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The Jane Austen Manifesto

  We’re often told that reading the classics is good for the spirit, as well as the mind. But can learning to write like the greats have the same effect? As Ian Flitcroft argues in the New Statesman, the internet “would be a much nicer place if everyone spoke like a Jane Austen character.” For…

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The Failures of Poetry

The American Ben Lerner is garnering increasing fame as a novelist — 10:04, his most recent book, has won plaudits from all corners this year. But it was poetry that first brought Lerner to the limelight, and it’s poetry that has had him exercised in the pages of the London Review of Books.   More…

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The Frailties of Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson is best known for two works that, on the face of it, seem quite different beasts: Treasure Island, a thrilling adventure novel of pirates, secret maps and, of course, buried treasure, and “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”, a taut Gothic short story set in late Victorian London. So…

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Auden’s Rambunctious Prose

W.H. Auden always preferred brevity to excess. When he published The Dyer’s Hand, a collection of critical works, in 1962, he noted in a prefatory comment that “In going over my critical pieces, I have reduced them, when possible, to sets of notes because, as a reader, I prefer a critic’s notebooks to his treatises.”…

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Modern Mythmakers: Tolkien and C.S. Lewis

Imagine a Thursday night in the 1930s, deep in the cloistered rooms of Magdalen College, Oxford. J.R.R. Tolkien is reading from his new manuscript. Three people are listening — the philosopher Owen Barfield, the writer Charles Williams, and the celebrated creator of The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis. There’s a heady atmosphere of magic and…

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The Brontës through Objects

The three Brontë sisters — Charlotte, Emily and Anne — produced some of the nineteenth century’s most enduring literature. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall each issued from their respective pens in an astonishing display of sisterly creativity. But what was their world really like? A new study by the academic Deborah…

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Shakespeare’s Dubious Christianity

The Renaissance is widely thought of as the time when the modern, secular individual was born, with humanist writers like Thomas More and Michel de Montaigne exhibiting a newly critical attitude to religious doctrine. Shakespeare’s work is often understood in this context — his characters exist in a modernising world of business, exploration and exchange.…