Frank Kermode

Midnight Oil
February 06, 2005


Homo Scriblerus
March 26, 2001

Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books by H.J. Jackson (Yale University Press, 324 pp., $27.95) A certain Cambridge classics teacher named Walter Whiter suddenly became fairly famous when a peculiar book of his, A Specimen of a Commentary on Shakespeare, originally published and scorned in 1794, was rediscovered and for a while admired in the twentieth century. The brief vogue of the Specimen prompted some research into its author, so we know that Whiter was for some years the close friend of Richard Porson, the great Greek scholar.

The Power to Enchant
April 26, 1999

Later Auden By Edward Mendelson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 570 pp., $30) W.H.

Millions of Strange Shadows
November 16, 1997

The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets By Helen Vendler (Harvard University Press, 672 pp., $35) In 1978, when Stephen Booth published an edition of Shakespeare's sonnets—his dual purpose was to help the lay reader and to satisfy the expert—he made certain observations on the nature of his task. The common reader, he argued, simply isn't bothered by passages that stretch the understanding of the expert. Sometimes "a reader will see the speaker's point without understanding (or knowing that he has not understood and cannot in any usual sense understand) the sentence that makes the point." Booth is an

World of Our Father
June 26, 1995

God: A Biography By Jack Miles (Knopf, 446 pp., $27.50) The Postmodern Bible By The Bible and Culture Collective (Yale University Press, 416 pp., $35) Jack Miles is a learned and original critic. In an age in which such belletristic skills are commonly regarded as irrelevant or even harmful to the true business of criticism, he knows what it is to be a writer. Unusually gifted critics will sometimes choose to write peculiar books, and this is what Miles has done. A reviewer can hardly help being preoccupied with its oddity, but before yielding to that temptation he ought to say that God: A Bio

The New Historicism
February 28, 1988

Shakespearean Negotiations  By Stephen Greenblatt (University of California Press, 205 pp., $20) The Place of the Stage: License, Play and Power in Renaissance England By Steven Mullaney (University of Chicago Press, 178 pp., $24.95) External observers must have noticed abundant signs of tumult in the world of academic literary criticism. Some, remarking with dismay the proliferation of forbiddingly obscure titles, may have lost interest or given up the hope of discovering what is going on.

The Universe of Myth
June 09, 1982

The Great Code: The Bible and Literature  By Northrop Frye (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 320 pp., $14.95) There have recently been published a number of books, all of them unusual and all in their way good, which approach the Bible not primarily as a religious work, or even as a collection of ancient books, but as a living literary presence, a still-important element in a secular culture, G. B.