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Stay, Illusion!: The Hamlet Doctrine Hardcover – June 25, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0307907615 ISBN-10: 0307907619

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (June 25, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307907619
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307907615
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 4.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #692,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

It is rashness that we need in reading Shakespeare. Taking these words from Virginia Woolf as their license, the husband-wife team of Critchley and Webster advance a daring commentary on the Bard’s Hamlet. With help from other rash thinkers—­including Carl Schmidt, Hegel, Freud, and Nietzsche—also outside of the fraternity of literary critics, this philosopher-psychologist pair pry from Shakespeare’s play insights into politics, religion, and psychology. From Schmidt, for example, the authors steal a key for decoding a dangerous political message. (Did James I—like the troubled prince of Denmark—have a guilty mother and a murdered father?) With a nod to Hegel, the literary explorers glimpse in Hamlet’s wild exchanges with Guildenstern and Rosencrantz the hint of dialectical philosophy. Borrowing from Freud, the bold exegetes learn why Ophelia pays the price when Hamlet crosses from mourning into melancholia. And readers reckless enough to join Nietzsche in Dionysian dance will recognize in Hamlet the reason that only illusion can precipitate decisive action. A spirited literary foray by audacious interlopers. --Bryce Christensen


“In their provocative new study, Simon Critchley, a professor of philosophy at the New School, and Jamieson Webster, a practicing psychoanalyst and author, offer a novel take on this most commented-upon of dramas. It is as much an astute account of the reactions of various philosophers and psychoanalysts to the play—and their often profound and sometimes wacky analyses—as a chronicle of the authors’ own passionate response to virtually every aspect of the tragedy. The authors have an impressive mastery of all the factual details of the play . . . their discussions of such thinkers as Hegel and Nietzsche or Freud and Lacan are at once pithy and perceptive.” —The Wall Street Journal

"Critchley and Webster's fierce, witty exploration of Hamlet makes most other writing about Shakespeare seem simple-minded." —Hari Kunzru, author of Gods Without Men 

“I had no time to read Stay, Illusion!, and yet I found myself ravenously turning pages. I absolutely love the book, which I think is brilliant both as a set of readings of the play and as a meditation on contemporary, post-illusion existence. Hamlet is, as everyone knows, about everything, but it’s also about nothing, or rather, nothingness. And this almost impossibly aphoristic book penetrates to the center of this paradox. A thrilling performance.” —David Shields, author of Reality Hunger  
"The gap between thought and action has rarely been contemplated with so much intellectual excitement and energy as it is in this book. Indeed, this study of Hamlet is a kind of thrill ride, a breathless investigation of some of the most important ideas from philosophy and psychoanalysis from the Modern era. But the great pleasure it holds in store for most readers has to do with its profound understanding of reflection, and its discontents." —Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love

“A brilliant set of readings of a work that, like an insistent ghost, seems to have more to tell us with each passing era.” —Tom McCarthy, author of Remainder   

"This is an engaging, eloquent, and insistently pleasurable text that makes the best case possible for "rash" reading.  Hamlet can now be read in light of a number of new theoretical vocabularies such that we cannot think about love, self-reflection, doubt, or obstinacy without being haunted by his ghost. This collaborative writing gives us a dynamic set of forays, recruiting us into the start and stop of thought, making Hamlet crucial for the thinking of our own impasses and delights. In the mix is a singular and illuminating encounter between philosophy and psychoanalysis." —Judith Butler  
“A philosophy professor and a psychoanalyst—also husband and wife—take Hamlet well beyond the confines of literary criticism and Shakespearean scholarship. . . . In a tone that is companionable and conversational despite the authors’ obvious erudition, the book examines Hamlet through a variety of lenses—philosophical, psychological, political, Christian redemptive—without resolving the tension between thought and action that remains the essence of the work and generates so much fascination with it. . . . Critchley and Webster provide plenty of food for thought and fuel for obsession.” —Kirkus  

“Critchley and Webster advance a daring commentary on the Bard’s Hamlet. . . . A spirited literary foray by audacious interlopers.” —Booklist  

“What more can be said about Shakespeare’s great Hamlet, known to just about every thinking person on earth? But this book is different, aiming not for literary but cultural and psychological analysis; the authors bring a different perspective to the work. Are you ready, Shakespearians? That is the question.” —Library Journal

“[An] insightful interpretation. . . . The authors’ passion for the play and its questions are clearly evident.” —Publishers Weekly

“Impressive…Critchley and Webster offer some intriguing and original thoughts on what Hamlet has to say about shame and love, taking up a new tone that suddenly makes the play feel intimately connected to both the authors themselves and the state of the world today…it's refreshing to read such unorthodox and enthusiastic explorations of canonical literature. Critchley and Webster manage to show both how philosophy and psychology illuminate Hamlet and how Hamlet, conversely, has illuminated those fields and the worlds around them.” –Bookslut

“Intriguing…Critchley and Jamieson's take always feels fresh, in part because they address a range of interpretations, many of which they are unafraid to challenge…Erudite, witty and probing, Stay! Illusion offers new insights into a literary touchstone while deepening our appreciation for its complexity and its enigmatic core.” –Shelf Awareness
“This is both an in-depth analysis of the play Hamlet and a study of our lives today. A compelling page turner, Stay, Illusion! digs deep into a character and play we all know, but perhaps haven't considered from this point of view.” –Largeheated Boy
“[A] thoughtful, elegant work of criticism.” –, Best Books Coming Out This Week

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Customer Reviews

It is not a lightweight book but perhaps too heavy for those looking to read this summer.
The authors really don't seem to know enough about Shakespeare or the context in which he was writing.
Marcy L. Thompson
The authors, a philosopher and psychotherapist have written essays about the characters in the play.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Weissman on June 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What we have here is what erudite and literate lay readers are supposed to want - a book that studies a work of art or a topic deeply and thoroughly without being part of the professional scholarly point-scoring competition. A married couple, one a philosopher and one a psychotherapist, both of whom love Hamlet as much as I do, have produced a book of short essays on this fascinating liberary work. Some are historical, sort of, some are just smart and thoughtful, some are misfires.

