Forms of Attention

Botticelli and Hamlet

By Frank Kermode
University of Chicago Press, Paperback, 9780226431758, 93pp.

Publication Date: September 2011

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Sir Frank Kermode, the British scholar, instructor, and author, was an inspired critic."Forms of Attention" is based on a series of three lectures he gave on canon formation, or how we choose what art to value. The essay on Botticelli traces the artist's sudden popularity in the nineteenth century for reasons that have more to do with poetry than painting. In the second essay, Kermode reads Hamlet from a very modern angle, offering a useful (and playful) perspective for a contemporary audience. The final essay is a defense of literary criticism as a process and conversation that, while often conflating knowledge with opinion, keeps us reading great art and working with and for literature. Kermode's volume has the virtue of a lecturer's accessible style designed for a listening audience. It is also self-consciously spare of naked criticism. There is, nonetheless, an abundance of learned commentary, steady substance, and unveiled critical excellence. Which is to say the volume is a useful and engaging reflection of its learned author. "London Review of Books"

About the Author
Sir John Frank Kermode was born in November 1919. He was a British literary critic best known for his work "The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction", published in 1967 and for his extensive book-reviewing and editing.Kermode was born on the Isle of Man, and was educated at Douglas High School and Liverpool University. He served in the Royal Navy during World War II, for six years in total, much of it in Iceland.He began his academic career as a lecturer at Durham University in 1947. He later taught at Reading University, then the University of Bristol. He was named Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London from 1967 to 1974. In 1974, Kermode took the position of King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge University, resigning in 1982. He then moved to Columbia University, where he was Julian Clarence Levi Professor Emeritus in the Humanities. In 1975-76 he held the Norton Lectureship at Harvard University. He was knighted in 1991.Kermode died in Cambridge on 17 August 2010.
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