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BOOK REVIEWS berg, the howling wildman, scrupulously banked his letters and manuscripts in a university archive. The modern poet continues to be defined as both more sophisticated and more primitive than his contemporaries, maintaining—as Crawford says of Seamus Heaney—"one foot in the cavern and one in the classroom," and trying "to juggle the roles of shaman and professor, bard, administrator, and barbarian." Poets can benefit greatly from the classroom (for one thing, that is where many of their readers are). But with the growing power of the universities and their curricula to systematize learning and control its dissemination, poets also need to fight to keep knowledge free for non-institutional thinking. This is a very good book. Crawford illuminates everything he touches on, and has produced a modern literary history that pays due attention to the institutions of literature, education, scholarship and publication. And he has done so in a language which can make sense to people outside academia as well as to those within. It is also an optimistic book, testifying to the continuing health of poetry, and seeing its often quarrelsome relation with the academy as, in the end, a mutually sustaining one. Eliot in "Tradition and the Individual Talent" showed how every new creative work in some way rewrites the whole of literary history. He was also fully aware of how his own critical work was his poetic autobiography , prompted by his problems and insights as a poet. Robert Crawford, Professor of Modern Scottish Literature at the University of St Andrews , is also one of the most interesting poets writing in Britain today. He knows what he is talking about. Douglas Kerr ________________ University of Hong Kong Ghostwriting Helen Sword. Ghostwriting Modernism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002. xiii + 212 pp. Cloth $42.50 Paper $18.95 LITERARY modernism's affinity for occult and spiritualistic practice seems to have been slighted by scholars until a recent burgeoning of publications. Since 1990, the bibliography, accruing by at least one book a year, includes such varied titles as Leon Surette's The Birth of Modernism, Jacques Derrida's Specters of Marx, and Timothy Materer's Modernist Alchemy, as well as books by Jean-Michel Rabaté, Terry Castle , Bette London, among others, and an issue of the journal Paradoxa devoted to the uncanny. Towards the conclusion of Helen Sword's excel95 ELT 46 : 1 2003 lent new study, Ghostwriting Modernism, she asks, "What is it about our own cultural moment... that inspires literary critics to see ghosts everywhere ?" Part of the answer, she suggests at one point, may lie in our present "hauntological" (Derrida's coinage) preoccupation with intertextualities . This new book is a well-researched, thoughtful contribution which investigates spiritualism's effect upon writing produced within its influential milieu. Sword offers various intriguing insights into subtleties of dead-author appropriation, gender role-reversal, and patrimonial rebellion. Ghostwriting Modernism focuses upon the history and implications of spiritualism—whether embraced or disdained—in the writings of Yeats, Joyce, Eliot, H.D., progressing chronologically to the Ouija board soundings deciphered into poems by Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes and James Merrill. Sword takes pains to define the often-blurred distinction between spiritualism and occultism: the latter "promises ancient, esoteric knowledge to a select group of initiates," while the former primarily seeks communication with the dead and may be practiced by anyone through the device of an easily obtained Ouija board or the services of a talented medium. Ghostwriting Modernism does not aim to anthologize stories or poems "about" ghosts—although some of these fit into its agenda as examples . Sword argues that elements of modernist literary aesthetics (disjointed shifts in consciousness, assembling of unrelated concrete materials to transcend chronological and spatial boundaries) show correspondence with otherworldly communications. Participation by educated persons at spiritualist society meetings and seances during modernism's beginnings was enthusiastic, almost fashionable. Visions of the afterlife often resembled an enjoyable sojourn among a coterie of literati where poetry readings by the great ones of various centuries might enlighten and entertain. The dead, in turn, were grateful to the living medium who provided eyes by which they might keep up with current books and journals, and to whom they might...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 95-99
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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