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Friday, April 23, 2010

Most Influential Books

Ten most Influential Books (Literary Criticism)

I've been working on a list of books that have influenced me in literary criticsm. This is not a list of all books that have influenced me generally, just the ones in the genre of literary criticism and theory. This is in roughly chronological order of when I was influenced.

1 X.J. Kennedy. An Introduction to Poetry.

I didn't know this was a college textbook when I started reading it when I was about 12-years old. I know the book has gone through many revisions and editions, but the one I am interested in is, I believe, the 1971 edition. I studied this book until it fell apart, for three or four years. I still remember parts of it: a comparison between several different translations of a sonnet by Baudelaire... This book taught me the essence of what I still know. today. It made me a professor.

2. The ABC of Reading.

I loved Pound's idea that you could just study poetry by paying close attention to it, in its auditory, visual, and purely linguistic aspects. It taught me to listen.

3. Perloff. The Poetics of Indeterminacy.

This is the book I wanted to have written about the time I was graduating from college. It was published in 1981, the year I graduated and began graduate school. It helped establish a new view of the canon and a critical model of crispness and clarity. Rimbaud to Cage indeed.

4. Burke. A Rhetoric of Motives.

I used Kenneth Burke quite a bit in a formative stage of my career. He seemed the perfect bridge between rhetoric as formalism and rhetoric as action.

5. Barthes. Critical Essays.

I really went to school with Barthes. I wasn't interested in structuralism as method as much as in the growth of a critic's mind.

6. Borges. Otras inquiiciones.

I went to school with Borges too. One of the true greats of literary theory. The idea that Kafka could create his own precursors, for example...

7. Morton Feldman. Give my Regards to Eighth Street

Not a work of literary criticism per se, but a deep source of analogies for literature.

8. Lorca. Conferencias.

The work of a creative artist reflecting on poetry, with insights that are wholly unique.

9. Ricardo Gullón. Una poética para Antonio Machado.

I love the concept of writing a poetics for Machado. Not an interpretation of Machado's poetry, but a way of extracting an implicit poetics from Machado's poetry, subsequently dedicated to Machado.

10. Julián Jiménez Heffernan. Los papeles rotos.

What this book taught me was that there was something like the Spanish equivalent of me: someone who knew both traditions and was truly bi-poetic. It's also great to have the example of someone who has exactly my interests but is way smarter than me.

Such list-making is always a bit arbitrary. I'm sure that on another day I would come up with a slightly different list.

1 comment:

matt said...

This is an awesome idea, Jonathan. And for younger scholars, it's helpful to see what texts were important for the role models we look up to.