“Those who merely write, or talk, about literature . . . should be humble in their judgments and prepared to defer to the comments of those who actually make the stuff.”

sutherland croppedThe word “humble” is not the first word I’d use to describe the tone of the academic articles that I read for a living.  John Sutherland — highly respected and cited  in the US and the UK — writes with an appealing mix of candor, authority, humor and decisiveness.  I have learned more about how literature works from this book than from anything else that I’ve read in decades.  Whoever designed this book’s format should win a prize.  Each brief chapter has an overview, a timeline, a great quotation, a summarizing statement, and a magazine-style side-bar that adds to the conversational tone.

John Sutherland, How Literature Works (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2011), p. 3.

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