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The Scholar’s Art

Literary Studies in a Managed World

For Jerome McGann, the purpose of scholarship is to preserve and pass on cultural heritage, a feat accomplished through discussion among scholars and interested nonspecialists. In The Scholar’s Art, a collection of thirteen essays, McGann both addresses and exemplifies that discussion and the vocation it supports. 

Of particular interest to McGann is the demise of public discourse about poetry.  That poetry has become recondite is, to his mind, at once a problem for how scholars do their work and a general cultural emergency. The Scholar’s Art asks what could be gained by reimagining the way scholars have codified the literary and cultural history of the past two hundred years and goes on to provide a series of case studies that illustrate how scholarly method can help bring about such reimaginings.  McGann closes with a discussion of technology’s ability to harness the reimagination of cultural memory and concludes with exemplary acts of critical reflection. 

Astute observation from one of America’s most bracing and original commentators on the place of literature in twenty-first century culture, The Scholar’s Art proposes new ways—cultural, philological, and technological—to reimagine our literary past and future.

208 pages | 4 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2006

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory


"The essays are wide-ranging: they contemplate, for example, the historical and cultural constraints in which the scholar works, the importance of scholarship in preserving cultural heritage, and the potential for ’re-imagining’ scholarship and its roles. With its solid bibliography, index, and chapter notes, this book should prove valuable to those interested in contemporary literary scholarship."


Table of Contents

Introduction: Loose Canons
Part One: "Not My Literary History!"
1. High Instincts and Real Presences: Two Romantic Responses to the Death of Beauty
2. Romanticism, Post-Romanticism, and the Afterlife of Cultural Authority
3. The Life of the Dead: Laura Riding and the History of Twentieth-Century Writing

Part Two: Philological Investigations
4. My Kinsman Walter Scott
5. Tennyson and the Artists of the Beautiful
6. Beauty, a (Nineteenth-Century) User’s Manual
7. Mr. James and His Discovery

Part Three: Interpretation in a New Key
8. Interpretation as a Game That Must Be Lost
9. Visible Language, Interface, Ivanhoe
Part Four: Humanism for the Twenty-First Century
10. Impossible Fiction; or, The Importance of Being John Cowper Powys
11. Beauty, the Irreal, and the Willing Assumption of Disbelief

Coda: The Scholar’s Art
Works Cited

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