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Dead from the Waist Down

Scholars and Scholarship in Literature and the Popular Imagination


A. D. Nuttall (View Bio)
Hardcover: Yale University Press, 2003.

Dead from the Waist Down

Looking deeply into the nature of scholarship, the figure of the intellectual, and the changing idea of the scholar, DEAD FROM THE WAIST DOWN examines the lives of three Casuabons: Reverend Edward Casaubon, the husband of Dorothea in George Eliot's MIDDLEMARCH; Mark Pattison, an Oxford don and the supposed model for Edward, who wrote what is still the best study of the final and real Casaubon, the great seventeenth-century scholar Isaac Casaubon, called "the most learned man alive" in his day, whose work in classical studies is still very much alive.

"I have now read A.D. Nuttall’s book with all the pleasure I expected. He is the most learned of literary critics, and his subject here is, appropriately, scholars and scholarship. I do not think I have ever read an account of Middlemarch and Casaubon as fine as this, and the studies of Mark Pattison and the other Casaubon, Isaac, are beautifully executed. The distinction he draws between scholarship and pedantry should be of great interest in the modern graduate school, and his love of Oxford is not mere sentiment but part of his scholarly character. I would recommend this book to all who seriously aspire to good scholarship." — Frank Kermode

"Nuttall's subject is just how much the image of the scholar has deteriorated since its golden age in the Renaissance.... DEAD FROM THE WAIST DOWN: Scholars and Scholarship in Literature and Popular Imagination, demonstrates just how great the divide between the popular and the scholarly can be.... Brilliantly erudite.... The author writes confidently, with an eye for subtlety and detail, about a vibrant web of relationships: between fiction and fact, a scholar's life and work, intellection and religious feeling, and more. He is especially concerned with the process of 'reading into' — which he both demonstrates and explains..... Just as Pattison and Casaubon probed, prodded, and corrected corrupt classical texts, Nuttall seeks to disentangle strands of intellectual history and limn more-precise connections among the disparate figures he describes." — Chronicle of Higher Education

"Nuttall has written a book so thoroughly alive and enlivening. It entertains, endlessly, but it also illuminates and returns emotion and love to scholarship and criticism." — Harold Bloom

"Isaac Casaubon is one of the greatest names in the history of classical scholarship. Edward Causabon is a character in MIDDLEMARCH — a dry stick whom Dorothea Brooke misguidedly marries. Mark Pattison, rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, was a leading Victorian classicist. It is widely assumed that George Eliot had him in mind when she created Edward Casaubon, not least because he was Isaac Casaubon's biographer. These are the three principal figures around whom A.D. Nuttall has constructed his study of the representation of scholars in literature.... Nuttall is a gifted critic, and he writes rewardingly.... Attractively written.... Nuttall is thoughtful and humane." — The New York Review of Books

"British literary critic Nuttall has managed to invest the 'paradox of the person unfit for intellection by study' with a certain sexiness.... Interesting and entertaining.... A valuable scholarly work." — Library Journal

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