more than 95 theses


A journal, commonplace book, and Wunderkammer by
Alan Jacobs.

My blog on technologies of reading, writing, and knowledge is called Text Patterns; I am an occasional contributor to the Technology channel of The Atlantic; I'm a Contributing Editor for The New Atlantis. Also, I tweet.

My biography of the Book of Common Prayer has now been published by Princeton University Press, and I’ve created an associated tumblelog.

My critical edition of W. H. Auden’s long poem For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio is now available.

My next book will be about Christian humanism in a time of total war.

I invite you to a meditative encounter with my online project The Gospel of the Trees.

Please consider supporting this tumblelog by buying some of my books. I will thank you, my family will thank you, and the internet — surely — will thank you.

”Reverting to Type: a Reader’s Story”

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction

The Age of Anxiety, by W. H. Auden — a critical edition. A PDF of my Introduction to the poem is available online.

Wayfaring: Essays Pleasant and Unpleasant

Original Sin: a Cultural History

Looking Before and After: Testimony and the Christian Life

The Narnian: the Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis

Shaming the Devil: Essays in Truthtelling

A Theology of Reading: the Hermeneutics of Love

A Visit to Vanity Fair: Moral Essays on the Present Age

What Became of Wystan: Change and Continuity in Auden’s Poetry

  • July 17, 2012 8:25 am


    There will be disagreement about which is [Frank] Kermode’s best book. His most Kermodian is The Classic, first delivered as the Eliot lectures at Kent in 1975. Kermode’s starting point is, dutifully enough, TS Eliot’s lecture entitled “What Is a Classic?” given as an address to the Virgil Society in 1944. While accepting Eliot’s main contention that a classic is the mature cultural product of a mature civilisation, Kermode adds a typically complicating spin. If Shakespeare (to take the least disputable example) is a classic, why does every age interpret Shakespeare differently? Is Dr Johnson’s interpretation less right than Coleridge’s, or Coleridge’s than William Empson’s, or Empson’s than Stephen Greenblatt’s? If one interpretation is more right than the others, why do we still equally revere all those Shakespearians? Put another way, why – with the passage of centuries – don’t we get cleverer at making sense of our classic texts?

    In a brilliant critical move Kermode argues that it is the very pliability of the classic, its unfixed quality, that is its essence. It “accommodates” – makes itself at home – wherever and whenever it finds itself. It is the classic’s ability to be both antique, yet modern, its infinite – but never anarchic – plurality that categorises it as classic. A work such as King Lear, Kermode argues, “subsists in change, by being patient of interpretation”. The word is beautifully chosen. Every generation will read, or understand, King Lear differently insofar as every generation is different from its predecessors. No final version, or interpretation, of the play can be achieved. But every generation will find its own satisfactory interpretation. And the classic is tolerant of each and every different explanation of itself.


    Frank Kermode: a tribute by John Sutherland | Books | The Guardian