IN RADICAL PURSUIT: Critical Essays and Lectures by W.D. Snodgrass

IN RADICAL PURSUIT: Critical Essays and Lectures

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

You can tell the man by the fathers he rebels against, and in W.D. Snodgrass' case, they're the New Critics and the French Symbolists. Yet an education in intellection has left a mark on the Pulitzer Prize-winner (1960 for Heart's Needle, his first collection of poems), particularly in his thoroughness and deliberation, whether in search of a poem or of the heart of another author's text. Snodgrass is teacher and critic as well as poet, and if these lectures are a sample of his course work, his students are very lucky. When writing about how a poem becomes, he knows that each writer's experience is deeply personal and unique; Snodgrass stays close to relating without didactic fanfare the genesis and development of a few of his own, and no more. The greater part of the book is devoted to studies of four moderns -- Roethke, Ransom, Lawrence and Dostoevsky; and four classics -- Shakespeare, Cervantes, Dante, Homer. Snodgrass is a real Borgesian revisionist: ""Since they depend so heavily on unconscious energies, the intellectual and creative vanguard must usually work upon problems of which they can only later, if even then, become fully conscious."" Therefore whether his subject is modern or ancient, the ""radical""that Snodgrass seizes on is the child's fear and hatred of both his sexual form and his inequality with his parents (father, really). Solid readings that are complete, symbol-by-metaphor, chapter and verse explications, conservative yet with the bite of libidinal insight -- proof positive that the practice of art is the best credential for its understanding.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1974
Publisher: Harper & Row