Damrosch, Lynch, and Teskey added to Phi Beta Kappa 2016 Book Award Short List - 8. 17. 16
Harvard English Professors awarded three out of five finalist spots for the Christian Gauss award for literary criticism.
The Department of English congratulates Leo Damrosch, author of Eternity’s Sunrise: The Imaginative World of William Blake (Yale University Press, 2015), Deidre Shauna Lynch, author of Loving Literature: A Cultural History (University of Chicago Press), and Gordon Teskey, author of The Poetry of John Milton (Harvard University Press) for being among five authors placed on Phi Beta Kappa’s 2016 Book Awards Short List for the Christian Gauss Award.
“William Blake, overlooked in his time, remains an enigmatic figure to contemporary readers despite his near canonical status. Out of a wounding sense of alienation and dividedness he created a profoundly original symbolic language, in which words and images unite in a unique interpretation of self and society. He was a counterculture prophet whose art still challenges us to think afresh about almost every aspect of experience—social, political, philosophical, religious, erotic, and aesthetic. He believed that we live in the midst of Eternity here and now, and that if we could open our consciousness to the fullness of being, it would be like experiencing a sunrise that never ends.
Following Blake’s life from beginning to end, acclaimed biographer Leo Damrosch draws extensively on Blake’s poems, his paintings, and his etchings and engravings to offer this generously illustrated account of Blake the man and his vision of our world. The author’s goal is to inspire the reader with the passion he has for his subject, achieving the imaginative response that Blake himself sought to excite. The book is an invitation to understanding and enjoyment, an invitation to appreciate Blake’s imaginative world and, in so doing, to open the doors of our perception.”
Loving Literature: A Cultural History by Deidre Shauna Lynch (University of Chicago Press)
“One of the most common—and wounding—misconceptions about literary scholars today is that they simply don’t love books. While those actually working in literary studies can easily refute this claim, such a response risks obscuring a more fundamental question: why should they?
That question led Deidre Shauna Lynch into the historical and cultural investigation of Loving Literature. How did it come to be that professional literary scholars are expected not just to study, but to love literature, and to inculcate that love in generations of students? What Lynch discovers is that books, and the attachments we form to them, have played a vital role in the formation of private life—that the love of literature, in other words, is deeply embedded in the history of literature. Yet at the same time, our love is neither self-evident nor ahistorical: our views of books as objects of affection have clear roots in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century publishing, reading habits, and domestic history.
While never denying the very real feelings that warm our relationship to books, Loving Literature nonetheless serves as a riposte to those who use the phrase “the love of literature” as if its meaning were transparent. Lynch writes, ‘It is as if those on the side of love of literature had forgotten what literary texts themselves say about love’s edginess and complexities.’ With this masterly volume, Lynch restores those edges and allows us to revel in those complexities.”
The Poetry of John Milton by Gordon Teskey (Harvard University Press)
“John Milton is regarded as the greatest English poet after Shakespeare. Yet for sublimity and philosophical grandeur, Milton stands almost alone in world literature. His peers are Homer, Virgil, Dante, Wordsworth, and Goethe: poets who achieve a total ethical and spiritual vision of the world. In this panoramic interpretation, the distinguished Milton scholar Gordon Teskey shows how the poet’s changing commitments are subordinated to an aesthetic that joins beauty to truth and value to ethics. The art of poetry is rediscovered by Milton as a way of thinking in the world as it is, and for the world as it can be.
Milton’s early poems include the heroic Nativity Ode; the seductive paired poems “L’Allegro” and “Il Penseroso”; the mythological pageant Comus, with its comically diabolical enchanter and its serious debate on the human use of nature; and “Lycidas,” perhaps the greatest short poem in English and a prophecy of vast human displacements in the modern world. Teskey follows Milton’s creative development in three phases, from the idealistic transcendence of the poems written in his twenties to the political engagement of the gritty, hard-hitting poems of his middle years. The third phase is that of “transcendental engagement,” in the heaven-storming epic Paradise Lost, and the great works that followed it: the intense intellectual debate Paradise Regained, and the tragedy Samson Agonistes.”