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Allusion to the Poets By Christopher Ricks (Professor of the Humanities and Co-director of the Editorial Institute, Boston University)


This third collection of essays by Christopher Ricks focuses on the theme of how writers - especially but not exclusively poets - make use of other writers' work: from the subtle courtesies of different kinds of allusion to the extreme discourtesy of plagiarism.

Allusion to the Poets Summary

Allusion to the Poets by Christopher Ricks (Professor of the Humanities and Co-director of the Editorial Institute, Boston University)

Allusion to the words and phrases of ancestral voices is one of the hiding-places of poetry's power. Poets appreciate the great debts that they owe to previous poets, and are often duly and newly grateful. Allusion to the Poets consists of twelve essays - four published here for the first time - on allusion and its relations, in particular on the use that poets in English have made of the very words of poets in English. The first half of the book, on 'The Poet as Heir', consists of six chapters devoted to individual poets, Augustan, Romantic, and Victorian: Dryden and Pope, Burns, Wordsworth, Byron, Keats, and Tennyson. Allusion is always a form of inheritance, not to be hoarded or squandered. The critical and creative question is its imaginative co-operation with other kinds of legacy - with whatever for a particular poet or for a particular time is judged to be an unignorable inheritance: of a throne, perhaps, or of land; of intermixed languages; of the human senses; of money; of literature itself; or of our planet, long-lived but not eternal. The second half of the book is six essays on allusion's affiliations: to plagiarism (allusion being plagiarism's responsible opposite); to metaphor (allusion being a form that metaphor may take); to loneliness in poetry (allusion constituting company). And on allusion within poetry to prose (A E. Housman); on translation as exercising allusion (David Ferry); and on the clash between one poet's practice and his critical principles (Yvor Winters).

Allusion to the Poets Reviews

'The close reading of poetry' [Rides] concludes, is 'a lonely activity which can yet be shared'; but he himself is unfailingly good company. * English Studies *
Read in sequence, these brilliant essays convey a noble sense of the conversation of the poetic community down the ages. * English Studies *
Ricks's forte is identifying effective poetry, and explaining why it works. * Laura Quinney, London Review of Books *
Brilliant, witty, and illuminating ... No other critic in our age ... has dared to isolate this wonderfully ramifying, richly human subject (which requires great learning, lightly worn) and given it such intensive treatment. With this book about poets and their gratitude, Ricks has earned ours. * Philip Horne, The Guardian *
Christopher Ricks's Allusion to the Poets made it clear again just what is so great about a great literary critic. * Adam Phillips, Books of the Year, Observer Review, December 2002 *
Subtly shows the way in which seven great poets have quoted their predecessors in their writings, and the richness of meaning they have gained from that. * Derwent May *
Allusion to the Poets sparkles with an enjoyment that answers repeatedly to the delighted complexity and play of alert poetic imagination: for a long time to come, all good critics will be Christopher Ricks's heirs. * Peter McDonald, Times Literary Supplement *

About Christopher Ricks (Professor of the Humanities and Co-director of the Editorial Institute, Boston University)

Professor Christopher Ricks is Warren Professor of the Humanities at Boston University and co-director of the Editorial Institute. He has taught at Boston University since 1986; he was formerly King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at the University of Cambridge. He is the general editor of two series, Penguin English Poets and Poets in Translation, and the co-editor of Essays in Criticism. In 2002 he will deliver the Panizzi Lectures in Bibliography at the British Library. Ricks's books include: (ed.) The Oxford Book of English Verse (OUP 1999) Essays in Appreciation (OUP 1996) (ed.) Inventions of the March Hare : Poems 1909-1917 by T. S. Eliot (Fabers 1996) Beckett's Dying Words: The Clarendon Lectures, 1990 (OUP 1993) (ed.) Longman annotated poets: Tennyson (Longman 1989) T.S. Eliot and Prejudice (Fabers 1988) (ed.) The New Oxford Book of Victorian Verse (1987), The Force of Poetry (OUP 1984) Keats and Embarrassment (OUP 1974) English Drama to 1710 (OUP 1971)# Milton's Grand Style (OUP 1963)

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Allusion to the Poets by Christopher Ricks (Professor of the Humanities and Co-director of the Editorial Institute, Boston University)
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