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Candor and Perversion: Literature, Education, and the Arts (Norton Paperback) Paperback – October 17, 2000


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Product Details

  • Series: Norton Paperback
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New edition edition (October 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393321118
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393321111
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.4 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,676,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Candor and Perversion Roger Shattuck carries on two conversations. The more strident of the two, deceptively titled "Intellectual Craftsmanship," takes up the first section of this collection of essays and reviews. Here Shattuck engages in verbal fisticuffs with those who would mire the study of literature in the byzantine politics of identity and the arcane language of theory. Insisting that he's not a conservative, he instead gives himself the coy title of "conservationist." "Some of us," he writes, "have come to believe that it is possible, even necessary, to be liberal in political matters and conservationist in cultural matters." Shattuck lays bare the perceived dangers besetting the traditional literary scholar, and insists on the primacy of canonical texts in our universities: "In order to have a common frame of reference within which to reason together, I would argue that there are books everyone should read." Lest anyone think him extreme, he follows up quickly: "And we should never stop discussing which ones those are."

Ironically, Shattuck does more to support his position in the second half of his book, which is devoted to the practice of criticism. In two dozen book reviews and essays he engages in a passionate, learned, and imaginative conversation with the greats of Western civilization. This is a scholarship of compulsion: Shattuck returns again and again to key touchstones, such as Virginia Woolf's statement that "on or about December 1910 human character changed." His enthusiasms spawn new forms of criticism, such as his delightful fairy tale "The Story of Hans/Jean/Kaspar Arp," which tells of a child "born in Strasbourg with bright eyes, nice big ears, and a wonderful egg-shaped head. All his life, he liked egg-shaped things--clouds, pebbles, jars, fruits." Shattuck here is so worked up over Arp's art that he struggles to find a new critical shape to contain his joyful interest. Such lively writing does more to make his case for studying the so-called dead white males than all his polemics. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Written over the past 15 years, this gathering of retired Boston University professor Shattuck's essays and reviews begins with a vociferous section on the education wars, leveling shots at cultural relativism and the politicization of education. In 1994, at the founding session of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics, of which Shattuck was later president, the author read "Nineteen Theses on Literature," which distilled his beliefs in a traditional academic approach based on a faith in authors and their works. The theses are reproduced here, along with critiques of other books on education, as well as musings on reading, teaching, language and thought. Shattuck's tone is sometimes polemical, but the essays that follow are his own best defense. In pieces on Manet, impressionism, futurism, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp ("the court jester of modernism"), he demonstrates the keen insight and fluid prose produced by a deep and broad education, strongly focused (on early 20th-century French culture) and sophisticated, yet open to unexpected correspondences and plainspoken analysis. His affinity for figures like Mallarm?, who was both a dutiful citizen and a revolutionary poet, is a reminder that, despite some conservative views on education, Shattuck has always been a champion of the new and experimental in art. From The Banquet Years (1955) to the NBA-winning Marcel Proust (1974) to Forbidden Knowledge (1996), he has blazed his own intellectual trail, and readers will welcome this latest foray into the groves of art and academe. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Mika Fischer on December 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
As with his previous works, such as FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE and THE INNOCENT EYE, Roger Shattuck manages to cover many topics in his new book. There is no thematic link between the essays--it is enough that Shattuck writes well about each subject. Shattuck is, along with William Pritchard, Denis Donoghue, and Andrew Delbanco, one of our most perspicacious and eloquent critics, as he is equally adept at analyzing a writer's words (such as in his essay on Mallarme's poetry) or a social phenomenon (such as in his essay "Radical Skepticisim and How We Got Here"). The clarity of his writing prompts one to question the value of the opaque prose produced by many academics in our age.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "botatoe" on April 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"Candor & Perversion" collects nearly forty of Roger Shattuck's previously published essays on a broad range of topics in education, literature and the arts. Nearly all of these essays were published after 1985, predominantly in Salmagundi, The New York Review of Books and The New Republic. It is an outstanding collection of essays by a scholar of wide-ranging, thoughtful and sober intelligence.
The collection is divided into two parts. The first part, "Intellectual Craftsmanship," contains a series of polemical essays that deal with topics generally subsumed in recent years under the term "Culture Wars." In this part, Shattuck stakes out his position clearly in a number of essays dealing with the proper role of education and the importance of the canon. Thus, in the essay "Nineteen Theses on Literature," Shattuck states that, "we have brought ourselves to a great deal of perplexity about the basic role of education." This perplexity arises from the question of whether education's proper role should be "[to] socialize the young within an existing culture and offer them the means to succeed within that culture" or, in the alternative, "[to] give to the young the means to challenge and overthrow the existing culture, presumably in order to achieve a better life." Shattuck's response is in favor of the former, choosing a conservative view of education's role. In doing so, he essentially resolves this question consistent with a position he articulates in another of his essays, "Education, Higher and Lower," where he states that, "some of us have come to believe that it is possible, even necessary, to be liberal in political matters and conservationist in cultural matters.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Arp (arpja36@earthlink.net) on October 31, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a great book that attempts to see through our modern educational and literary theories in order to reach a more truthful and substantial way of thinking about how we educate the mind through reading, writing and literature.
This isn't a perfect book. At times Shattuck relies much too heavily on what I would call "crutch" artists (Marcel Proust and Jean Arp being two of them), and at other times he seems almost guilty of nepotism in his applauding of the work done by close friends. However, the overall success of the book is in opening the reader to entertain less mainstream or popularly-accepted ideas that eventually may bring about a better educational system and more engaging and critical readers of literature in America.
I don't feel the book is quite as revolutionary as the author expects, nor as "anti-pc" or "anti-liberal" as many readers might first suggest.
Instead, the book works best as a tool through which the reader is more fully exposed to the current debates on education, literature, and what it means for something to be "art" or for a person to be an "artist."
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
�Candor & Perversion� collects nearly forty of Roger Shattuck�s previously published essays on a broad range of topics in education, literature and the arts. Nearly all of these essays were published after 1985, predominantly in �Salmagundi�, �The New York Review of Books� and �The New Republic�. It is an outstanding collection of essays by a scholar of wide-ranging, thoughtful and sober intelligence.
The collection is divided into two parts. The first part, �Intellectual Craftsmanship�, contains a series of polemical essays that deal with topics generally subsumed in recent years under the term �Culture Wars�. In this part, Shattuck stakes out his position clearly in a number of essays dealing with the proper role of education and the importance of the canon. Thus, in the essay �Nineteen Theses on Literature,� Shattuck states that, �we have brought ourselves to a great deal of perplexity about the basic role of education.� This perplexity arises from the question of whether education�s proper role should be �[to] socialize the young within an existing culture and offer them the means to succeed within that culture� or, in the alternative, �[to] give to the young the means to challenge and overthrow the existing culture, presumably in order to achieve a better life.� Shattuck�s response is in favor of the former, choosing a conservative view of education�s role. In doing so, he essentially resolves this question consistent with a position he articulates in another of his essays, �Education, Higher and Lower,� where he states that, �some of us have come to believe that it is possible, even necessary, to be liberal in political matters and conservationist in cultural matters.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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