John Mullan

John Mullan’s What Matters in Jane Austen? came out in 2014.

Candy-Assed Name: ‘Demon Copperhead’

John Mullan, 16 November 2023

About two-thirds​ of the way through Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead, the eponymous narrator, now at high school in a poor town in Virginia, finds himself branded as ‘gifted’ by a perceptive teacher. This means that he has ‘to do the harder English, which was a time suck, reading books’. By this stage of the novel, you know that he secretly respects good...

Beastliness: Eric Griffiths

John Mullan, 23 May 2019

Quite​ a few academics in British universities are still called ‘lecturers’ even if plenty of humanities students seem to think lecturing is unnecessary. They can see the point of seminars or tutorials, at which in theory they can contribute, but why go to a lecture when you can get all the information online? Isn’t lecturing a relic of a bygone age? Doesn’t it seem...

Full of Glory: The Inklings

John Mullan, 19 November 2015

On 2 October 1937​, a short but enthusiastic review of a newly published novel called The Hobbit appeared in the Times Literary Supplement. The Hobbit was, the anonymous reviewer said, ‘a children’s book only in the sense that the first of many readings can be undertaken in the nursery’. It was to be compared to Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories, as belonging to...

There is​ no sign that Freud read Jane Austen. Yet in her use of the words ‘unconscious’ and ‘unconsciously’, Austen might have had some claim to his attention. The words had been around in English since the late 17th century, and when Austen first uses one of them, in Sense and Sensibility, it is in a conventional and wholly un-Freudian manner. Elinor...

I once met F.R. Leavis – or almost. It was in October 1977, in a house in Bulstrode Gardens in Cambridge. I had arrived with a group of fellow students for an introductory meeting with our medieval supervisor, Mrs Helena Shire, a formidable Scottish lady of confident views and startling formality. As she ushered us into her sitting room we realised that it already had an occupant. A small, gaunt, elderly man in a jacket and open-necked shirt stood in the French window. I think I remember a look of something like panic on his face as the gaggle of 19-year-olds approached.

Head in an Iron Safe: Dickens’s Tricks

David Trotter, 17 December 2020

Dickens fought long and hard against the human tendency to focus exclusively on what is of immediate pressing concern in any given situation. His often anodyne protagonists have to compete for our attention...

Read more reviews

Unhoused: anonymity

Terry Eagleton, 22 May 2008

All literary works are anonymous, but some are more anonymous than others. It is in the nature of a piece of writing that it is able to stand free of its begetter, and can dispense with his or...

Read more reviews

Female Heads

John Bayley, 27 October 1988

Since the 18th century, and the novel’s coming of age, inventing female consciousness has become an absorbing masculine activity, a sex-in-the-head game. It is in the male head that...

Read more reviews

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences