Harry Berger, Jr., has long been one of our most revered and respected literary and cultural critics. Since the late nineties, a stream of remarkable and innovative publications have shown how very broad his interests are, moving from Shakespeare to baroque painting, to Plato, to theories of early culture.
In this volume a distinguished group of scholars gathers to celebrate the work of Harry Berger, Jr. To "celebrate," in Berger's words, is "to visit something either in great numbers or else frequently-to go away and come back, go away and come back, go away and come back. Celebrating is what you do the second or third time around, but not the first. To celebrate is to revisit. To revisit is to revise. Celebration is the eureka of revision." Not only former students but distinguished colleagues and scholars come together in these pages to discover Berger's eurekas-to revisit the rigor and originality of his criticism, and occasionally to revise its conclusions, all through the joy of strenuous engagement.
Nineteen essays on Berger's Shakespeare, his Spenser, his Plato, and his Rembrandt, on his theories of interpretation and cultural change and on the ethos of his critical and pedagogical styles, open new approaches to the astonishing ongoing body of work authored by Berger.
An introduction by the editors and an afterword by Berger himself place this festival of interpretation in the context of Berger's intellectual development and the reception of his work from the mid-twentieth century into the first decade of the twenty-first.
Nina Levine —
Nina Levine is Associate Professor of English at the University of South Carolina.
A Touch more rare: Harry Berger, Jr., and the arts of interpretation, ed. by Nina Levine and David Lee Miller. Fordham University, 2009. 357p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780823230303. Reviewed in 2010mar CHOICE.
Levine and Miller (both, Univ. of South Carolina) offer here papers first delivered at a 2006 conference that reassessed the continuing influence of literary/cultural critic Harry Berger (emer., Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) and his many and varied contributions to scholarship. The book's sections reflect (and more or less closely focus on) Berger's main intellectual interests: ethics and reader response in Renaissance drama, the Bower of Bliss in Spenser's Faerie Queene, the falseness of the dichotomy between new criticism and theory, the interdisciplinarity of art history, Plato studies, and the creation and sustenance of academic community along Socratic lines. The book has much that will interest scholars in many disciplines. But in focusing on Berger and his career, the book sometimes subordinates more specialized academic inquiry to examination of trends and developments in recent intellectual history. The sections on theory and academic community, in particular, raise questions about the conduct of the profession itself, and this emphasis probably makes the book most useful to those who are interested in reassessing the place of these disciplines in the university and trying to discern future directions for humanistic research.
Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty. -- C. S. Vilmar, Salisbury University