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From The Times Literary Supplement: Review of New Book on Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Just an FYI folks.  Matthew
From The Times Literary Supplement
January 12, 2011

Don Paterson’s Shakespeare

Questions arise about what Paterson is hoping to accomplish in his Commentary on the Sonnets

Alastair Fowler

Shakespeare’s reputation makes his Sonnets hard to approach. Mountains of critical scholasticism loom: a dozen substantial commentaries, countless books and articles. To add to all that is a daunting challenge. But here is Don Paterson, successful poet, Queen’s Medallist, Forward Prize-winner, who has already written about sonnets. He’ll do a popular book on Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

Poor man, what a commission. He knows it, and keeps apologizing (“let me be the first to say that I consider this theory to be garbage”; “that’s the best I can do”; “for all I know”). His solution is to play to his strength and offer a fiction. He’ll imagine someone teaching a Shakespeare class (“If this were a class I was teaching”), yet ostentatiously distance himself from the professional tutors, the “anoraks” and “cabbalists”. That way he can appropriate anorak opinions without getting ink-stained, advance theories and take them back.


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