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Dead from the Waist Down: Scholars and Scholarship in Literature and the Popular Imagination

Overview

At the end of the sixteenth century, scholars and intellectuals were seen as Faustian magicians, dangerous and sexy. By the nineteenth century, they were perceived as dusty and dried up, “dead from the waist down,” as Browning so wickedly put it. In this erudite and entertaining book, a renowned literary critic explores the various ways we have thought about scholars and scholarship through the ages.
A.D. Nuttall focuses on three people, two real and one fictitious: the ...

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Overview

At the end of the sixteenth century, scholars and intellectuals were seen as Faustian magicians, dangerous and sexy. By the nineteenth century, they were perceived as dusty and dried up, “dead from the waist down,” as Browning so wickedly put it. In this erudite and entertaining book, a renowned literary critic explores the various ways we have thought about scholars and scholarship through the ages.
A.D. Nuttall focuses on three people, two real and one fictitious: the classical scholar Isaac Casaubon who lived from 1559 to 1614; Mark Pattison, nineteenth-century rector at Oxford; and Mr. Casaubon in George Eliot’s Middlemarch. The three are intricately related, for Pattison was seen by many as the model for Eliot’s Mr. Casaubon, and he was also the author of the best book on Isaac Casaubon. Nuttall offers a penetrating interpretation of Middlemarch and then describes how Pattison recorded his own introverted intellectual life and self-lacerating depression. He presents Isaac Casaubon, on the other hand, as a fulfilled scholar who personifies the ideal of detailed, unspectacular truth-telling, often imperiled in our own culture. Nuttall concludes with a meditation on morality, sexuality, and the true virtues of scholarship.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
British literary critic Nuttall (Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure?) has managed to invest the "paradox of the person unfit for intellection by study" with a certain sexiness. His latest book traces, in reverse, the ossification of the life of the mind through people, one fictitious and two real: Mr. Casaubon from George Eliot's Middlemarch; Mark Pattison, Eliot's real-life friend and alleged model for Casaubon; and Isaac Casaubon, the 16th-century scholar about whom Pattison wrote. Although much scholarship has been expended on the scholar's changing relationship to knowledge (e.g., Alan Rauch's Useful Knowledge), few have used this series of scholars to explore the death of the scholar (notable exceptions include D.B. Nimmo's Mark Pattison, Edward Casaubon, Isaac Casaubon, and George Eliot and Neil Hertz's chapter "Recognizing Casaubon" in George Eliot's Middlemarch edited by Harold Bloom). Nuttall's introduction establishes his premise, but it was clearly written separately and is the weakest part. Subsequent chapters are more interesting and entertaining, and Nuttall synthesizes his conclusions with a discussion of Stoppard's play on "scholarship, truth, and sex," Invention of Love. A valuable scholarly work; of interest to academic libraries.-Felicity D. Walsh, Brenau Univ., Gainesville, GA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300185263
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 11/11/2011
  • Pages: 242
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

A.D. Nuttall is professor of English at Oxford University and the author of numerous books.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Desiccation and Descent - Browning's Confusion 1
1 Mr. Casaubon in Middlemarch 26
2 Mark Pattison 72
3 Isaac Casaubon: The Real Thing 123
Conclusion: The Other Sexuality and the Morality of Scholarship 171
Notes 207
Index 222
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