Consisting of essays of the 1960s and 1970s, and assembled by Laura (Riding) Jackson herself, this previously unpublished collection is both a substantial addition to the work of her later period, after she had renounced poetry, and also a spirited contribution to later twentieth-century debates about language, literature, and life. There is immense variety and appeal here. Readers will find themselves challenged by the author’s combative engagement with her contemporaries, and rewarded by the lucid complexity and immediacy of her thinking. Topics include: love, friendship, imagination; thinking, belief, and conviction; the importance of knowledge of language; the active unselfishness of women; the intrinsic reality of mind; death; good and evil; ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’; structuralism and theory; the novel, history, myth – besides her judgements on writers such as Coleridge, and contemporaries such as Stein. As the excitement aroused by ‘theory’ subsides, now may be the time for Laura (Riding) Jackson’s considered judgement of the spiritual function of language and human life to be given the attention it deserves.
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2004. 534 pp., 1 ill.
Contents: The essays on language focus on: The importance of knowledge of words – The harmful effects of science-inspired
approaches to language, eg structuralism – The relations between language, reason, thought, mind, spirit – The essays on literature
focus on: The immorality of competitive literary individualism – Twentieth-century poetry – Her own poetry and its sequel
in her testament The Telling (1972) – The question of her influence; poetry contrasted with philosophy and religion
– The novel – Her judgements of writers such as Coleridge and contemporaries such as Stein – The essays on life focus on:
Human identity as centred to ‘soul’ – Women’s active unselfishness – Polity and spirituality – Liberalism’s moral indeterminacy
– The ascendancy of professionalized specialisms, eg mathematical intellectualism, and its implications for general thinking
– Imagination – Myth – Friendship, love, death, good and evil.