MASKS AND MIRRORS Essays and Criticism by Marius Bewley

MASKS AND MIRRORS Essays and Criticism

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Unlike his mentor, F. R. Leavis, Professor Bewley presents no towering opinions, nor does he speak with any ""marked moral intensity,"" but he has in common with the founder of Scrutiny a great seriousness of purpose and observation, qualities which, along with his own urbanity and scholarly insights, are currently at a premium on the literary scene. Thus Masks and Mirrors, beyond being a superior collection of essays and reviews, is a much needed antidote to the psychedelic plasticity so often posing as criticism today. Bewley's remarks, though modestly expressed, always have the firmness of the truly civilized mind; even his aphorisms have a pleasing downrightness: ""Great poets are not required to have new meanings any more than the seasons are."" He moves with as much ease through discussions of Donne and Byron (two brilliant studies, by the way, that do much to illuminate the particular diction and worlds of these poets), as he does in his surprisingly generous estimate of the Oz books, making a good case for their folkloric charm and placing them within the stylistic purview of Stephen Crane. Unexpected sympathies are also evident in his handling of Scott Fitzgerald and Keats, the Leatherstocking tales, and the ambivalent Americanism of Mark Twain. Bewley's praise of Wallace Stevens, whose poems, as he rightly claims, ""can be read with complete plausibility and logical consistency,"" does not prevent him from paying tribute to (or elucidating) the turbulent romanticism of Hart Crane. The difficulty here, Bewley contends, is chiefly ""a matter of extraordinary verbal and syntactical compression."" An impressive gathering.

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 1969
Publisher: Atheneum