Welcome to our literary criticism section, where we gather interviews with the finest scholars of English literature and letters, from the eminent Yale Professor Harold Bloom to the Pulitzer prize-winning author of the defining critical text Renaissance Self-Fashioning, Stephen Greenblatt.
If you're new to an era and want a big-picture historical view, check out our interviews on Adam and Eve, the Victorian essay, Victorian literature, and modernism, to name a few. After a specific author? Look no further—we have interviews with the foremost experts on Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, D H Lawrence and Jane Austen.
Whether it's a fresh look at a literary genre you already know well or a granular view of an author completely new to you, Five Books has expert recommendations to help you read more, and read smarter.
by Jacques Derrida & translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays
by Mikhail Bakhtin & translated by Michael Holquist and Caryl Emerson
Jacques Derrida Circumfession
by Geoffrey Bennington & Jacques Derrida
The Newly Born Woman
by Catherine Clément, Hélène Cixous & translated by Betsy Wing
by Georges Perec, translated by David Bellos
For the general reader deconstruction has a bad reputation. It is seen as over-complicating, arcane and wilfully obscure—but as its founding genius Jacques Derrida pointed out, “If things were simple, word would have gotten around.” Here Peter Salmon, author of an excellent new biography of Derrida, chooses five books to get you started on the text and everything inside it.
Modernism is about form more than content, says literary scholar and critic Alexandra Harris, author of Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper. She tells us about the history of the modernist movement, and picks five books that exemplify or explain it.
by Charles Lamb
Culture and Anarchy and Other Writings
by Matthew Arnold
Selected Essays, Poems, and Other Writings
by George Eliot
Studies in the History of the Renaissance
by Walter Pater
The Hands of the Living God: An Account of a Psychoanalytic Treatment
by Marion Milner
With the advent of the Victorian age, polite maxims of eighteenth-century essays in the Spectator were replaced by a new generation of writers who thought deeply—and playfully—about social relationships, moral responsibility, education and culture. Here, Oxford literary critic David Russell explores the distinct qualities that define the Victorian essay and recommends five of its greatest practitioners.
We often assume the Victorians had puritanical attitudes to sex, but this was far from the reality. From familiar classics to neglected gems, Claire Jarvis—Stanford academic and author of Exquisite Masochism: Sex, Marriage and the Novel Form—selects the best books on sex in Victorian literature.
Oscar Wilde cultivated an image of himself as an idle genius, dashing off masterpieces with a lazy brilliance. But below the glittering linguistic surface of his works, suggests Sos Eltis, lies an anarchic politics and a phenomenal analysis of power.
Who were Adam and Eve, really? Over many centuries, the origin story has undergone countless transformations. The Pulitzer Prize-winner and Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt chooses five books that explore the history of Adam and Eve, and tells us why the world isn’t ready to leave the narrative of Eden behind
Although less flamboyantly experimental than his contemporaries Joyce and Woolf, D H Lawrence was a modernist, says literary scholar Catherine Brown. Here, she selects five books that make the case for this most contradictory, and often divisive, of writers—a man whose fictions and ‘philosophicalish’ works were by turns brilliant and bewildering, sublime and ridiculous
Virginia Woolf was long dismissed as a ‘minor modernist’ but now stands as one of the giants of 20th century literature. Her biographer, Hermione Lee, talks us through the best Virginia Woolf books, novels and essays, and diaries, of Virginia Woolf.