The Burden of the Past and the English Poet
W. Jackson Bate
There are few classics of literary criticism from what we can call the Academic Period (post-WW2, when newfound English departments were becoming established publishing factories). W. Jackson Bate’s Burden of the Past, the University of Toronto’s Alexander Lectures from 1969, is the exception, a seminal work that I find something new and stimulating in with every re-reading. Though primarily concerned with 18th-century literature, it nevertheless has much to say that is relevant to understanding the social and psychological position of writers, and the split between sophisticated and popular tastes, even in our own digital age.