David Bromwich is among the most accomplished literary critics writing in the United States today. More than that, he is a major intellectual voice there. He brings considerable reserves of historical knowledge and philosophical insight to the various issues that concern him. Partly because of this, his work extends beyond the confines of any disciplinary boundary. He has written eloquently on Hazlitt, Wordsworth, Burke and Shakespeare, and has been a prominent commentator on academic and political life in America. He is a challenging and multifaceted thinker, but he is distinguished, above all, by his moral seriousness.
One of Bromwich’s staple preoccupations is on display in this short book, based on the Clarendon Lectures that he delivered at the University of Oxford in 2013. In five sharp chapters, he explores an eclectic array of writers, including poets, novelists, orators and politicians. As this list suggests,