Christine Brooke-Rose Criticism - Essay

Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan (essay date winter 1982)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Rimmon-Kenan, Shlomith. “Ambiguity and Narrative Levels: Christine Brooke-Rose's Thru.Poetics Today 3, no. 1 (winter 1982): 21-32.

[In the following essay, Rimmon-Kenan addresses the question of “Who is speaking?” in the narration of Brooke-Rose's Thru.]

Whoever you invented invented you too

Thru, p. 53

Visual exercises such as Wittgenstein's famous “rabbit-duck” figure (1969: 194)1 or Escher's “white birds/black birds” interlacing (1972)2 have often been evoked in studies not distinguishing between ambiguity and other types of...

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Christine Brooke-Rose, Ellen G. Friedman, and Miriam Fuchs (interview date 29 December 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Brooke-Rose, Christine, Ellen G. Friedman, and Miriam Fuchs. “A Conversation with Christine Brooke-Rose.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 9, no. 3 (fall 1989): 80-91.

[In the following interview, originally conducted on December 29, 1987, Brooke-Rose discusses the difficulties faced by experimental women writers.]

[Friedman and Fuchs]: In your essay “Ill Iterations,” which you wrote for Breaking the Sequence: Women's Experimental Fiction,1 you mention the difficulties experimental writers face when they are male, but you say also that the differences are compounded when the experimental writer happens to be a female. Will you...

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Robert L. Caserio (essay date winter-spring 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Caserio, Robert L. “Mobility and Masochism: Christine Brooke-Rose and J. G. Ballard.” Novel: A Forum on Fiction 21, nos. 2-3 (winter-spring 1988): 292-310.

[In the following essay, Caserio compares Xorandor with J. G. Ballard's Crash in terms of their relation to the science fiction genre, narratology, and postmodernism.]


From Xorandor, the name of Christine Brooke-Rose's latest (1986) novel, we can derive xorandoric, an adjective describing postmodern fiction. For in A Rhetoric of the Unreal, Brooke-Rose says that postmodern fiction—surfiction, metafiction,...

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Ellen G. Friedman (essay date autumn 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Friedman, Ellen G. “‘Utterly Other Discourse’: The Anitcanon of Experimental Women Writers from Dorothy Richardson to Christine Brooke-Rose.” Modern Fiction Studies 34, no. 3 (autumn 1988): 353-70.

[In the following essay, Friedman examines the narrative strategies of a variety of experimental women writers—including Dorothy Richardson, Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, and Brooke-Rose—asserting that these authors utilize feminine aesthetics to subvert dominant patriarchal forms of conventional narrative. Friedman observes that, in Amalgamemnon, Brooke-Rose “offers a deconstruction of the legacy of patriarchal culture.”]

In pre-twentieth...

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Richard Martin (essay date fall 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Martin, Richard. “‘Just Words on a Page’: The Novels of Christine Brooke-Rose.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 9, no. 3 (fall 1989): 110-23.

[In the following essay, Martin provides a brief overview of the narrative strategies in Brooke-Rose's novels, commenting that the two central concerns of the author's fiction are a fascination with language and “an insistence upon the unreality of fictional discourse.”]

Whenever I slide into a realistic scene, say a love scene or something like that, something happens later to destroy it, to show that these are just words on a page.1


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Susan E. Hawkins (essay date fall 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hawkins, Susan E. “Memory and Discourse: Fictionalizing the Present in Xorandor.Review of Contemporary Fiction 9, no. 3 (fall 1989): 138-45.

[In the following essay, Hawkins discusses the complex relationship between fiction, memory, narrative, language, and discourse in Xorandor.]

The processes of remembering and fictionalizing share certain features. Both are revisionary, and both construct a past through selection, deletion, compilation of detail, characterization, sequence, and action. They also share similarities in more esoteric, less substantive ways. When we remember, we may or may not be in control of our editorial choices. Sometimes...

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Christine Brooke-Rose and Nicolas Tredell (interview date 6 March 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Brooke-Rose, Christine, and Nicolas Tredell. “Christine Brooke-Rose in Conversation.” PN Review 17, no. 1 (September-October 1990): 29-35.

[In the following interview, originally conducted on March 6, 1990, Brooke-Rose discusses her novels in terms of realism, modernism, and postmodernism.]

[Tredell]: Your latest novel, Verbivore, is a very inventive, very witty work, but it also seems to me to have a very sombre resonance. There's a strong sense of an ending, an apprehension of a fall, after an excess of noise, into a possibly terminal silence. How do you feel yourself about the book?

