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The Pensive Citadel

With a Foreword by Christy Wampole
A reflective volume of essays on literature and literary study from a storied professor.

In The Pensive Citadel, Victor Brombert looks back on a lifetime of learning within a university world greatly altered since he entered Yale on the GI bill in the 1940s. Yet for all that has changed, so much of Brombert’s long experience as a reader and teacher is richly familiar: the rewards of rereading, the joy of learning from students, and most of all the insight to be found in engaging works of literature. The essays gathered here range from meditations on laughter and jealousy to new appreciations of Brombert’s lifelong companions Shakespeare, Montaigne, Voltaire, and Stendhal. 

A veteran of D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge who witnessed history’s worst nightmares at firsthand, Brombert nevertheless approaches literature with a lightness of spirit, making the case for intellectual mobility and an openness to change. The Pensive Citadel is a celebration of a life lived in literary study, and of what can be learned from attending to the works that form one’s cultural heritage.

192 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages


The Pensive Citadel is an engaging and persuasive plea for the central importance of literature to a well-rounded existence and a vigorous life of the mind. Brombert deftly weaves his own experiences and his changing responses to works of literature into his readings and rereadings. In this book, he successfully answers a question he often discussed with his students: Do literary works merely provide a higher form of entertainment, or is the printed word the revelation of a dialogue we carry on with ourselves? It is most emphatically both and more.”

Tess Lewis, writer, essayist, and translator

Table of Contents

Foreword by Christy Wampole
Part I In Nostalgia
1 The Pensive Citadel
2 Between Two Worlds
3 What Existentialism Meant to Us
4 Cleopatra at Yale
5 “Brombingo!”—Learning from Students
Part II The Ludic Mode
6 The Paradox of Laughter
7 In Praise of Jealousy?
8 On Rereading
Part III The French Connection
9 Lessons of Montaigne
10 The Audacities of Molière’s Don Juan
11 The Bitterness of Candide
12 Encounters with Monsieur Beyle
13 Baudelaire: Visions of Paris
14 The Year of the Eiffel Tower
15 Malraux and the World of Violence
Part IV The Exit
16 The Permanent Sabbatical

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