*headdesk*

As previously mentioned, I have begun a little project of catching up on recent (defined as ‘since I last really paid attention’) work in Victorian studies. In aid of this, I have browsed the TOC from a couple of the major academic journals in the field and downloaded a bunch of essays and book reviews (so far, about 75), which I am reading through to get a feel for what people have been doing, what I should know more about, books I should look up for further reading, and so on. I decided to go back about 5 years: it’s not as if I haven’t looked at any criticism published since 2006, but much of my searching has been quite targetted, whereas now I am just looking, not looking for anything in particular. It’s not a particularly inspiring task. I’ve looked at probably 30 or 40 files so far, and not one of them has given me any sense of urgency–nothing, so far, has made me think that I need to reconsider what I usually do in the classroom, for instance. But I’ve listed a few books already that I’d like to take a look, or another look, at, and I’ve filed some essays away where they will be accessible for more specialized work–research or graduate teaching. I have discovered that my iPad is really a wonderful tool for this kind of work. I’ve got the PDFs all tucked into the GoodReader app, which lets me easily highlight and annotate them, and then as I finish looking at each one I tap it away into the appropriate folder so I can find it again when I want to. Yes, I can do these things on my desktop with Adobe Pro, but how much more comfortable to do this in a more accomodating posture than sitting bolt upright staring straight ahead! And my right wrist is grateful to have a break from mousing around. I’ve still got the files saved into folders on the desktop if I want them, but I’m loving this system. It makes me think I might even get into a habit of reviewing recent criticism! Imagine.

Anyway, the real point of this post is not to rehearse my boring work routines for you but to publicly humiliate myself, in the hope that it will motivate me to do better from now on at actually following up on the notes I take. One of the reviews I read today was really the first one I enjoyed reading just for its own qualities, as well as for its subject, and I happily highlighted several passages in it, including this one:

Negative hermeneutics has never been Hardy’s mode, and her determination to take seriously what Eliot said said, without suspicion and cynicism as a premise of the reading, is one thing that might make this anti-biography suspect to modern critics. But that determination becomes a form of negative capability that is one of the most moving and satisfying aspects of the book. For Hardy, Eliot wrote as if she meant what she said and she said what she meant. In critical circles, this is an astonishingly fresh argument these days. (100)

It’s a review by George Levine of Barbara Hardy’s George Eliot: A Critic’s Biography, a book I have but have not sat down and read attentively, though I have long been an admirer of Hardy, as is probably anyone who has studied George Eliot. As I filed the review away in my ‘George Eliot’ folder, I had a dim flash of recollection: didn’t I write something about Barbara Hardy as my critical model right here on Novel  Readings at some point? Sure enough, I did. Here’s the old post, in its entirety. Please note that I wrote it almost three years ago to the day.

April 8, 2008

Being Barbara Hardy

As a proud new member of NAVSA (better late than never!), I have just received a copy of the latest issue of Victorian Studies. Of the many interesting features in this issue (Volume 50 No. 1), I particularly enjoyed George Levine’s review of Barbara Hardy’s George Eliot: A Critic’s Biography, a book I own but haven’t yet read. One of my clearest recollections of my early days as a graduate student is being asked by one of my new faculty mentors to name a critic whose work on George Eliot I admired. “Barbara Hardy,” I promptly replied. The response was a tolerant smile and nod, and a bit of sage advice: “Of course, you can’t be Barbara Hardy any more.” True enough–unless, naturally, you actually are Barbara Hardy. Her steadiness in being herself is at the heart of Levine’s admiration of this new book:

Negative hermeneutics has never been Hardy’s mode, and her determination to take seriously what Eliot said said, without suspicion and cynicism as a premise of the reading, is one thing that might make this anti-biography suspect to modern critics. But that determination becomes a form of negative capability that is one of the most moving and satisfying aspects of the book. For Hardy, Eliot wrote as if she meant what she said and she said what she meant. In critical circles, this is an astonishingly fresh argument these days. (100)

I’ve put it at the top of my “t0 read” pile.

*headdesk*

Here’s a new resolution. I will not only read the book but I will write about it here when I have done so. And not any three years from now, either.

One thought on “*headdesk*

  1. Amateur Reader April 8, 2011 / 12:36 am

    Repetition is an essential and effective rhetorical device.

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