[Brooke-Rose]: Yes, I was trying...

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Michael Walters (review date 20 July 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Walters, Michael. “Intertexting with a Vital Function.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4555 (20 July 1990): 782.

[In the following review, Walters explores the thematic significance of the interruption and breakdown of communication in Verbivore.]

At the end of her last novel, Xorandor, to which Verbivore is a kind of sequel, Christine Brooke-Rose has her pubescent protagonists agree to “dump the whole thing”—that is, to erase all the material on disc and print-out that constituted a record of their adventures with the eponymous stone/computer. After the Manning twins have exchanged promises, the instruction “END XORANDOR” ends the...

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Susan E. Hawkins (essay date spring 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hawkins, Susan E. “Innovation/History/Politics: Reading Christine Brooke-Rose's Amalgamemnon.Contemporary Literature 32, no. 1 (spring 1991): 58-74.

[In the following essay, Hawkins asserts that Amalgamemnon confronts dominant male postmodern literary discourse through Brooke-Rose's innovative strategies of semantic play, multiple discursive modes, and displaced point-of-view.]

Beginning with Out in 1964, followed by Such in 1966 and Between in 1968, Christine Brooke-Rose moved very quickly from her own versions of the French New Novel to patently radical experiments in metafiction. And even though she appeared to have...

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Christine Brooke-Rose and Maria del Sapio Garbero (interview date 21 August 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Brooke-Rose, Christine, and Maria del Sapio Garbero. “A Conversation with Christine Brooke-Rose.” In British Postmodern Fiction, edited by Theo D'haen and Hans Bertens, pp. 101-20. Atlanta, Ga.: Rodopi, 1993.

[In the following interview, originally conducted on August 21, 1991, Brooke-Rose discusses her novels in terms of feminism, postmodernism, literary theory, and experimental women's writing.]

[Sapio Garbero]: You have been regarded as a “European intellectual”, associated more with French and with American critical thought and writing than with English literary culture. Is that still the case? Or do you think that the context of the...

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Lorna Sage (review date 1 November 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Sage, Lorna. “In Which All Have a Good Time.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4622 (1 November 1991): 20.

[In the following review, Sage argues that Textermination is ultimately a critique of realist notions of the reader, calling the central theme of the novel “at once witty and despairing.”]

The imaginative conceit on which Christine Brooke-Rose's new novel [Textermination] is based is at once witty and despairing. Characters from all the novels and stories you've ever read—and quite a few you haven't—gather in the San Francisco Hilton for the annual convention where they pray for Being, that they may live on for ever in the canon....

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Malcolm Bradbury (review date 17 January 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bradbury, Malcolm. “The Bridgeable Gap.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4633 (17 January 1992): 7-9.

[In the following review, Bradbury comments that Interpretation and Overinterpretation—which collects criticism from Umberto Eco, Brooke-Rose, Richard Rorty, and Jonathan Culler—presents a compelling perspective on the intersection of the critic and the novelist within the context of postmodern theory.]

In the past few years, British universities, polytechnics, schools and even kindergartens have seen a massive growth occur in a subject that not too long ago was regarded as a suspect American import, like the hamburger—a vulgar hybrid which, as...

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David Seed (review date spring 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Seed, David. Review of Stories, Theories, and Things and Textermination, by Christine Brooke-Rose. Review of Contemporary Fiction 12, no. 1 (spring 1992): 142-44.

[In the following review, Seed evaluates Brooke-Rose's overriding concern with the intersection of literature and contemporary literary theory in Stories, Theories, and Things and Textermination.]

Christine Brooke-Rose's latest collection of essays [Stories, Theories, and Things] covers a very broad range of topics mostly connected through the notion of story. Unlike her earlier study A Rhetoric of the Unreal (1981) this volume carries a deliberately...

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Paul Hansom (review date winter 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hansom, Paul. “Fictional Theories and Theoretical Fictions.” Contemporary Literature 34, no. 4 (winter 1993): 797-802.

[In the following review, Hansom observes that Brooke-Rose's essays in Stories, Theories, and Things primarily address the intersection of literary theory and the fictionalizing process.]

Lars Ole Sauerberg's Fact into Fiction: Documentary Realism in the Contemporary Novel is an interesting investigation of the realist documentary mode that also explores the relationship between textual ontology and the reliance on outer references from the “real” world. Sauerberg's basic claim is that despite the tendencies toward...

