Cover image for The practice of reading
The practice of reading
Donoghue, Denis.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
x, 307 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR21 .D66 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In this text the author argues that we must read texts closely and imaginatively, as opposed to merely or mistakenly theorizing about them. He shows what serious reading entails on discussing texts that range from Shakespeare's plays to a novel by Cormac McCarthy.

Author Notes

Denis Donoghue is University Professor and Henry James Professor of English and American Letters at New York University.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In this far-ranging study, Donoghue (New York Univ.) first provides a lucid overview of a considerable body of modern critical theory and interpretation and then, in part 2, goes on to apply some such theory to the works of seven authors ranging from Shakespeare to Cormac McCarthy. He focuses specifically on Shakespeare's Othello, Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Wordsworth's "The Boy of Winander" from the Prelude, parts of Pater's Studies in the History of the Renaissance, a chapter from Joyce's Ulysses, Yeats's "Leda and the Swan" and "Coole and Ballylee," and McCarthy's Blood Meridian. The second half of the book is particularly original and thought-provoking, demonstrating how close reading of texts can reveal archetypal patterns that recur in literature through the centuries, but suggesting also how literary change occurs in the broadest sense. The volume reminded this reviewer of Jacques Derrida's Writing and Difference (CH, Jun'79) and T.S. Eliot's The Sacred Wood (the latter, Donoghue admits in the engaging autobiographical chapter that opens the book, strongly influenced him as a young reader). Lively, intellectually challenging, and infinitely readable, the book is well documented and has a comprehensive index. Recommended for upper-division undergraduates through faculty. R. B. Shuman; formerly, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Part I
1 Curriculum Vitaep. 3
2 Theory, Theories, and Principlesp. 20
3 Three Ways of Readingp. 34
4 The Practice of Readingp. 54
5 What Is Interpretation?p. 80
6 Doing Things with Wordsp. 98
7 Orality, Literacy, and Their Discontentsp. 109
8 Murray Krieger Versus Paul de Manp. 124
Part II
9 What Happens in Othellop. 143
10 Reading Gulliver's Travelsp. 165
11 On a Word in Wordsworthp. 187
12 The Antinomian Paterp. 205
13 On a Chapter of Ulyssesp. 222
14 Yeats: The New Political Issuep. 236
15 Teaching Blood Meridianp. 258
Notesp. 279
Indexp. 297