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Speaking of Beauty

Denis Donoghue

View Inside Price: $24.00


August 11, 2004
224 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
ISBN: 9780300105933
Paper

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A foremost critic of the English language here reflects on beauty and the language that it inspires in authors from Kant to Keats, Hawthorne to Housman.
“An excellent and eloquent book.”—James Wood, New York Times Book Review
“A beautiful book about beauty. Enormously learned, allusive, recuperative, and citational, it is a passionate meditation on what has been said about beauty in the West from the Greeks to the present day.”—J. Hillis Miller
“Donoghue talks . . . with a delightful informality and absence of dogma. . . . One of the most charming features of Denis Donoghue’s book is his appendix of ‘afterwords,’ brief quotations on beauty from sundry writers.”—John Bayley, New York Review of Books
“Continuously fascinating, continuously readable, the book speaks of beauty, and of speakers of beauty, in its own calm, steady voice. You won’t want to lay it down.”—Hugh Kenner

Denis Donoghue is University Professor and Henry James Professor of English and American Letters at New York University.

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Speaking of Beauty is a beautiful book about beauty. Denis Donoghue’s goal is to recuperate the notion of beauty ‘as a value’ from those theorists who would, like the sophistical Apollonius, in Keats’s Lamia, turn the beautiful Lamia back into a snake. Such theorists see beauty as a tool of capitalist imperialism, or of sexism, or of idolatry, or of some other historically-conditioned ideological or linguistic aberration. Enormously learned, allusive, and citational, Donoghue’s book, though it culminates in Ruskin, is a passionate meditation on what has been said about beauty in the West from the Greeks to the present day. Donoghue performs, like the rider in Wallace Stevens’s essay, ‘The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words,’ a heroic work of conservation and elevation.”—J. Hillis Miller, University of California, Irvine

"Speaking of Beauty is a beautiful book about beauty. Enormously learned, allusive, recuperative, and citational, it is a passionate meditation on what has been said about beauty in the West from the Greeks to the present day. Donoghue performs, like the rider in Wallace Stevens’s essay, ’The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words,’ a heroic work of conservation and elevation."—J. Hillis Miller, University of California, Irvine

“After having spent several decades in the theoretical wilderness, beauty is returning to its rightful place in literary studies. Denis Donoghue’s Speaking of Beauty provides a lucid and compelling explanation of the reasons for this return.”—Roger Lundin, Blanchard Professor of English, Wheaton College

“The speaking that Donoghue does in Speaking of Beauty is conversational, anecdotal, allusive, and circular, although deeply learned for all that, and teeming with insights.”—Edward T. Oakes, First Things


“A learned and deft essay on aesthetics. Not a theorist himself, he has provided interested readers with a valuable guidebook to the convictions of a large number of critics and philosophers.”—Gerhard Brand, Magill’s Literary Annual

"Donoghue talks . . . with a delightful informality and absence of dogma. . . . One of the most charming features of Denis Donoghue’s book is his appendix of ’afterwords,’ brief quotations on beauty from sundry writers revealing, one way or another, their view of the matter."—John Bayley, New York Review of Books

"[An] excellent and eloquent book. . . . [Speaking of Beauty] is at once a book of practical criticism—there are readings of poems by Herrick and Shakespeare—and a genuine enactment of cultural studies, for Donoghue moves between discussions of aesthetics, music, art, landscape gardening and architecture, closing with a magnificent chapter on Ruskin."—James Wood, New York Times Book Review

"A book of practical criticism that is also an enactment of cultural studies, allowing 20th-century literary theorists on board without giving them the wheel; Donoghue, as his title shows, has not abandoned the idea that some things of human making are superior to some other such things."—New York Times Book Review ("And Bear In Mind")

“An eloquent reflection on the language beauty inspires and a careful critique of its place in literary criticism and cultural theory.”—New York Times Book Review (Paperback Row)

“Impressive for [its] accumulated knowledge; [it is] even more impressive for [its] freshness and responsiveness, and for [its] lack of dogma. . . . Speaking of Beauty is at first intriguing, soon exasperating, often stimulating, sometimes exhilarating, and finally inspiring.”—Ron Smith, The Georgia Review

“[A] fine new study of aesthetics. . . . A humane and wide-ranging critic, author or editor of some thirty books, Donoghue makes an engaging guide to a subject too many critics—and artists, for that matter—have shrugged off. . . . Rewarding to read.”—David Mason, The Sewanee Review

“Lucid and illuminating.”—The Times (London)

“Continuously fascinating, continuously readable, the book speaks of beauty, and of speakers of beauty, in its own calm, steady voice. You won’t want to lay it down.”—Hugh Kenner, author of The Pound Era

Named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year


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