Magazine article Times Higher Education

What Are You Reading?

Magazine article Times Higher Education

What Are You Reading?

Article excerpt

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

Sir David Eastwood, vice chancellor, University of Birmingham, is reading Rick Rylance's Literature and the Public Good (Oxford University Press, 2016). "'Typically,' Rylance suggests, 'debates about literature are exploratory and contingent, and not categorical.' This ability to categorise without being categorical gives this timely essay its brilliance. Rylance understands the power and reach of literature, and is as happy with numbers as he is in sympathetic literary criticism. At the book's heart is a counterpoint between 'the instrumental and the immersive', and Rylance happily acknowledges the power of the instrumental while ultimately according primacy to the immersive. Although its title is a play on Q. D. Leavis' 1932 study, Fiction and the Reading Public, the book eschews absolutism for subtlety and sympathy; and its authority, paradoxically, lies in its relaxed critical stance, and in an understanding that you don't have to condemn in order to celebrate."

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading John Galsworthy's Strife in his Collected Plays (Duckworth, 1929). "Best known these days for his Forsyte novels, in his own lifetime Galsworthy was probably most famous as a cutting-edge, socially probing dramatist. Strife (1909) was the third of his many plays and, still relevant today, is likely to take on a new lease of life from its forthcoming high-profile revival at the Chichester Festival Theatre. …

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