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Brown, D. (1995). A. Easthope Poetry and Phantasy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, 227 pages, hb £32.50. Free Associations, 5(2):239-244.

(1995). Free Associations, 5(2):239-244

A. Easthope Poetry and Phantasy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, 227 pages, hb £32.50

Review by:
Dennis Brown

Over the last ten years, Antony Easthope has been one of the most informed and prolific cultural commentators from the ranks of the erstwhile Polytechnic literary critics. His Poetry and Discourse (1983),1 for instance, was an early attempt to bring Marxist and Deconstructive reading-techniques to bear on mainstream English poetry, while his more recent British Post-Structuralism: Since 1968 (1988) constitutes a quite comprehensive account of the “revolution” in literary understanding consequent upon, in particular, the “Essex Literature, Politics and Theory” and the “Southampton Text” conferences (by one who was an engaged participant). In between, he had also published The Masculine Myth in Popular Culture (1986). The book under consideration, Poetry and Phantasy (1989), is a forthright and slightly curious text that examines, especially, Romance and Romantic poetry through “complementary” neo-Freudian and neo-Marxist discourses. The rationale for this mode of hermeneutics is offered (and partially subverted) in a frank “Postscript”—which comes a little late. Devotees of Ovid, Petrarch, Wyatt, Milton, Shelley, or Tennyson might already have been deterred from further reading by finding so many admired poems construed in terms of “scopophiliac male narcissism.” Strategically, I think, the explanation of such “politically correct” reductiveness might have come better as an “Introduction.”

Easthope's overall case is disturbingly persuasive for anyone “easily freudened”.2 The figure of the idealized woman in much Western poetry does seem to imply the narcissistic projection that he claims to identify.

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