
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... A quiet yet profound change has been taking place in literary studies during the past ten years or so. Initially it was obscured by the successes and celebrities of Deconstruction, where idealist hermeneutics – this century’s dominant textual and interpretative program – led its own tradition into a theoretical impasse. The more recently touted ‘return to history’ has also obscured the nature of this change – obscured it because the so-called new historicism (I give the name un-capitalised) comprises a variety of historicisms, some new and some not, some idealist and some otherwise ...

Language Writing

Jerome McGann, 15 October 1987

In the American Tree: Language, Poetry, Realism 
by Ron Silliman.
National Poetry Foundation, 628 pp., $34.50, June 1986, 0 915032 33 3
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‘Language’ Poetries: An Anthology 
by Douglas Messerli.
New Directions, 184 pp., $19.95, March 1987, 0 8112 1006 5
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... In 1918, the intensity of Yeats’s fascination with the young American phenomenon Ezra Pound had cooled enough for Jack Butler Yeats to supply his son with some smouldering paternal wisdom: The poets loved of Ezra Pound are tired of Beauty, since they have met it so often ... I am tired of Beauty my wife, says the poet, but here is that enchanting mistress Ugliness ...

Infatuated Worlds

Jerome McGann, 22 September 1994

Thomas Chatterton: Early Sources and Responses 
Routledge/Thoemmes, £295, July 1993, 0 415 09255 8Show More
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... The legend named Thomas Chatterton is less marvellous than the boy it glorified, and far less rich or strange than the cultural history that includes the history of the legend itself. Chatterton committed suicide in August 1770. He was not yet 18 years old. With little formal education – seven years in a provincial school, followed by less than three years as a lawyer’s apprentice – he left his native Bristol to make his way as a writer in London, where he died only four months later ...

Fundamental Brainwork

Jerome McGann, 30 March 2000

Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Collected Writings 
edited by Jan Marsh.
Dent, 531 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 460 87875 1
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Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Painter and Poet 
by Jan Marsh.
Weidenfeld, 592 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 297 81703 5
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... Your fame is the colour of grass, which comes and goes, faded by the sun that drew it from the unripe earth’ (Purgatorio XI, 115-117). Dante Gabriel Rossetti did not translate that particular text, but he might have; perhaps he should have, given his cultural history. For Rossetti was, according to his age’s two most imposing critics, Ruskin and Pater, the period’s central artistic presence and leading intelligence ...

Character Building

Peter Campbell, 9 June 1994

Black Riders: The Visible Language of Modernity 
by Jerome McGann.
Princeton, 196 pp., £25, July 1993, 0 691 06985 9
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Letters from the People 
by Lee Friedlander.
Cape, 96 pp., £75, August 1993, 9780224032957
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Margins and Marginality 
by Evelyn Tribble.
Virginia, 194 pp., $35, December 1993, 0 8139 1472 8
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... the way they are physically presented impinge in any significant way on the texts they contain? Jerome McGann reckons that the private press movement (William Morris and his followers) was an agent in the rise of Modernist poetry, and goes on to make large claims for the ability of poetry in the Modernist tradition to unknot linguistic and ...

Talk about doing

Frank Kermode, 26 October 1989

Against Deconstruction 
by John Ellis.
Princeton, 168 pp., £13.70, February 1989, 0 691 06754 6
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The New Historicism 
by H. Aram Veeser.
Routledge, 318 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 415 90070 0
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Rethinking Historicism: Critical Essays in Romantic History 
by Marjorie Levinson, Marilyn Butler, Jerome McGann and Paul Hamilton.
Blackwell, 149 pp., £22.50, August 1989, 0 631 16591 6
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Towards a Literature of Knowledge 
by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 138 pp., £16.50, May 1989, 9780198117407
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The Stoic in Love: Selected Essays on Literature and Ideas 
by A.D. Nuttall.
Harvester, 209 pp., £25, July 1989, 0 7450 0614 0
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... to expose the contemporary politicising of the ideal and the idealising of the political.’ Jerome McGann, the remaining contributor, starts from Franz Fanon and argues that the works of the past must be freed from the ‘imperial imagination’ or, if you prefer, ‘the burden of the past’; a re-imagining of the past, illustrated here by ...

