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The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction (with a New Epilogue) Paperback – April 6, 2000


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Product Details

  • Series: Bryn Mawr
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 Sub edition (April 6, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195136128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195136128
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #536,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"An impressively learned, eloquent, and brilliant defense of a non-schismatic view of human time."--Leo Bersani, The New York Times


"A packed, original, highly stimulating book,"--David Lodge


About the Author


Frank Kermode was formerly King Edward VII Professor of English Literature, Cambridge University.

More About the Author

Sir Frank Kermode has been a prominent figure in the world of literary criticism since the 1960s. He has been King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge and Professor of Poetry at Harvard. He was knighted in 1991.

Customer Reviews

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Very accessible and useful for the literary enthusiast or student.
Jilly
I've just finished re-reading Frank Kermode's THE SENSE OF AN ENDING, a series of lectures he gave at Bryn Mawr College in 1965.
M. L. Asselin
In short stories, the imitated reality is more like a snapshot of life than a part of life that starts and finishes.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By M. L. Asselin VINE VOICE on May 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
I've just finished re-reading Frank Kermode's THE SENSE OF AN ENDING, a series of lectures he gave at Bryn Mawr College in 1965. (The version I have does not have the new epilogue.) The basic theme of his lectures is how and the extent to which fiction is ordered and oriented to beginnings and, in particular, endings. In the course of these lectures, Kermode examines concepts such as chronos, kairos, aevum, and apocalypse, and extends his discussions beyond the realm of literature to make observations on history and the way we experience time. In this area, he is particularly influenced by the work of the French art historian, Henri Focillon. Kermode was also influenced by the times in which he presented these lectures: the threat of a nuclear apocalypse had been louring on the horizon for several years, and the end of the twentieth century was rapidly approaching.

This slender volume is both challenging and illuminating. Kermode presupposes that the listener/reader is well versed in English and French literature, particularly that of the early twentieth century. His audience is definitely his erudite peers; he does not condescend to pull up others with less of a grasp of his subject. But even this poor student has found great inspiration in his words. His analysis of endings, in literature as well as life, has informed my own studies. Kermode's lectures are well worth reading and re-reading.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 6, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Apocalyptic literature is one area of novels that is permanent fixed with the ending of a time period, and by nature it has to be. When authors attempt through their literature to prophecy how the future will end up because of social beliefs or actions today or to predict the timing of future events based on oftentimes religious beliefs, they are wrong much of the time. Their reactions, as Kermode describes, are typical. They assume that their belief is still correct but that they were flawed in their analysis of the information, which propels them to reinterpret the facts and try again. It is self-perpetuating.

Kermode's topic, that things of this life require a sense that a beginning and an ending exist, feels on first glance absolutely correct all the time. But his claim that we need definitive endpoints to feel a sense of purpose works for novels (the genre he discusses most frequently) does not necessarily show itself true in the short story genre. In short stories, the imitated reality is more like a snapshot of life than a part of life that starts and finishes. Many short stories, like Edgar Allen Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," Andrea Barrett's "Servants of the Map," and T. Coraghessan Boyle's "The Love of My Life," do follow the tick-tock chronos phenomenon most present in novels, but many short story authors like Raymond Carver in "Kindling" and "Cathedral" leave the reader with a sense that although there may be a beginning and end to the conflict in the story there is not an end to that character's life, even though the book itself has to come to a close. The character's life continues on after the reader leaves the story, and oftentimes the conflict also remains unresolved.

That said, Kermode's theoretical approach to endings in literature is foundational to the study of novels and writing in general. It is a work worth reading.

Reviewed by Jonathan Stephens
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By William Cook Miller on April 4, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Kermode's book is often blurbed as being about "endings" in fictions. It is that -- but more. This is a book with an almost unprecedented ratio of stunning insights to total pages. It teaches one not just how to attend to literature, not just how to attend to history, but how to attend to attention -- how, in short, to attend to one's own place in time. And it's really very funny to boot. Some sample zingers:

"If we forget that fictions are fictive we regress to myth (as when the Neo-Platonists forgot the fictiveness of Plato's fictions and Professor Frye forgets the fictiveness of all fictions."

"Having compared the novel-reader with an infant and a primitive, one can go further can compare him with a psychopath; and this I shall shortly be doing."

"Karl Popper, in a biting phrase, once called historicism the 'substitution of historical prophecy for conscience.' But of modern eschatology one can say that it has done exactly the opposite, and substituted conscience, or something subtler, for historical prophecy."

In short, a real classic of literary criticism, as provoking now as ever, and a lot of fun.
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By Rowan on December 5, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Brilliant. No one is more a critics critic, in the best sense of the word. If you want to think deeply about literature, this is the book for you,
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By peter12345 on October 12, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A classic that needs no recommendation from me. To "listen" to Kermode improves your mind, and not only about fiction.
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