Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Literary Imagination Volume 10 Number 1 2008

Literary Imagination is a journal of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics (ALSC), published by OUP. It is edited by Peter Campion. After joining ALSC, I received the journal in May (?), but put it aside for summer reading. It is a pleasure to read.

 The academic articles are scholarly but not overly specialized, with useful explanatory footnotes and references. They are written in clear, accessible prose, more formal than the belle lettristic, but without the technical vocabulary of Theory. I especially enjoyed James Sitar's transcription of a talk by Robert Frost, Janet Gezari's "Kurtz's Night Table" (which approaches the teaching of Heart of Darkness through Coppola's Vietnam war film Apocalypse Now), John Koethe's "Wittgenstein and Lyric Subjectivity," and William Edinger's "Yvor Winters and Generality: A Classical/Neoclassical Perspective." The last is particularly insightful, in describing the greatness in Winters' poetry, its classicism and modernism. "The Slow Pacific Swell" and "To the Holy Spirit" are poems I'm glad to have encountered.

The common concern in these very different essays is to bring Literature and Criticism, History, Philosophy, Film, and Pedagogy into a closer relationship, in a broadly Western humanistic framework. J. Hillis Miller is mentioned in passing, but the touchstones are Aristotle, Longinus, Samuel Johnson, Coleridge, M. H. Abrams, Northrope Frye, Frank Kermode. Excepting the classical authors, the tradition is firmly Anglo-American. Interestingly, Stewart Justman ends his long survey of the canon "Literature and the Turn from History" by discussing Ha Jin's novel Waiting. The keynote speaker at the next ALSC conference is Jhumpa Lahiri.

This issue also includes a piece of short fiction by Mary O'Donoghue, poems by David Wojahn, Alan Shapiro, Reginald Gibbons, Mary Meriam, and Elizabeth Arnold, and translations of Virgil, Racine, Julio Martinez Mesanza (Spanish poet), and Mihai Ursachi (Romanian poet) by, respectively, David Ferry, Rachel Hadas, Don Bogen and Adam J. Sorkin. Having enjoyed Alan Shapiro's Song and Dance, I am pleased to find I like his two poems here very much. "Night" is about his dead brother, a Broadway actor, the grievous subject of his book too.

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