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James Wood (1965 - )
Lifespan: 1965 -
Related: American literary criticism
The Irresponsible Self : On Laughter and the Novel (2005) - James Wood [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
James Wood was born in Durham, England, in 1965, and educated at Eton College on a choral scholarship and Jesus College, Cambridge, where he read literature.
Wood is noted for coining the genre term hysterical realism, which he uses to denote the contemporary conception of the "big, ambitious novel" that pursues vitality "at all costs." Hysterical realism describes novels that are characterized by chronic length, manic characters, frenzied action, and frequent digressions on topics secondary to the story. In response to an essay Wood wrote on the subject, author Zadie Smith described hysterical realism as a "painfully accurate term for the sort of overblown, manic prose to be found in novels like my own White Teeth…" --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Wood_%28critic%29 [Apr 2006]
The Irresponsible Self : On Laughter and the Novel (2005) - James Wood
In search of laughter.
Most comedy before the rise of the novel is Aristotelian in nature. Aristotle argues in the Poetics that comedy arises from a perceived defect or ugliness that should not be so painful that we feel compassion, since compassion is the enemy of laughter. The Renaissance theorist of laughter, Laurent Joubert, in his Traité du ris (1579), expanded on Aristotle by arguing that ugliness and the lack of strong emotion were crucial to comedy. In order for comedy to work we must in the end feel a pleasure at the lack of our compassion. Thus, when a man is stripped of his clothes, the sight of his genitals is shameful and ugly, and is yet "unworthy of pity", so we laugh. --http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/classics/story/0,6000,1201864,00.html [May 2006]
Negative review by The Reading Experience blog
It doesn't bother me in the least that James Wood approves of psychological realism and the creation of the "irresponsible self" more than any other technique a writer of fiction might choose to employ. To each his own where taste in fiction is concerned. However, Wood's overriding critical precept, that things were done much better back when, that the way things were done then is the only right way, performs no service (no useful service, at least) for the cause of contemporary fiction whatsoever. --http://noggs.typepad.com/the_reading_experience/2004/10/james_wood.html [May 2006]
See also: laughter - comedy - self
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