What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

July 26, 2012

Laurence Coupe, senior lecturer in English, Manchester Metropolitan University, is rereading David Blakesley's The Elements of Dramatism (Longman, 2002). "Kenneth Burke is the only literary theorist I've read who has transformed my way of looking at the world. His central theory of 'dramatism', which treats language as 'symbolic action' and literature as 'equipment for living', is presented here in clear prose with a range of thought-provoking examples. I return to Blakesley's book regularly: it is the most accessible exposition of (Kenneth) Burke's 'comic corrective' to human folly I know."

Caron Eastgate Dann, lecturer in the School of English, Communications and Performance Studies, Monash University, Melbourne, is reading Jennifer Vanderbes' Easter Island (Abacus, 2004). "It's been sitting in my 'to read' bookcase for eight years, so I'm so glad to finally read it. The novel is set in both the present and the early 20th century. It has three plots centred on the mysterious South Pacific island and the researchers, naval forces and locals associated with it. There are also forbidden affairs, academic plagiarism and mental illness."

Francesca Ivaldi, careers adviser, Plymouth University, is reading Hilary Mantel's Bring up the Bodies (Fourth Estate, 2012). "The machinations of the Tudor court are brought vividly to life through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. Mantel conjures real tension as the capricious king turns his attentions towards Jane Seymour and Anne Boleyn's detractors plot her downfall. Mindful of his own precarious position, Cromwell orchestrates the expedient removal of Boleyn in this unique take on an oft-told story. Gripping."

Willy Maley, professor of Renaissance studies, University of Glasgow, is reading George Moore's Albert Nobbs: A Novella (Penguin, 2011; first published in 1918). "Reissued to coincide with the new film version with a foreword by Glenn Close, Moore's classic tale of desire, disguise and discovery set in a Dublin hotel is one of the most subtle explorations of identity - sexual, social, national - that modern Irish literature has produced, achingly moving in its depiction of secrets, lies and longings. Albert, a woman in a waiter's outfit waiting for love to be served, is the perfect vision of intimacy and in-betweenness."

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, has just finished Michael Frayn's My Father's Fortune (Henry Holt, 2010). "Frayn's account of his father's life and his own childhood takes us back to a world where family bonds and traumas remained unarticulated. After his mother drops dead in the living room, she is never spoken of again. His asbestos-salesman father is practical and Frayn's poetic aspirations are met with amused scepticism. Moving but never maudlin, his account of his father's illness and death is a triumph of life-writing."

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