Saturday, December 3, 2011


It's a terrible curse to be 20 or 30 years ahead of your time. My 1984 FLAWED TEXTS AND VERBAL ICONS was trashed by both the New Bibliographers and the New Critics and I thought for sure it was dead until 2007, when I pulled some books down from David Greetham's bookshelves and then looked on Amazon and Google Books for what had been said about it after the reviews died down. I was astounded to see that it has been used by people in many fields although it is still often put down by people in American literature, mainly geezers who had committed themselves to praise of a bungled text, or their students. Today I noticed several pages in Keith Newlin's new $150 OXFORD HANDBOOK OF AMERICAN LITERARY NATURALISM where my arguments about one book, THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE, are accurately described and where he says that to read Fredson Bowers's and my exchanges "is to witness a class of titans." (See more in Amazon by looking inside the HANDBOOK.)

Newlin knows I lost to the vested New Critical interests on RBofC, although I was right about readers being deprived of the true experience of reading what Crane wrote, and he writes sadly about that loss to a truncated and nonsensical text. He concludes that Bowers (and his followers, he might have said) were so powerful that Bowers's kind of eclectic editing prevailed as long as he lived, although "with his passing in 1991, the eclectic approach has fallen from favor."

Is this a family trait?--being right long before our time? It's a good thing most of us live a long time. If I had died in 1990 I would have thought that FLAWED TEXTS AND VERBAL ICONS was dead and forgotten.

No comments:

Post a Comment