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Flora Alexander (review date May 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Alexander, Flora. Review of Stories, Theories, and Things, by Christine Brooke-Rose. Review of English Studies 44, no. 174 (May 1993): 301-03.

[In the following review, Alexander offers a positive assessment of Stories, Theories, and Things, calling the collection intelligent, clear-sighted, and “a rich store of wisdom.”]

It is curious that the teaching of courses and the writing of books on women's writing can provoke hostile reactions, whereas similar activities dealing with, for example, Irish writing, or Canadian literature, do not. The basis for the disapproval of women's writing as a subject, when it is not simple misogyny, is often a...

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Maria del Sapio Garbero (essay date 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Sapio Garbero, Maria del. “The Fictionality of Fiction: Christine Brooke-Rose's Sense of Absence.” In British Postmodern Fiction, edited by Theo D'haen and Hans Bertens, pp. 89-99. Atlanta, Ga.: Rodopi, 1993.

[In the following essay, Sapio Garbero discusses the concept of absence in Brooke-Rose's novels in terms of the problematic relationship between text and reality. Sapio Garbero asserts that Brooke-Rose utilizes the central theme of absence in her novels in an “anti-metaphysical quest” to critique dominant notions of identity and male-centered language.]

[Thru] is a text that is really constructing itself and then...

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Steven Connor (review date April 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Connor, Steven. Review of Stories, Theories, and Things, by Christine Brooke-Rose. Modern Language Review 89, no. 2 (April 1994): 427-28.

[In the following review of Stories, Theories, and Things, Connor argues that the volume's strongest essays are those in which Brooke-Rose addresses issues of gender and feminism in literature.]

The relationship of literary writers to the institutions of criticism has always been a tense one, even (and perhaps especially) at times such as ours when there is considerable professional traffic between the two realms. The explosion of ‘theory’ in literary studies over the last couple of decades, characterized as...

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Gabriel Josipovici (review date 8 March 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Josipovici, Gabriel. “World within Word.” New Statesman and Society 9, no. 393 (8 March 1996): 41-2.

[In the following review, Josipovici posits that Brooke-Rose's central theme in her memoir Remake is the impossibility of representing one's life in the form of a story.]

No writer who has any sense of tradition can help but be more self-conscious today. They will be more aware of fiction as a process of making rather than story-telling, of the falsity of the notion of the self as a unified whole, and less willing than 19th-century predecessors to draw on the life for the substance of the work. In some writers, however, this has left a yearning for a...

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Lorna Sage (review date 4 April 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Sage, Lorna. “Winter Facts.” London Review of Books 18, no. 7 (4 April 1996): 3-4.

[In the following review, Sage describes Remake as an anti-autobiography that addresses the ultimately unanswerable question: “What is an author?”]

Christine Brooke-Rose's story of how this new book came to be is that she set out to write about her life, and instead produced a kind of antibiography. It's described in the jacket's blurb by Carcanet as ‘an autobiographical novel with a difference’ which ‘uses life material to compose a third-person fiction’. Inside the covers we're told with confessional baldness that ‘the old lady's publisher has asked for...

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Michael Walters (review date 3 May 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Walters, Michael. “A Beautiful Algebra of a Life.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4857 (3 May 1996): 22.

[In the following review, Walters describes Remake as “at once a kind of meta-autobiography, a meditation on memory … and a narrative of formal scrupulousness and lyrical grace.”]

The grammar of autobiography can unsettle its author; scarcely four pages into La vie de Henry Brulard, the multi-pseudonymous Stendhal was deploring “cette effroyable quantité de Je et Moi”. Like Stendhal, Christine Brooke-Rose faces the problem of “self-confrontation” early on. “The confronter is a speek in time compared to the army of...

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Karen R. Lawrence (essay date January 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Lawrence, Karen R. “Saving the Text: Cultural Crisis in Textermination and Masterpiece Theatre.Narrative 5, no. 1 (January 1997): 108-16.

[In the following essay, Lawrence examines the parallels between Textermination and the dramatic performance Masterpiece Theatre: An Academic Melodrama, written by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. Describing both as examples of women's metafiction, Lawrence compares the narrative strategies of the two works, concluding that Textermination acts as a more effective piece of cultural critique.]

In an essay entitled “Where Do We Go from Here?” Christine Brooke-Rose borrows a definition...

