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Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature Hardcover – July 31, 2013
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“Picture this: You’re an Argentine teenager, sitting in a lecture hall on the first day of classes, ready to learn about the history of English literature. In walks your kindly, elderly professor, and suddenly he starts speaking, about everything from The Dream of the Rood to Treasure Island, sometimes quoting entire paragraphs, without any notes whatsoever. He’s also blind (and has been for more than a decade). What would your reaction be?”
- The Globe & Mail
“Readers will probably find Professor Borges more enthralling as a document of Borges himself than as a guide to English literature. Borges’s vast erudition is felt everywhere in these pages, and he is at his best when he digresses.”
- Will Glovinsky, The Rumpus
“Borges’ delivery will engross you ― he is an excellent storyteller.”
- New York Daily News
About the Author
Jorge Luis Borges (1890-1982), Argentine poet, critic, and short-story writer, revolutionized modern literature. He was completely blind when appointed the head of Argentina’s National Library.
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American English writers, as I recall, are in a separate volume, the one in which O'Henry is described as trying to learn all there is to know by reading a dictionary....
These lectures on English literature are highly idiosyncratic and selective. He goes from long remarks on Anglo Saxon and Scandanavian literature straight to Sam Johnson in the mid 17 hundreds. His remarks often digress into the aesthtics of the language of the period and the imagined national characteristics of the speakers to the virtues of the literature itself. However the reader reacts to these speculations, they are always full of sparkling comments and insights.
After Johnson and Boswell, two of my favorites and engagingly treated, we proceed to Browning, Stevenson and some Romantics. Wordsworth, Blake and Coleridge are perhaps poets we know mostly in passing these days and Borges' remarks are stimulating. I went back to reread some of them and found it rewarding after Borges' remarks. We finish, surprisingly, with William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century. Because of Morris' influence on art and book production, I'm an afficionado, but I bet I'm in a distinct minority. As to Rossetti, who also gets a lot of attention, good luck even finding him in a standard anthology today (same with Morris, actually).I certainly wouldn't expect to find him in lectures on literature which exclude Milton, Shakespear and Joyce. Anyhow, that's the caveat. This is about the brilliant working of Borges mind, not a refresher course on English lit!
Apparently these lectures, from the 60's, were taped, transcribed in 2003 or so, and just now translated into English. I read in a review in the NYRB that they were not particulary popular in Argentinia..."a prophet has no honor....." They seem to give a pretty good idea of how the master may have performed as a lecturer, side musings, digressions and all, and for that reason I think are a great addition to the library of all serious readers of Jorge Borges.
This book is not really for those who would study English literature in depth, but rather for those many readers for whom simply being in the presence of Borges is what he always thought our reading of Literature should be, a great pleasure.