A Colder Eye (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
In A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers, Hugh Kenner adds yet another to his impressive list of books on modern literature. Having previously published important studies of, among others, Ezra Pound (two), Wyndham Lewis, James Joyce (three), Samuel Beckett (three), and the American modernists, Kenner is one of the kings of twentieth century literary criticism. In A Colder Eye, he turns his attention to Ireland, re-creating in his own idiosyncratic way the milieu out of which came so much that is central to modern literature.
It is common in modern literature and art for technique or style to attract more attention than content in the traditional sense. In A Colder Eye, Kenner contributes to a similar trend of recent years in the formerly staid world of literary criticism. From his opening dedication of the book to the memory of a fictional character, Leopold Bloom, to his arch one- and two-word descriptions of each person listed in the index (Pablo Picasso: “modish painter”; Beckett: “immobilist”), Kenner gives a study in the manipulation of tone, juxtaposition, and anecdote to create an extended effect rather than a logical argument.
The “colder eye” of Kenner’s title is not only that of William Butler Yeats’s horseman in his poem “Under Ben Bulben”; it is Kenner’s, too, as he surveys modern Irish culture. Although at times affectionate, Kenner’s tone is essentially condescending. Many...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
Antioch Review. XLI, Fall, 1983, p. 507.
Choice. XXI, October, 1983, p. 278.
Christian Science Monitor. October 18, 1983, p. 25.
Library Journal. CVIII, April 15, 1983, p. 825.
National Review. XXXV, April 15, 1983, p. 444.
New Statesman. CVI, August 5, 1983, p. 26.
The New York Review of Books. XXX, May 12, 1983, p. 40.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXIII, March 11, 1983, p. 74.
Saturday Review. IX, July, 1983, p. 48.
(The entire section is 48 words.)