Teddy and Tommy: The Masks of Doctor Faustus
The one-sided love story of Theodor Adorno and Thomas Mann and its comedy of errors, as the philosopher wooed, counselled and was misused or rebuffed by the novelist. What was Adorno’s exact role in the genesis of Doctor Faustus, while the two shared an Angeleno exile? Why did they never meet again after the war? Who was the real original of Adrian Leverkühn?
Replying to critics of his ‘Conjectures on World Literature’ (NLR 1), Franco Moretti considers the objections to a world-systems theory of the relations between centre and periphery in the sphere of the novel or poetry, and proposes some new hypotheses about the morphology of forms and the politics of comparative literary studies.
Defending Cultural Criticism
Is cultural criticism condemned to the gestures of an anti-political disdain, whether Right or Left in origin? Replying to Francis Mulhern in NLR 16, Stefan Collini argues to the contrary that it signifies an indispensable moment of committed reflection.
On Cultural Markets
The ‘culture industry’ has typically been conceived as a unified, twentieth-century branch of production. Donald Sassoon reveals older, more variegated patterns of development, tracing international relations of cultural dominance from Scott and Verdi to the action movie.
Replying to Stefan Collini in NLR 7, Francis Mulhern extends his critique of the pretensions of culture to general social authority, to the Marxist versions of Kulturkritik in the Frankfurt School. What defines the difference between politics and culture as practices?
'Considering Coldly ...'
Does Spanish American literature illustrate or overturn the idea that in the ‘world republic of letters’ economic and cultural relations between centre and periphery run parallel? A Peruvian assesses Franco Moretti’s conjectures (NLR 1), and springs some surprises about Beckett.
Negotiating World Literature
Should relations between national literatures be conceived on the model of international competition between states? Christopher Prendergast assesses a bold French attempt to analyse the historical dynamics of the ‘world republic of letters’, from the Renaissance to the present day—with Paris emerging as an unexpectedly durable capital. Were national determinations of literary projects always so predominant, and what of cross-cultural variations in the meaning of literature itself?
In Bluebeard’s Chamber: Guilt and Thomas Mann
What deadly secrets (boys apart) did Thomas Mann have to hide? The Auguste Dupin of German letters follows a trail of bloody knives, howling dogs and unbidden confessions from Buddenbrooks and ‘Tonio Kröger’ to Doktor Faustus and Felix Krull.
Between the elite traditions of Kulturkritik and the populist enthusiasms of Cultural Studies, nominal antagonists, Francis Mulhern’s Culture/Metaculture discerns a covert bond—a common hostility to politics proper, as the antonym of culture. Stefan Collini queries his way of resolving the tension between these two.
The Novel, Politics and Islam
The astonishing story of the uproar in Egypt over the publication of a Syrian novel set in Algeria—a work of literature as trigger for political crisis and polemical turmoil, two decades after it was written, in a landscape completely transformed. Haydar Haydar’s fiction as tuning-fork of stark dissonances of time and outlook in the Arab world.
Conjectures on World Literature
Nearly two hundred years ago, Goethe announced the imminence of a world literature. Here Franco Moretti offers a set of hypotheses for tracking the birth and fate of the novel in the peripheries of Europe, in Latin America, Arab lands, Turkey, China, Japan, West Africa. For the first time, the prospect of a morphology of global letters?
An Unexpected Jewel
“When half a century ago now, I was taught German literature at school and university, Hebel was never on any syllabus. Though appreciated and praised by generations of writers who were, from Goethe onwards and downwards, Hebel was relegated to the status of a ‘popular’ writer, not part . . .” read more
Modern European Literature: A Geographical Sketch
“Years ago, Denis de Rougement published a study entitled Twenty-eight Centuries of Europe; here, readers will only find five of them, the most recent. The idea is that the sixteenth century acts as a double watershed—against the past, and against other continents—after which European literature develops that formal . . .” read more
The Atlantic World of 'Sacred Hunger'
“The long-standing British interest in continental literary theory might well be dated from 1962, the year in which Hannah and Stanley Mitchell published their translation of Georg Lukács’s The Historical Novel. There are many reasons why Lukács’s treatise on the works of Scott, Chateaubriand, and others was quickly . . .” read more
An Episode in the Larkin Wars
“Christopher Hitchens’ article on ‘Larkin and “Sensitivity” ’ in nlr 200 is as energetic an exercise in sectarian bile as I have seen on the Left in recent years. My seven-page review of Larkin’s Selected Letters that appeared in the journal Race and Class seems to have . . .” read more
Reply to John Newsinger
“Over the past decade, I must have read yards of stuff, much of it penned by wised-up radicals, about the decay of authorship. The writer, we are often instructed, barely matters at all. His or her intentions and desires are an obstacle to a close reading or a . . .” read more
Literature and Market Realism
“These are strange times. Capitalism, crippled by its own contradictions—there are thirty million people out of work in the oecd countries alone—is nonetheless triumphant. From New York to Beijing, via Moscow and Vladivostok, you can eat the same junk food, watch the same junk on television and, . . .” read more
Narrative, Geography and Interpretation
