Sallies of the Mind

Sallies of the Mind

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ISBN: 978-1-56000-312-0
Pages: 253
Binding: Hardcover
Publication Date: 01-01-1997


Francis Fergusson was one of the foremost American literary critics and scholars of the twentieth century. A man of the theater as well as a man of letters, Fergusson’s versatility and mastery traversed a wide range of intellectual disciplines. As George Core notes: “one of the most remarkable aspects of Fergusson’s criticism is that it stands comfortably, at ease, with the best work stemming from diverse schools of criticism that are sometimes in conflict—the New Critics, the New York intellectuals, the myth critics and various distinguished critics of the modern theater.” Though allied with the New Critics, Fergusson was intellectually capacious enough to be associated with many critical schools of vastly different persuasions. R.W.B. Lewis once remarked of this respected original that “his critical theories and practices possess a severely beautiful purity.”

Sallies of the Mind is a collection of Fergusson’s essays drawn from a variety of virtually unattainable works. It incorporates Fergusson’s representative criticism on such major authors as Dante, Shakespeare, James, and Eliot; on myths as well as action; on the modern stage; and on the modern novel. Essays in this collection include: “T.S. Eliot and His Impersonal Theory of Art”; “Humanism”; “Maritain’s Creative Intuition”; “Two Perspectives on European Literature”; “Two Acts from Dante’s Drama of the Mind”; “The Divine Comedy as a Bridge across Time”; “Hamlet”; “Measure for Measure”; “Eugene O’Neill”; “Exiles and Ibsen’s Work”; “Oedipus According to Freud, Sophocles, and Freud”; “The Theater of Paul Valéry”; “D.H. Lawrence’s Sensibility”; and “The Drama in The Golden Bowl.”

Francis Fergusson’s criticism endures not only owing to its originality, depth, and range but also to its classically austere clarity of style. Looking at the present-day critical scene, we see few who match Fergusson’s intelligence, learning, and verve. Sallies of the Mind is a tribute to his legacy as well as to the themes he treats.

Editorial Reviews

“Francis Fergusson belonged to a tradition of criticism now almost extinct. It was based on a profound respect for the great writers, especially Dante and Shakespeare, and on the assumption that an understanding of their work, acquired by scholarly labor, was essential to any serious conception of the civilized mind. The editors have done us a service in making available these essays, redolent as they are of a finer moment in the history of modern literary criticism.”

—Sir Frank Kermode, Honorary Fellow, King’s College, Cambridge University  

“The writings of Francis Fergusson, among the finest literary criticism produced in this country after the Second World War, are distinguished by an acute sense of modernity allied to a conviction that the great writers of the Western tradition still could speak to its problems. This belief informed his notable Idea of a Theater, the greatest work on the classic forms of the drama ever written by an American. Readers of the present volume, which contains selections from his works as well as hitherto uncollected pieces, will see that he writes equally well of the latest Broadway hits as of T.S. Eliot and Jacques Maritain, or of his beloved Dante and Shakespeare. Our own contemporary scene, where ignorant armies clash by night, is sadly in need of such an all-encompassing vision.”

—Joseph Frank, professor of comparative literature emeritus at Princeton University and professor of comparative literature and Slavic languages and literature emeritus at Stanford University  

“Francis Fergusson’s Idea of a Theater and Dante’s Drama of the Mind are among the supreme works of modern criticism. It is splendid to have Sallies of the Mind, a rich sampling of Fergusson’s collected and uncollected essays, several of them nearly impossible to find.”

—Denis Donoghue, Henry James Professor of English, New York University

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