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Geoffrey Hartmann Biography

(1929– ), The Unmediated Vision, Wordsworth's Poetry, Criticism in the Wilderness, Saving the Text

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German-born scholar and critic, educated at Queens College, New York, Dijon University, France, and Yale. Hartmann is well known for his work on Romanticism (The Unmediated Vision, 1954; Wordsworth's Poetry, 1964); he was a close associate at Yale of Harold Bloom and Paul de Man. He shares Bloom's interest in problems of interpretation and immediacy, and was an important figure in the diffusion of Deconstruction in America and elsewhere. He has controversially argued for criticism as a creative art, not a merely subservient mode of attention to literary work. More broadly he has urged the virtues of theory against the retrenchments of tradition and supposed common sense, bringing to the debate formidable learning and a strong philosophical interest. His Criticism in the Wilderness (1980) and Saving the Text (1981) explore what he calls (in the title of another book, 1975) the fate of reading, conceived as a difficult, dangerous art. Minor Prophecies (1991) recommends the refusal of apocalyptic imaginings and the acceptance of patient, continuing interpretation as faithful both to ancient traditions and to modern practices in scholarship and criticism. The volume also has a remarkable essay on Paul de Man and pays tribute to the old ‘common language’ of criticism, the idiom of Dr Johnson and the Spectator, while pointing out the always possible complacency in such a language, and the vast areas of literary inquiry it cannot, by its own definitions, begin to encompass. He edited Holocaust Remembrance (1994), recollections of the Holocaust.

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