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Works of Love in Nebraska

Wayne Booth, 22 May 1980

Plains Song: For Female Voices 
by Wright Morris.
Harper and Row, 229 pp., $9.95, January 1980, 0 06 013047 4
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... One of America’s three most important living novelists – I’ll let you name the other two – has just published one of the best of his novels. Unlike any other first-class novel we’re likely to see this year, Plains Song sings of life on the American plains. To sing, in the 1980s, about life on the American plains does not exactly put one into the mainstream of American letters ...


Eugene Goodheart, 16 March 1989

The company we keep: An Ethics of Fiction 
by Wayne Booth.
California, 485 pp., $29.55, November 1988, 0 520 06203 5
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... Wayne Booth begins his new book by recalling how in the early Sixties he and his colleagues at the University of Chicago could ignore the distress of a young black assistant professor, Paul Moses, who declared that he would no longer teach Huckleberry Finn because he found the portrayal of Jim offensive. Booth remembers with more than a twinge of conscience that he and his colleagues found the challenge to Mark Twain’s great novel offensive because it violated ‘academic norms of objectivity ...

Anger and Dismay

Denis Donoghue, 19 July 1984

Literary Education: A Revaluation 
by James Gribble.
Cambridge, 182 pp., £16.50, November 1983, 0 521 25315 2
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Reconstructing Literature 
edited by Laurence Lerner.
Blackwell, 218 pp., £15, August 1983, 0 631 13323 2
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Counter-Modernism in Current Critical Theory 
by Geoffrey Thurley.
Macmillan, 216 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 33436 1
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... The writers are Laurence Lerner, Cedric Watts, Roger Scruton, John Holloway, Gabriel Josipovici, Wayne Booth, Robert Pattison and Anthony Thorlby. Four of them teach at Sussex, so I suppose the book started as a bright idea in the Senior Common Room at Falmer. Some of the essays are genial performances. Josipovici obviously likes Barthes’s work, and ...

These Staggering Questions

Clive James, 3 April 1980

Critical Understanding 
by Wayne Booth.
Chicago, 400 pp., £14, September 1979, 0 226 06554 5
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... Previous books by Wayne C. Booth, especially The Rhetoric of Fiction, have been well received in the academic world. Since it first made its appearance in the early Sixties, The Rhetoric of Fiction has gone on to establish itself as a standard work – a touchstone of sanity. Probably the same thing will happen to the book under review ...


David Haglund: Mormons, 22 May 2003

... as I know). During my second year at the University of Chicago, I found a class being taught by Wayne Booth. Booth, the author of The Rhetoric of Fiction and The Company We Keep, was one of the more famous members of the English department, and was known to be a good teacher, too. He was also a lapsed Mormon, born in ...

Rat Poison

David Bromwich, 17 October 1996

Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life 
by Martha Nussbaum.
Beacon, 143 pp., $20, February 1996, 0 8070 4108 4
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... as she has called it, for she recognises certain sharers of her aims: among literary critics, Wayne Booth; among philosophers, Bernard Williams and Stanley Cavell; among social scientists, Amartya Sen. Nussbaum explains her discovery of virtues eloquently, volubly, in the manner of a belated Victorian moralist. The reverse of a dry writer, she is ...

Pen Men

Elaine Showalter, 20 March 1986

Men and Feminism in Modern Literature 
by Declan Kiberd.
Macmillan, 250 pp., £13.95, September 1985, 0 333 38353 2
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Women Writing about Men 
by Jane Miller.
Virago, 256 pp., £10.95, January 1986, 0 86068 473 3
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Phallic Critiques: Masculinity and 20th-century Literature 
by Peter Schwenger.
Routledge, 172 pp., £29.50, September 1985, 0 7102 0164 8
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... as straightforward, unself-conscious or natural. Even when male literary theorists (such as Wayne Booth, Robert Scholes and Terry Eagleton) have taken an interest in feminist criticism, they have seen problems of sexual difference as women’s problems, addressing – to use Jonathan Culler’s terms – the issue of ‘reading as a woman’ but ...