“Whenever a great intellectual and moral presence like Raymond Williams suddenly disappears from his habitual place among us it is natural at first to restore him by various ceremonies and activites of commemoration. The sense of loss and bereavement that was felt immediately after Williams’s death in 1988 . . .” read more
Saint Oscar: A Foreword
“I first thought of writing about Oscar Wilde when I discovered that hardly any of the Oxford students who asked to study him with me realized that he was Irish. Since Wilde himself realized this only fitfully, this is hardly a grievous crime, though it might be said . . .” read more
“The poetry and prose of the Romantics (Richard Holmes writes in Shelley: The Pursuit) was born of a ‘disturbed and excited political period . . . which flashes up through the years towards our own’. Certainly, we have come a long way since 1789. And yet there are . . .” read more
Poetry and Politics: A Conversation with Stuart Hood
“Erich Fried was not only a distinguished and prolific poet—he said once in a characteristic phrase that he wrote poems the way rabbits have babies—but a novelist, essayist and translator of Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas and Eliot. These achievements have been recognized throughout Europe but are only now . . .” read more
The Silences of David Lodge
“The success of the ‘campus’ novel in England is not hard to account for. Ever since Burke and Coleridge’s testy polemics against the Jacobins, the English attitude to the intelligentsia has been one of profound ambivalence. Intellectuals are seen as faintly sinister figures, bohemian and nonconformist, treasonable clerks . . .” read more
Militants of Creativity
“How does one write about artistic modernism without simply reproducing its own forms, styles and devices—all the way from the locally minute to the massively architectonic? Raymond Williams, in his fine Introduction to the collection Visions and Blueprints, opens the question of the politics of modernism and the . . .” read more
Understanding Modernism: A Response to Franco Moretti
“Franco Moretti’s stimulating contribution to the debate on Marxism and Modernism (‘The Spell of Indecision’, NLR 164) unfortunately elides, in its very opening sentences, a crucial aesthetic distinction—with the result that his critique of modernism is of much less general validity than he assumes. Frank Kermode long ago . . .” read more
Words Words Words: A Reply to Tony Pinkney
“‘Modernism’ and the ‘Avant-garde’ are not synonymous terms’. Tony Pinkney is absolutely right in saying so, in stressing the relevance of Bürger’s book (which, alas, had not been published at the time I wrote my article), and in pointing to the terminological ‘slide’ in the opening sentences of . . .” read more
The Spell of Indecision
“In the past two decades, there has been a complete change in the dominant attitude of Marxist criticism towards Modernism. Essentially, Marxist readings of avant-garde literature are increasingly based on interpretative theories—Russian Formalism, Bakhtin’s work, theories of the ‘open’ text, deconstructionism—which, in one way or another, belong to . . .” read more
War and Peace in Stalin’s Russia
“Vasili Grossman’s massive novel has rightly been compared with War and Peace. The author himself makes it obvious that Tolstoy’s masterpiece not only inspired him but served as a model for his saga of a great country fighting against enormous odds for its very existence. Both artists chose . . .” read more
Mario Vargas Llosa: Parables and Deceits
“Some time ago I urged a friend from Lima to read Vargas Llosa’s Historia de Mayta—clumsily entitled The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta in the English edition—so that he might give me an insider’s opinion of the book’s treatment of the Peruvian revolutionary left over the last thirty . . .” read more
The Migrant’s Vision
“Shame, Salman Rushdie’s new novel, is written from a very different perspective from that of the earlier Midnight’s Children. The latter novel was a book written about India by an Indian; the white metropolitan reader was an eavesdropper, overhearing the voice of a strange, far-away country of . . .” read more
The American Connection: The Masculine Style in Popular Fiction
“In recent years the growth of oral history projects in many countries testifies to the importance now given to popular experience, memory and activity recoverable through personal interviews. Many of these projects have concentrated on experiences of working life, family life, women’s work and political activity, the struggle . . .” read more
The Dialectic of Fear
“The fear of bourgeois civilization is summed up in two names: Frankenstein and Dracula. The monster and the vampire are born together one night in 1816 in the drawing room of the Villa Chapuis near Geneva, out of a society game among friends to while away a rainy . . .” read more
Expressionism and Working-Class Fiction
“In his essay, ‘The Storyteller’, Walter Benjamin distinguishes between two generic traditions of story-telling, symbolized by two contrasting occupations: the peasant and the voyager. ‘If one wants to picture these two groups through their archaic representatives’, he wrote, ‘one is embodied in the resident tiller of the soil, . . .” read more
The Maximov Phenomenon
“It is a truism that Russian literature has been traditionally political: but it is still one that cannot be overlooked by any literary critic, or for that matter, any reader of Russian belles lettres. Both writer and bureaucrat in Russia, from opposite sides of the gulf that separates . . .” read more
A Spanish Masterpiece
“Son of a poor Madrid washerwoman whose husband had died, Arturo Barea was born in 1897 in Madrid. He was brought up by a relatively well-to-do uncle and a bigoted catholic aunt. A scholarship took him to a catholic school for the rich in Madrid, while both sides . . .” read more