ESSAY Richard Poole

NWR Issue 96

Of Dinosaurs and Theoretical Corsetry

Is literary criticism a comatose or even a lost art in Wales, and if it is, does it matter? Am I in even posing such a question revealing myself to be a dinosaur that has somehow escaped the impact of a giant asteroid (or whatever else it was that put paid to the great reptiles’ millions of years of dominance on Earth)? I have sometimes thought so – yet it seems that I am not the only person to feel dissatisfied with the current state of writing about English-language authors in Wales. Here is Lloyd Jones:

I suspect that literary criticism in Wales has entered a limbo somewhere between the thorough but slightly ponderous ways of the old guard and the slick but often insubstantial ways of the new.
‘Sparrow’s Flight’ in New Welsh Review 87


And here is Jasmine Donahaye, complaining about Almanac: Yearbook of Welsh Writing in English 13 in the same magazine issue:

…in orientation and style, this collection follows a typically cautious and conformist path. In language and reach, there is little risk, experimentation or controversy.

Almost every essay is written according to an established formula, with a studious avoidance of the first person.


Donahaye has more to say, and I refer interested readers to her review. Her broadside struck me as providing a timely fleshing-out of Jones’ ‘often insubstantial ways of the new’.

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previous essay: Skipping to the Apocalypse
next essay: A Radical English Identity?



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