Literary criticism

Who are today’s fictional heroes?

21 December 2019 9:00 am

What’s a hero? There are probably at least two answers to that. One is that heroism is a moral quality:…

As well as being a mythic tale, Moby-Dick is a superb a guide to oceanography

2 November 2019 9:00 am

Anyone who has read Moby-Dick will recognise the moment, 32 chapters in, when their line of attention, hitherto slackly paying…

How does today’s world compare with Orwell’s nightmare vision?

22 June 2019 9:00 am

Apart from a passionate relationship with the common toad, what do George Orwell and David Attenborough have in common? H.G.…

Brutus’s betrayal is a tragic inevitability. The soothsayer warns Julius Caesar to ‘Beware the Ides of March’, in a 19th-century wood engraving by Sir John Gilbert

Has Shakespeare become the mascot of Brexit Britain?

27 April 2019 9:00 am

The deployment of Shakespeare to describe Brexit is by now a cliché. It might take the form of a quotation,…

Little Women, Chapter IX: ‘Meg Goes to Vanity Fair’. Her sisters help her pack

150 years on, what makes Little Women such an enduring classic?

20 October 2018 9:00 am

The great thing about Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women is that it has something for everyone: stay-at-home types have…

A poet in prose

7 October 2017 9:00 am

Literary reputation can be a fickle old business. Those garlanded during their lifetimes are often quickly forgotten once dead. Yet…

Kathy Acker in the late 1980s

The writer behind the brand

2 September 2017 9:00 am

Few publishing phenomena in recent years have been as gratifying as Chris Kraus’s cult 1997 masterpiece I Love Dick becoming…

… trailing strands in all directions

29 July 2017 9:00 am

Letters of Intent — letters of the intense. Keen readers of Cynthia Ozick (are there any other kind?) will of…

Writing a bestseller ‘on the verge of a stroke’

16 January 2016 9:00 am

Every four seconds, somewhere in the world, a Lee Child book is sold. This phenomenal statistic places Child alongside Stephen…

The theory wars have ended in stalemate

18 April 2015 9:00 am

State-of-criticism overviews and assessments almost always strike a bleak note —the critical mind naturally angles towards pessimism — so it…

Ezra Pound in the early 1920s

Ezra Pound – the fascist years

18 October 2014 9:00 am

‘There are the Alps. What is there to say about them?/ They don’t make sense. Fatal glaciers, crags cranks climb,…

Clive James on his late flowering: ‘I am in the slightly embarrassing position where I write poems saying I’m about to die and then don’t’

4 October 2014 9:00 am

Clive James on poetry, civilisation and the critical benefits of facing leukaemia

What! Has John Sutherland really not read Don Quixote from cover to cover?

Judge a critic by the quality of his mistakes

10 May 2014 9:00 am

What the title promises is not found inside. It is a tease. John Sutherland says he has ‘been paid one…

No worries: John Updike in his late fifties, on the beach at Swampscott, Mass

Up close and personal

26 April 2014 9:00 am

In recycling his most intimate encounters as fiction – including amazing feats of promiscuity in small-town New England – John Updike drew unashamedly on his own experiences for inspiration, says Philip Hensher

The Roth of tenderness and of rage

4 January 2014 9:00 am

In the autumn of 2012, Philip Roth told a French magazine that his latest book, Nemesis, would be his last.…

If only Craig Raine subjected his own work to the same critical scrutiny he applies to others' 

7 December 2013 9:00 am

Debunking reputations is now out of fashion, says Philip Hensher, and Craig Raine should give it up — especially as he always misses the point

Music at Midnight, by John Drury - review

28 September 2013 9:00 am

When John Drury, himself an Anglican divine, told James Fenton (the son of a canon of Christ Church) that he…