Transcendental Criticism

David Trotter

  • The Renewal of Literature: Emersonian Reflections by Richard Poirier
    Faber, 256 pp, £14.95, March 1988, ISBN 0 571 15013 6

‘What to believe, in the course of his reading, was Mr Boffin’s chief literary difficulty indeed; for some time he was divided in his mind between half, all, or none; at length, when he decided, as a moderate man, to compound with half, the question still remained, which half? And that stumbling-block he never got over.’ What to believe, Mr Boffin’s chief difficulty in Our Mutual Friend, is also likely to be the chief difficulty facing the reader of Richard Poirier’s ambitious and eloquent plea for the ‘renewal’ of literature and criticism through a better understanding of Emerson. Believing all may involve something close to a conversion. Believing none will do scant justice to the work of one of the most perceptive of contemporary critics. Compounding with half will please nobody.

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