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Edmund Wilson (1895 - 1972)
Related: 1895 - 1972
Related: American literary criticism
Edmund Wilson has been variously described as the American Sainte-Beuve, the last of the men of letters, the man who read everything. [Oct 2006]
Axel's Castle : A Study of the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930 (1931) - Edmund Wilson [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Axel's Castle: A Study in the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930 (1931) is a survey of Symbolist literature and Arthur Rimbaud, Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam (author of Axel), W. B. Yeats, Paul Valéry, T. S. Eliot, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein. The book deals extensively with the history of Symbolist literature (which he describes as 'literature as music' or 'literary synesthesia' and whose main figure he considers Stéphane Mallarmé) and Naturalist literature. It's odd and disappointing -- in view of the book's subtitle -- that there is nothing on the nature of 'imaginative literature'; in fact the word imagination only makes it entry after 14 pages. [Dec 2006]
Dadaism was a queer special development of Symbolism. the writings of the Dadaist grew directly out of the Symbolist tradition, as their hoaxes and practical jokes recall the perverse non sequitur capers of Jules Laforgue's "Pierrot Fumiste" and Tristan Corbière's stroll in Rome with a mitre, a dress-suit and a pig.
Edmund Wilson (May 8, 1895 – June 12, 1972) was an American writer, noted chiefly for his literary criticism. He was born in Red Bank, New Jersey, and educated first at The Hill School and then Princeton. He began his writing career as a reporter for the New York Sun, and served in the army during the First World War. He was the managing editor of Vanity Fair in 1920 and 1921, and later served on the staffs of The New Republic and The New Yorker.
Axel's Castle: A Study in the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930 (1931) was a sweeping survey of Symbolism and Arthur Rimbaud, Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam (author of Axel), W. B. Yeats, Paul Valéry, T. S. Eliot, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein. Wilson was interested in modern culture as a whole, and many of his writings go beyond the realm of pure literary criticism. In his book To the Finland Station, he studied the course of European socialism, culminating in the arrival of Lenin at the Finland Station of Saint Petersburg to lead the Bolshevik Revolution. Wilson's early works are heavily influenced by the ideas of Freud and Marx, reflecting his deep interest in their work.
He was a close friend of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and edited his final book for posthumous publication, and also a friend of Vladimir Nabokov, with whom he corresponded extensively and whose writing he introduced to Western audiences; however, their friendship was damaged by Wilson's cool reaction to Nabokov's Lolita and by a dispute over Wilson's criticism of Nabokov's translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin.
Wilson's wife, Mary McCarthy, was also well-known for her literary criticism, and they co-operated on numerous works before their divorce.
Wilson's critical works helped foster public appreciation for U.S. novelists Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, Fitzgerald and Nabokov.
Wilson was also an outspoken critic of U.S. Cold War policies. He failed to pay his income tax from 1946 to 1955 and was subsequently hounded by the Internal Revenue Service. He also failed to pay state income taxes. Eventually, he was let off with a fine and no jail time. In his essay The Cold War and the Income Tax: A Protest (1963), Wilson argues that, as a result of competitive militarization against the Soviet Union, the civil liberties of Americans were being paradoxically infringed upon under the guise of defense from Communism. Likewise he opposed US involvement in the Vietnam War. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Wilson [Dec 2005]
Axel's Castle : A Study of the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930 (1931) - Edmund Wilson
If great writers are hard to find, then it's safe to say great literary critics are as rare as wild white tigers who can juggle plates. Edmund Wilson (1895-1972) was one of America's most important critics, and Axel's Castle was the book that put him on the map. Few people outside graduate school read serious literary criticism, but a look into Wilson's intense thought and clear prose makes you wonder why the genre has been neglected. If you're a lover of the Modernist writers--Wilson looks specifically at Joyce, Proust, Yeats, Valery, Eliot, Stein, and Rimbaud here--then you'll enjoy Axel's Castle.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Published in 1931, Axel's Castle was Edmund Wilson's first book of literary criticism--a landmark book that explores the evolution of the French Symbolist movement and considers its influence on six major twentieth-century writers: William Butler Yeats, Paul Valéry, T. S. Eliot, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein. As Alfred Kazin later wrote, "Wilson was an original, an extraordinary literary artist . . . He could turn any literary subject back into the personal drama it had been for the writer."
See also: 1931 - literary criticism - USA - Symbolism - imagination
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