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Forms of Attention

Botticelli and Hamlet

With a Foreword by Frank Lentricchia
Sir Frank Kermode, the British scholar, instructor, and author, was an inspired critic. Forms of Attention is based on a series of three lectures he gave on canon formation, or how we choose what art to value. The essay on Botticelli traces the artist’s sudden popularity in the nineteenth century for reasons that have more to do with poetry than painting. In the second essay, Kermode reads Hamlet from a very modern angle, offering a useful (and playful) perspective for a contemporary audience. The final essay is a defense of literary criticism as a process and conversation that, while often conflating knowledge with opinion, keeps us reading great art and working with—and for—literature.

112 pages | 5 1/4 x 8 | © 1985

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature, General Criticism and Critical Theory


“[Kermode] was drawn to the entanglements of the text and its rational mysteries rather than some scaffold of theory. . . . He protected the reader’s freedom to be interested in whatever was interesting. That meant writing a prose that was never wholly academic and over the years became more and more open to the intersection of literature and the lives we’re actually living.”

New York Times

“Kermode’s volume has the virtue of a lecturer’s accessible style designed for a listening audience. It is also self-consciously spare of ‘naked criticism.’ There is, nonetheless, an abundance of learned commentary, steady substance, and unveiled critical excellence. Which is to say the volume is a useful and engaging reflection of its learned author.”

London Review of Books

Table of Contents



1 Botticelli Recovered

2 Cornelius and Voltemand: Doubles in Hamlet

3 Disentangling Knowledge from Opinion

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