To many people, the term “literary critic” immediately suggests a figure like the apocryphal J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D., in the film DEAD POETS SOCIETY--he whose grotesquely pedantic pages on the evaluation of poetry are torn from the students’ textbooks at the command of their poetry-loving teacher, the unconventional Mr. Keating. George Steiner is a literary critic--indeed, one who is legendary for his erudition--yet his message is not unlike Mr. Keating’s. Deploring the extent to which academic criticism has occluded the literature, the painting, the music that is its ostensible subject, he urges his readers to engage great works of art at firsthand, wrestling with their mysteries and their imperious demands.
In speaking of literature (and art in general) in this way, Steiner is challenging some of the most deeply entrenched assumptions of contemporary thought. Most emphatically, he is challenging the rejection of transcendence that pervades our culture, from the mandarin texts of deconstruction to the casual nihilism of films and popular fiction. Part sermon, part argument, part celebration, REAL PRESENCES is an inspired and inspiring book.
Sources for Further Study
Kirkus Reviews. LVII, June 1, 1989, p.824.
Listener. CXXI, June 1, 1989, p.26.
London Review of Books. XI, June 1, 1989, p.10.
The New York Times Book Review. XCIV, June 9, 1989, p.11.
The Observer. May 21, 1989, p.53.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXV, June 9, 1989, p.49.
The Times Literary Supplement. May 19, 1989, p.533.