Why edit socially?

Marilyn Butler, 20 October 1994

Lord Byron: The Complete Poetical Works, Vol. VII 
edited by Byron.
Oxford, 445 pp., £52.50, March 1993, 0 19 812328 0
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The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse 
edited by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 832 pp., £25, April 1993, 0 19 214158 9
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... Jerome McGann’s seven-volume edition of Byron’s Poems has concluded with a magnificent index compiled by Carol Pearson. As columns to browse in, these are in the same league as the DNB or OED. Old Romantic hands might be tempted to look up ‘Rousseau’ or ‘Wordsworth’, but to test this edition with the name of another established writer would be to show you didn’t know what McGann stands for ...

An Epiphany of Footnotes

Claude Rawson, 16 March 1989

Social Values and Poetic Acts: The Historical Judgment of Literary Work 
by Jerome McGann.
Harvard, 279 pp., £21.95, April 1988, 0 674 81495 9
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... According to Jerome McGann, poetry became desocialised as a result of Kant’s definition of the aesthetic experience as wholly and essentially subjective. A consequence for criticism ever since has been that ‘poetry’s historical and social relations are regarded as peripheral (“extrinsic”) concerns.’ Coleridge’s declaration that a poem proposes ‘for its immediate object pleasure not truth’, and his particular conception of Imagination as an internal and self-enclosed harmonisation, ‘extends and elaborates the Kantian analyses of the aesthetic experience ...

Outside the text

Marilyn Butler, 19 December 1985

The Beauty of Inflections: Literary Investigations in Historical Method and Theory 
by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 352 pp., £19.50, May 1985, 0 19 811730 2
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The Politics of Language: 1791-1819 
by Olivia Smith.
Oxford, 269 pp., £19.50, December 1984, 0 19 812817 7
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... the values, interests and powers served by the proliferation of hermeneutic techniques’. Jerome McGann and Olivia Smith are two good critics, both Americans publishing in England, who fall in with Mitchell’s injunction to ‘historicise’. Each regards a work of the past as both an individual literary performance and an event occurring in ...

When in Rom

John Sutherland, 9 June 1994

The English Poetry Full-Text Database 
editorial board: John Barnard, Derek Brewer, Lou Burnand, Howard Erskine-Hill and Danny Karlin et al.
Chadwyck-Healey, £30,000, June 1994
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... at Virginia, at the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, is the brainchild of Jerome McGann. His aim is to create a total package which will contain digitised reproductions of D.G. Rossetti’s pictures, facsimiles of key editions of his verse, facsimiles and transcripts of his manuscripts and electronic texts of the poetry in the ...

Hail, Muse!

Seamus Perry: Byron v. Shelley, 6 February 2003

The Making of the Poets: Byron and Shelley in Their Time 
by Ian Gilmour.
Chatto, 410 pp., £25, June 2002, 0 7011 7110 3
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Byron and Romanticism 
by Jerome McGann.
Cambridge, 321 pp., £47.50, August 2002, 0 521 80958 4
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... whom he quickly saw had been ‘corrupted by the world’. Shelley doesn’t feature much in Jerome McGann’s Byron and Romanticism, but he could have done: the Romanticism to which McGann opposes Byron might be exemplified by Shelley as well as by Wordsworth and Coleridge, the usual suspects. (Shelley’s ...

Floating Hair v. Blue Pencil

Frank Kermode, 6 June 1996

Revision and Romantic Authorship 
by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 354 pp., £40, March 1996, 0 19 812264 0
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... of the matter, Leader aligns himself with the modern critical school associated with the name of Jerome McGann and with his attack on what he calls ‘the Romantic ideology’, a disease of the original Romantics from which all criticism of them continues to suffer, or anyway did until McGann and his friends ...

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