There's no overarching thesis, but who cares? If you are deeply familiar with the play why not spend a couple of hours watching some other interesting people think it through in front of you? Reminds me of a smarter and less callow version of the literary discussions I had as an undergraduate.

No, these people are not the modern day equivalent of J. Dover Wilson or J.V. Cunningham, but they are still able to raise interesting points and give me new things to think about.

So be sure what you're getting into here, and don't expect groundbreaking literary theory. Perhaps you could guess what some of the philosophers they talk about would think of Hamlet, but so what? Skip those essays if you must, and read the ones that appeal to you.

Why only four stars? Because I lost the thread in a few places and because there were some places where a little more research would have answered a few of the questions they raise. Still, a fine work for erudite Hamlet readers who are not professional Shakesperean scholars. You know who you are.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Thomas F. Dillingham VINE VOICE on June 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If I had followed my first responses to this book, I would not have read much past the first fifty pages. It seemed to me that though there were plenty of references in the opening chapters to concepts about Hamlet that might have been interesting if developed, the main discussion seemed simplistic, amateurish. I am not a trained Shakespearean scholar, but I have studied his works enough to have a pretty good command of the range of critical and interpretive discussions, and this seemed unlikely to add anything of interest.

Fortunately, I persisted, and found myself more and more fascinated and deeply involved in the presentation of Critchley/Webster's developing thoughts about the play, which broadened and deepened as they analyzed Hamlet as the centerpiece of increasingly complex and fascinating interrelationships among political, psychological, and philosophical questions embedded in the play (especially in the "character" of Hamlet, himself, but also of Ophelia and others). It is important to emphasize that this book is an unusual example of a truly collaborative work; both authors are obviously engaged in the composition/thought at every stage of the book, and their regular use of the plural pronoun "we" always feels convincing. This gives the essay an unfamiliar but welcome sense of being a conversation that actually includes the reader, even though the reader is left to direct her or his comments not to the joint authors but to a community of readers of Hamlet who might also benefit from the juxtaposition of the play with the range of other writings these authors explore in their effort to understand why Hamlet talks so much about revenging his father's death, but is unable to bring himself to do it.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Stanley Hauer VINE VOICE on May 7, 2013
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This is a curate's egg of a book. The authors are a married pair, one a psychologist the other a philosopher. Clearly they share a passion for this greatest of English plays and playwrights.

This modest volume is a collection of short essays on "Hamlet." Much of the contents are (understandably) philosophical, as they discuss how various philosophers, mostly French and German, have read and interpreted the play. Freud plays a large role here. Some of the philosophers (Carl Schmitt, for example) were new to me, but that says a great deal about me and nothing about philosophy.

I enjoyed every page of this book and profited from it. But for the life of me I can't tell you what its thesis is and what "The Hamlet Doctrine" of the title is supposed to mean. Reading this book is like having a month of dinners with two extraordinarily intelligent and well read intellectuals; their thoughts scintillate off the page.

The essays are exceptionally well written and blessedly jargon-free--rare in this lit-crit dominated age.

You have to know your "Hamlet" to follow this book; it's not for beginners. But for the devoted Shakespearean like Yours Truly, this book is time well spent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Erol Esen VINE VOICE on June 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Where there is suffering, there is a story. That's why Hamlet makes for a great tale to philosophize and psycho-analyze. In this book, Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster stand on the shoulders of giants like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Georg Wilheml Friedrich Hegel, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, and Friedrich Nietzsche to view magnum opus of another giant that is William Shakespeare.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you aren't a total fan of Hamlet, then this book is not for you. It's not really a scholarly work or study of the book, but a series of essays written by a philosopher and psychotherapist who were motivated by the love of the play to collect their favorite thoughts into one book. Some chapters are a little strange while others are quite thought provoking. In a few cases, I found myself abandoning a chapter only to be pulled in to read the next one closely. If you've read the play hundreds of times, seen a bunch of movie and stage adaptations, and still find yourself thinking about the characters, then reading this book sure beats watching The Lion King for more Hamlet-stimulation.

The biggest downside is that the authors assume a familiarity with the philosophers and writers they are quoting. In some cases, there are some shocking things said about the play, buy I have little context for who said it. It would have been nice if the authors were a little more formal in these areas, explaining the background of the thinker and why they came to make their observations. This lack of context has led to quite a few one star reviews, but more likely, just to very confused readers. I think the book still has value as a review of some key thoughts in the play, and a launching spot for further research, but it is obvious that the authors did not seek out (or did not know) how to write a true literary criticism that would stand up to scholarly review. This book is entertainment for the Hamlet obsessed fans out there. Hence, I recommend it cautiously with 3 stars.
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