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D.J. Enright has characterised so aptly: 'shopping around for a ''bargaio'' judgement or a second-hand ioterpretation with some wear left in it.' The introductions to John Carey's Penguin critical anthology Andrew Marvell show an awareness of the difficulty which demolishes the premises on which his collection is raised. We know exactly what he thinks about the world of literary criticism today but not what he thinks about Marvell's poetry. Mr Carey is struck by the paradox of Marvell's three hundred years of neglect and twenty years of injudicious over-examination. The first part of the collection contains a concise and comprehensive account of the growth of Marvell's reputation , with supportive illustrations ranging from Milton's letter of recommendation and Bishop Parker's posthumous insults to Eliot's equivocations - 'Marvell is important,' 'but he is not so important.' The second part gives some modem views - selections which indicate the variety, profusion, and perversity of present day critical approaches to Marvell. The poet and his poetry tend to become lost as we move from Christopher Hill's revolutionary interpretation, through J.B. Leishman's subtle comparisons, Brooks' and Bush's animadversions , lV. Cunningham's logical niceties, H.E. Toliver's turgid poetic strategies, Maren-Sofie R¢stvig's alchemical speculations, to G. de F. Lord's call for a higher opinion of satires not really Marvell's. Mr Carey closes his introduction to the second part by commenting that the situation has its brighter side: 'More has been written about Marvell's poems in the last twenty years than in the whole of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. That must be better than their being ignored.' I would question this - there will always be satisfied readers for whom the understanding and enjoyment of the poetry is enough. CD.LB. SMITH) THE DRAMATIST'S EXPERIENCE' The most fashionable critical approaches of the last forty or fifty years have encouraged a close scrutiny of passages or texts, sometimes in order to support categorical judgments, and seal with a stamp of approval or dismissal, sometimes to establish ironies, subtleties of reference or meaning. The resulting criticism has produced some exciting and much illuminating commentary, but inevitably a good deal that is barren or trivial; and what seemed at one time new and arduous (close analysis) has now become easy, a mannerism almost, even a cultivated myopia, so that the critic who takes a synoptic view, who stands back to survey a large area, is likely to be treated with suspicion, even hostility. Perhaps this is not surprising after all, for as the body of literature, and of commentary on it, swells alarmingly, it becomes ever more difficult to achieve a balanced and sane overall perspective. To do this demands learning, humanity, range, clarity, tolerance, and good humour of the critic; not many can bring all these qualities to bear on the study of literature, but they are "'Clifford Leech. The Dramatist's Experience. London: Chatto & Windus; Toronto: Clarke, Irwin 1970. Pp. 248. $9.00. THE DRAMAnST'S EXPERIENCE 87 present in Clifford Leech's The Dramatist's Experience, and contribute to the strength of this book. The author's basic position is elaborated in an opening chapter called 'The Servants will do That for Us: in which he rejects the concept of literature as communication, but more interestingly proposes a positive and generous view of what literature is, namely, 'an embodiment of a complex response which will not tell us what to do but will extend and enrich our sense of the human condition , a gesture of rejection which is at the same time a fugitive winning of mastery.' There goes with this the recognition that, 'It is a singularly humane kind of judging that we practise, or ought to practise, in the realm of art.' The following chapters attempt to define more narrowly the distinguishing qualities of major and minor art, not in order to grade works on a ladder of merit, but continually in the recognition of the 'delight and enrichment' all art can afford. Great literature, for Professor Leech, is marked by complexity, by its rejection of a sense of reconciliation, by its refusal to grant...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 86-88
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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