AfterWord: Conjuring the Literary Dead

Published:  2011 by University of Iowa Press
Source:  Review copy received from publisher via NetGalley
  AfterWord:  Conjuring the Literary Dead, is a collection of speculative essays of situations where modern day writers interact with authors of the past.  In the introduction, the collection’s editor, Dale Salwak described the essays as “an invitation to come face-to-face with a literary personage in a new way”; and while this may be true, for the casual reader of classic literature (if there is such a thing) the collection may be taken as inaccessible, readable only to experts in a particular author or genre.
  The most interesting essay to me was Eugene Goodheart’s discussion with Jane Austen about her heroine, Emma Woodhouse.  I disliked Emma immensely (the character and the novel) and the speculative explanation told by Austen via Goodheart is interesting, especially since Austen references Stephen Dedalus in her argument of why Emma is her favorite character.  When Goodheart expresses astonishment that she is familiar with James Joyce’s work she responds:

You are bemused.  Well ask yourself, how is it possible that I am speaking to you, centuries after my death?  As an immortal writer (spoken plainly and without irony), I have met and will continue to meet other immortal writers who were born long after I died.

  Now wouldn’t those be interesting discussions?

  Alas, because I was familiar with only the names of the other resurrected authors (but not all — who was George Gissing?) I don’t think I could properly appreciate the other essays.  They seemed too academic, focussing on minutiae of the author’s life rather than his or her work; however given that the publisher is an academic press I suppose that can be expected.

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