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Karen R. Lawrence (essay date winter-spring 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Lawrence, Karen R. “Dialogizing Theory in Brooke-Rose's Thru.Western Humanities Review 50-51 (winter-spring 1997): 352-58.

[In the following essay, Lawrence discusses the intersection of fiction and literary theory in Thru.]

The work of Christine Brooke-Rose, both novelist and narrative theorist, provides one of the most interesting cases of the imbrication of theory and fiction in contemporary writing. Her novels are radical experiments in which theories inform fiction and yet fiction intervenes to dramatize theory's limitations. Thru (1975), her most self-consciously theoretical novel, written during the heyday of the “theory boom” in...

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Lorna Sage (review date 21 August 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Sage, Lorna. “Laif-Lahk.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4977 (21 August 1998): 21.

[In the following review, Sage examines the themes of isolation and alienation in Next, calling the novel a “moving book, despite its dryness and deliberation.”]

Christine Brooke-Rose's new novel [Next] is set in London, and wanders the streets with the unemployed and the homeless, who pass on the burden of telling the story to one another like a baton in some shambling relay race. It is a very realist setting for a notoriously anti-realist writer—Beckett meets Bleak House—but, on reflection, there is an impeccable logic in Brooke-Rose's...

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Brian McHale (review date summer 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: McHale, Brian. Review of Next, by Christine Brooke-Rose. Review of Contemporary Fiction 19, no. 2 (summer 1999): 127-28.

[In the following review, McHale asserts that the greatest strength of Next lies in the accuracy and range of the London dialects employed in the monologues that make up the narrative.]

Having apparently said farewell to literature in Textermination (1991) and written her memoirs in Remake (1996), Brooke-Rose surprises us with a new novel as strong as anything she has ever written. Here [in Next] she largely leaves behind the mediascape of her “Intercom Quartet” of the eighties and early nineties and...

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Paul Quinn (review date 8 October 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Quinn, Paul. “A Tale of the Tribe.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 5036 (8 October 1999): 24.

[In the following review, Quinn describes Brooke-Rose's Subscript as “her strangest and … most strangely human work so far.”]

Christine Brooke-Rose's career has been much concerned with codes. As her memoir Remake (1996) reveals, she was a trilingual child negotiating languages and their translation, a state she acknowledged in the title of her early novel, Between (1968), which concerns a translator. Brooke-Rose was a wartime code-breaker at Bletchley Park; she spent twenty years as a professor at the University of Paris, immersed in...

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Elizabeth Powers (review date summer 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Powers, Elizabeth. Review of Subscript, by Christine Brooke-Rose. World Literature Today 74, no. 3 (summer 2000): 592.

[In the following review, Powers evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of Subscript, noting that the work functions as “an impressive addition to Brooke-Rose's challenging oeuvre.”]

It is always wise to have a look at the jacket blurb before climbing into a novel by Christine Brooke-Rose (b. 1926). Though this newest work by the prolific creator of experimental fiction has a linear narration, so to speak, a reader may wonder where it is heading. In Brooke-Rose's The Dear Deceit (1960), the narration went backward, from...

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Paul Quinn (review date 26 July 2002)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Quinn, Paul. “To Be, Or To Be Revenged?” Times Literary Supplement, no. 5182 (26 July 2002): 6-7.

[In the following review, Quinn lauds the selection of essays presented in Invisible Author and notes that the collection serves as a valuable resource for long-time champions of Brooke-Rose's novels.]

Christine Brooke-Rose claims there is something of a taboo against writers publishing accounts of their own work, on contemplating their own novels, as it were. When the work is especially ingenious or structurally complex, however, some have felt an understandable compulsion to parse their prose. Raymond Roussel, for example, couldn't resist a final word...

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Richard J. Murphy (review date spring 2003)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Murphy, Richard J. Review of Invisible Author: Last Essays, by Christine Brooke-Rose. Review of Contemporary Fiction 23, no. 1 (spring 2003): 163-64.

[In the following review, Murphy asserts that Brooke-Rose's Invisible Author demonstrates “the shrewdly acute intelligence and sensitive assiduity of a longtime innovator.”]

Brooke-Rose takes her title [Invisible Author] from her experience as a writer; while she has a small group of faithful readers, she reflects on the unhappy idea that nobody seems to have noticed the self-imposed constraints within which she has attempted to work, e.g., the elimination of the verb to be in...

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