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This article is taken from PN Review 94, Volume 20 Number 2, November - December 1993.

Long Views Felicity Rosslyn

One of the disconcerting benefits of travelling much in Eastern Europe (as I do, being an academic and beneficiary of many exchanges) is the long view one gets of home and its cultural landscape. To eastern eyes, I notice, the vista is oddly lacking in salient features: when an anthology of twenty-two British poets appeared in Poland recently, one reviewer observed, 'There is nothing wrong with poetry if it avoids giving answers to ultimate questions, but when it refrains from even asking the questions, it is fated to remain marginal and second-rate.' Another remarked, more satirically, 'The monologue of British poets is distressingly self-composed. I hear in its moans, if not self-satisfaction, then self-assurance - and this, in spite of its intimate sobs.' This reviewer closed with the discomforting thought that maybe this was an achievement of a kind: 'But should we criticize the British for their imaginative moderation?' From a Polish point of view, the poets were not to be blamed for something they couldn't help - and moderation was hardly a vice to which a Pole could object.

My foreign friends in English Institutes are almost as abrasive. We all earn our living by talking about English Literature and have a vested interest in presuming that it is alive and well, but when it comes down to what, specifically; should be taught in the modern period, they are dissatisfied with their courses and I am at a loss to advise them. 'We teach a little ...


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