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How seldom are dissertations works of art! Yet why shouldn't they be? Why shouldn't they use language in its fullness? How small must those dissertations be that demand anything less. (How small was my own!)
Of another book in this series of "Outstanding Dissertations" another reviewer wrote, "A dissertation is not a book, and by publishing one as a book, Routledge rather does the author a disservice." I had similar misgivings when a friend first referred me to this volume. I expected yet another rehash of Freud and fiction, an audition in which some fresh young voice sings her professors' tired, old-fashioned tunes. But a quick Look Inside on Amazon to the first pages will show this is not just another dissertation. It is at once the work of a mature, panoptic literary observer and a transcendent work of art by a gifted poet.
There are passages in Word of Mouth that were programmed as a mentor's tired tune, but in Skubal's voice they're only études set in a larger, flawless rondo between poet and pedant. These étude passages on Freud, anthropology, and literary criticism are performed with technical precision and impeccable diction, but all the wisdom of this extraordinarily beautiful book emerges in the passages of poetry that join and unify the études. In the process the études themselves are transformed, as it were, from Czerny to Chopin.
For most readers, the most familiar transformations will lie in the obligatory passages of literary criticism. All the warhorses are here: Light in August, Gatsby, The Tempest, many more. A central theme across all these passages is Hunger, but the right hand is gone off playing scholarly filigree. The main theme is now a hungry obligato in the left hand.Read more ›