You may not need to know this

John Bayley, 30 August 1990

A Wicked Irony: The Rhetoric of Lermontov’s ‘A Hero of Our Time’ 
by Andrew Barratt and A.D.P. Briggs.
Bristol Classical Press, 139 pp., £25, May 1989, 1 85399 020 5
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The Battle for Childhood: Creation of a Russian Myth 
by Andrew Baruch Wachtel.
Stanford, 262 pp., $32.50, May 1990, 0 8047 1795 8
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... of the freedom of their dreams, their irrational impulses and desires. Romantic irony is also what Wayne Booth called ‘unstable’ irony, which pushes the reader out of successive moral or philosophical positions and premises. It becomes a literary technique, exploited by Lermontov through the use of multiple narration, and through the many voices and ...

Those Limbs We Admire

Anthony Grafton: Himmler’s Tacitus, 14 July 2011

A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus’ ‘Germania’ from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich 
by Christopher Krebs.
Norton, 303 pp., £18.99, June 2011, 978 0 393 06265 6
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... problematic passages by following the principle that I once heard enunciated by the Chicago critic Wayne Booth: ‘Just let me invent the evidence and I’ll prove my point.’ To explain why the Germans were known as ‘Teutsch’, Clüver simply emended the name of the German deity mentioned by Tacitus: ‘now Tuisto had to make room for Teuto.’ Yet ...

Culler and Deconstruction

Gerald Graff, 3 September 1981

The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction 
by Jonathan Culler.
Routledge, 256 pp., £7.95, July 1981, 0 7100 0757 4
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... interpretation may depend finally on what kind of stability you are looking for. Hirsch, Abrams, Wayne Booth and other opponents of deconstruction have argued that interpretation is inherently unstable because of the difficulty of guessing with certainty what any person may mean or have meant on any occasion, an uncertainty deriving from the fallibility ...

Whisky out of Teacups

Stefan Collini: David Lodge, 19 February 2015

Quite a Good Time to Be Born: A Memoir, 1935-75 
by David Lodge.
Harvill Secker, 488 pp., £25, January 2015, 978 1 84655 950 1
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Lives in Writing: Essays 
by David Lodge.
Vintage, 262 pp., £10.99, January 2015, 978 0 09 958776 7
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... literary critic of his generation’ – but also on outliers of American formalism such as Wayne Booth. He shared interests with near contemporaries such as Tony Tanner while his literary doppelgänger (and closest friend) was Malcolm Bradbury. Like Kermode and Tanner, Lodge was initially receptive to new theoretical ideas coming from ...
... status as a feminist classic to compel its imperialist and racist rhetoric to come into the open. Wayne Booth argues that the ‘understanding’ of an author’s intention may be an insufficient goal for interpretation, and posits a process of ‘overstanding’ as the goal of a more ambitious criticism. This ambition is most scandalous when it claims ...

Caruthers & Co

Simon Raven, 19 July 1984

... over the success of their trick. They now split Tom’s Fiver ... at the same time as ‘Fatty’ Wayne of the Third splits the best pair of Colts’ batting gloves during pracker at the nets. Another pair is urgently needed. Tom is instructed by the Captain of the School to buy one before the big match against Greyfriars, and also to bring the rest of the ...

Zeitgeist Man

Jenny Diski: Dennis Hopper, 22 March 2012

Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel 
by Peter Winkler.
Robson, 376 pp., £18.99, November 2011, 978 1 84954 165 7
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... missed mixing it with the hard-drinking rabble-rousers, Flynn, Bogart and Sinatra, while John Wayne, with whom he acted in The Sons of Katie Elder and True Grit, called him a Communist and offered to explain why he, Wayne, ‘was worth a million per picture’. Hopper was, however, perfectly on time for the upcoming ...

National Treasure

Christopher Hitchens, 14 November 1996

Jacqueline Bouvier: An Intimate Memoir 
by John Davis.
Wiley, 256 pp., £14.99, October 1996, 0 471 12945 3
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... like the most abject stage-door Johnnies, and indeed Janes. The former First Lady sat in the main booth with her friends, looking serene and detached, while all sorts of people took their time collecting their hats or whatever, and rubbernecking shamelessly.What was this? It was more than fame and more than glamour. And it was a bit less than Edmund Burke’s ...

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