"Time-serving reviewers, those sensitive registers of the day-to-day changes in current and temperature, no longer invite their readers to sneer at Mr. Leavis, and Cambridge seems to be becoming increasingly aware to whom it owes its international reputation for English studies. The Leavis case is fortunately the rare one of the obnoxious character holding on until in the course of time it has become apparent that he is a great man and must be admitted, however reluctantly, into the fold, if only to avert scandal."
---H.A. Mason, 'F.R. Leavis and Scrutiny', The Critic, 1/2, Autumn 1947, p. 21
I'd noticed how recent publicity for the new series of Doctor Who has emphasised its historical settings, with leaks from the set over the last few months revealing that the nineteenth century seems to be visited several times. Just as Doctor Who in 2005 had borrowed imagery and themes from the contemporary aspirational working-class drama genre, in 2012/13 it was borrowing the clothes of the new strand of historical series. Now the blog of The Journal of Victorian Culture, no less, has weighed in with a look at The Snowmen as an item of current neo-Victorianism. Definitely worth a look.
Insomniac reading in the last few days has centred (when I realise that picking up a book would be a good idea) on The Turn of the Screw, which I bought in an early 1970s Penguin edition in the secondhand bookshop in Woodstock, with one of Atkinson Grimshaw's dour suburbanised mansions on the cover.

I knew nothing of the critical battle which has raged over The Turn of the Screw in the century and more since it was first published in 1898. The narration is a narration within a narration, a nod towards the many possible interpretations events offer. The governess herself is unreliable, self-deceiving, and possessive of her charges, though her skills in relating to children beyond the sentimental are questionable. She can be read as sexually jealous of her predecessor, Miss Jessel, and her affair with Peter Quint, which (if so) the governesss seems to map on to the boy Miles, perhaps part-possessed by Quint's ghost, or perhaps not. Even if the story is the delusion of a murderess, it's still evocative of the closed hierarchical universe a rural estate could be when the master was away and thus the apex of power was absent, and how thin the membrane separating the disciplined rationalism of the machine age from the superstition and prevailing disorder of mind, physicality and time which is perhaps more representative of human experience as a whole.
sir_guinglain: (Default)
( Jan. 29th, 2011 06:31 pm)
My intention of working today has been balanced by the need to have some sort of weekend. I rose late but only after finishing New Grub Street. George Gissing had a pessimistic outlook on human nature; the characters I felt led to support do not end well. Its lessons are still relevant, though.

Afterwards I went shopping in Woodstock. The stock of the secondhand bookshop in the former Savills office seems to have become more concentrated, but they still have a good range of old Penguin English Library and other series upstairs. Despite still having many other books to read (including a couple of William Morrises bought at St Mary Mags sale in Oxford over a year ago) I picked up a 1972 Penguin Modern Classics edition of The Turn of the Screw and Other Stories and a 1970s printing of the Signet Classic version of Thoreau's Walden (complete with a New English Library price sticker on the cover) for £1 each. The shop is a 'social enterprise' established to support the proprietor's charity interests, at the moment helping support a young woman in Africa through her education.

I then went on to The Woodstock Bookshop, which still stands proud on our Oxford Street. I failed to buy anything, but can at least give them some publicity with this link; they have a strong children's section and also stock a good number of titles from smaller specialist imprints like Eland or Little Toller Books, and are worth visiting.

ETA: I didn't mention that one book I didn't get at the secondhand bookshop was a hardback of Mark Gatiss's The Devil in Amber, complete with bookplate identifying it as a prize book awarded by a convent school. Lucifer Box would be entertained.
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