Manning the Barricades

Andreas Huyssen

  • No Passion Spent by George Steiner
    Faber, 421 pp, £20.00, January 1996, ISBN 0 571 17697 6

Railing against academic vogues and the cant of critical fashions is what academic literary critics typically do, and George Steiner is no stranger to the game. He has never been seduced by changing fashion and, at its best, his writing is fluid and incisive. As a critic he has always thought of himself as fiercely independent, but the essays collected in No Passion Spent fit all too well into the current scene of literary criticism: on one side, the practitioners of various forms of post-structuralist and cross-disciplinary Post-Modern criticism; on the other, the defenders of classical canons and criticism in its traditional modes. That Steiner has aligned himself with the latter camp is hardly surprising given his exceptional command of the tradition (much of it in the original languages), his ability to comment astutely on the intricacies of poetic and critical language, and his overall seriousness of purpose.

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