Humanistic Interpretations of Modern British and American Writers

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This book of essays on a number of major British and American writers highlights the extraordinary versatility of twentieth-century literature. It was a period during which not simply one or two, but all the major genres flourished. The editor illustrates this convincingly by selecting a range of poets, novelists and dramatists, and often by focusing on individual writers’ achievements in genres other than those for which they have received the most recognition. The novelist Thomas Hardy, for example, is considered as a poet; another major novelist, D.H. Lawrence, is treated both as a dramatist and as a literary critic, while Ernest Hemingway is discusses as a war correspondent.

The special merit of this collection is that, unlike a great deal of modern literary criticism, it treats literature as a humanist project – by concerning themselves with fundamental truths, these writers have produced works of abiding interest and value. The editor particularly demonstrates that even in the bleak landscape of twentieth-century literary wasteland, there are clear signs of hope. Hemingway’s belief that an individual may be destroyed but not defeated is shown to be fully upheld by major writers on both sides of the Atlantic.


“It is a great pleasure when a fine scholar looks back over his writings and selects from among them to put together a book, especially when he includes material that has not been published before or that has appeared in journals not necessarily readily available, as was inevitably the case when the writer spent much of his academic life in the East. This is what Dr. Amitav Banerjee has done for us in his new book ... All in all, this is an impressive collection of work, and one that will be appreciated by careful and delighted readers of literature, who will find in Banerjee a kindred and perceptive spirit. They will also be able to enrich their own attempts to reach into the life to be found there ...” – (from the Preface) Professor Alastair Henderson, University of Stellenbosch

“ ... Though this book discusses and analyzes the works of individual authors, it also unobtrusively projects a literary history of the age which is remarkable for the large number of significant writers it produced. They not only wrote on a wide variety of themes, often new and unexpected, but they also used and experimented with different genres and forms ... One special merit of this book is that it highlights the achievements in the areas other than those in which they are most famous. Dr. Banerjee writes within the time-honored tradition of humanistic literary criticism, supported by practical criticism.” – Seiki Kinjo, Emeritus Professor, Kobe College

“At a time when so much of academic discourse is still so heavily dominated by such developments as critical theory, post-modernism, post-colonialism, feminist theory, etc., Dr. Banerjee’s book may seem old-fashioned to some readers; but to many others, it will be that much more refreshing and welcome because of its freedom from arcane theorizing and the obfuscation and jargon that go with it ... Each of these essays can be read as independent and self-contained. But put together, as they are here, they fill in a collective portrait of the period and re-emphasize the importance and durability of its many-sided human explorations ...” – A.N. Kaul, Professor Emeritus, University of Delhi

Table of Contents

Preface by Alastair Henderson

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) – Resilience in the Poetry of Thomas Hardy

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) – Contemporary Criticism and a Classic English Novel: Heart of Darkness

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
D.H. Lawrence’s Discovery of American Literature
D.H. Lawrence the Dramatist and his Colliery Plays
Lawrence’s Letters as his Autobiography

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) – Wilfred Owen’s Psychic Obsession

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) – A Move Towards Maturity: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Crack-Up

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
Hemingway as a War Correspondent
The Failure of Love in A Farewell to Arms

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) – A Stir in Stasis in Waiting for Godot
G.S. Fraser (1915-1980) – The Poet within the Critic: G.S. Fraser

Robert Lowell (1917-1977) – A Glimpse into the Abyss: The Early Poems of Robert Lowell

Philip Larkin (1922-1985)
Philip Larkin: The Hunted Man behind the Haunting Poems
The Critic within the Poet: Philip Larkin

John Osborne (1929-1994) – A Modern Hamlet: Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger

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