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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: August ::
Frank Kermode: 1919-2010
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0345  Thursday, 26 August 2010

From:         Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:         Thursday, August 26, 2010      
Subject:      Frank Kermode: 1919-2010

_London Review of Books_ announced that its long-time contributor Frank Kermode 
died on August 17 at the age of 90:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/contributors/frank-kermode

Frank Kermode, who died on 17 August at the age of 90, was the author of many 
books, including Romantic Image (1957), The Sense of an Ending (1967) and 
Shakespeare's Language (2000). He was the Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern 
English Literature at University College London and the King Edward VII 
Professor of English Literature at Cambridge University. He inspired the 
founding of the London Review in 1979, and wrote more than 200 pieces for the 
paper.

On August 18, the Washington Post carried the AP announcement by Raphael G. 
Satter:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
dyn/content/article/2010/08/18/AR2010081803195.html?sub=AR

Literary critic Frank Kermode dies in England
By Raphael G. Satter
The Associated Press
Wednesday, August 18, 2010; 3:22 PM

LONDON -- Respected literary critic and Shakespeare scholar Frank Kermode has 
died, his publisher said. He was 90.

Regarded by some as Britain's foremost critics, Kermode was instrumental in the 
creation of the London Review of Books, and his accessibility made him a kind of 
bridge between the donnish world of academic literature and novels as they were 
read by everyday people.

"He was one of the great conversationalists of our literature," Alan Samson, 
Kermode's publisher, told The Associated Press. "His wit and wisdom in speaking 
about writing is something that I will always remember."

Samson said Kermode was best known for his influential book, "The Sense of an 
Ending" - a witty meditation on the relationship between fiction and crisis. He 
was also a respected student of Shakespeare and he would return to the Bard 
often over the course of his career, which took in everything from the Bible to 
deconstructionist theory.

Kermode was born on Nov. 29, 1919, in the small town of Douglas on the Isle of 
Man, between Ireland and Great Britain. Raised in modest circumstances, he would 
eventually become an establishment figure, writing for The New Statesman and The 
Guardian as well as judging Britain's prestigious Booker Prize.

His dry and occasionally self-abasing memoir, published in 1995, traced his 
uncertain path to the top tier of Britain's literary firmament.

The book opens with a line from Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" - "He was a kind of 
nothing, titleless" - and goes on to describe a disappointing child who grew 
into a young writer of indifferent talent. Academia, he said, was the only route 
left open to him.

"My poetry wasn't up to much, so there was nothing left for me except to become 
a critic, preferably with a paying job in a university," he wrote.

Kermode first spent a stint with the Royal Navy, spending much of his time in a 
thankless (and ultimately futile) attempt to lay booms around off the Icelandic 
coast and serving under a series of eccentric commanding officers. Demobilized 
in 1946, he went on to teach at the University of Durham, in northern England - 
the first in a series of increasingly prestigious academic posts at University 
College, London, Cambridge University, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.

[ . . . ]

The Washington Post also published the following day a tribute to Kermode by T. 
Rees Shapiro:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
dyn/content/article/2010/08/18/AR2010081806386.html

Frank Kermode, 90
British literary critic Frank Kermode dies at age 90
By T. Rees Shapiro
Thursday, August 19, 2010

Frank Kermode, 90, an English literary critic who wrote masterfully, and in a 
digestible fashion, on a range of interests, including Shakespeare, the Bible 
and Kurt Vonnegut, died Aug. 17 in Cambridge, England. No cause of death was 
reported.

Considered one Britain's most prolific and admired academics -- he was knighted 
by Queen Elizabeth II in 1991 -- Mr. Kermode's critiques were often praised for 
their graceful prose and fresh perspective. He wrote his first book at age 20 
and his last, on the works of E.M. Forster, this past year.

Mr. Kermode held teaching positions at some of world's most prestigious 
universities, including Cambridge University in England, Harvard, Princeton and 
Yale. Through his articles for scholarly journals and periodicals such as the 
New York Review of Books and London Review of Books, Mr. Kermode helped guide 
his readers to understand the idiosyncrasies and nuances of a particular work, 
as well as the literary conventions it employed and traditions to which it 
belonged.

[ . . . ]

As a scholar, Mr. Kermode sought to bring new ideas on literary theory into the 
classroom, helping introduce French theorists such as Roland Barthes and Michel 
Foucault into British academia in the 1960s. He later distanced himself from 
some of their more arcane notions of literary interpretation but remained 
committed to academic freedom.

He left his prestigious job at University College London in 1982 after an 
unsuccessful battle to achieve tenure for a younger colleague who advocated a 
structuralist view of literature and film. 

Alison Flood wrote the following for The Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/aug/18/frank-kermode-dies-aged-90

Celebrated critic Frank Kermode dies aged 90
Prominent for more than half-a-century, he combined an eminent scholarly career 
with popular success
Alison Flood
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 18 August 2010 12.22 BST 

Widely acclaimed as Britain's foremost literary critic, Sir Frank Kermode died 
yesterday in Cambridge at the age of 90.

The London Review of Books, for which the critic and scholar wrote more than 200 
pieces, announced his death this morning. Kermode inspired the founding of the 
magazine in 1979, after writing an article in the Observer calling for a new 
literary magazine.

Prominent in literary criticism since the 1950s, Kermode held "virtually every 
endowed chair worth having in the British Isles", according to his former 
colleague John Sutherland, from King Edward VII professor of English literature 
at Cambridge to Lord Northcliffe professor of modern English literature at 
University College London and professor of poetry at Harvard, along with 
honorary doctorates from universities around the world. He was knighted in 1991, 
the first literary critic to be so honoured since William Empson.

A renowned Shakespearean, publishing Shakespeare's Language in 2001, Kermode's 
books range from works on Spenser and Donne and the memoir Not Entitled to last 
year's Concerning EM Forster.

[ . . .]

The complete articles can be found at the various web site by using the included 
links.


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