Academic publishers in Britain are relying increasingly upon the series of monographs, a form which permits the development of brand loyalty and which allows a few excellent literary introductions and re-interpretations to carry in their wake any number of inferior works. The rise of the series is most pronounced in the oppositional subculture of academic feminism, socialism and deconstruction which seeks in various ways to challenge traditional notions of method, of canon, and of the status of literature. Here the nature of the series monograph tends to encourage the production of instant off-the-peg reassessments or sample demonstrations of theoretical routines cried up as novelties. The series edited by Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield under the title 'Cultural Polities' has some twenty volumes in store already, covering popular fiction and music as well as canonical literature. Of these, the first four published titles present a mixed impression in which the more traditionally literary studies come off far better than the single excursion beyond letters. In this batch it is the excellence of John Barrell's Poetry, Language and Politics which stands out, providing some compensatory cover for the shortcomings of its companion volumes.
LRB 10 November 1988 | PDF Download