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Greg Johnson


Reconstructing the American Renaissance

Beneath the American Renaissance. By David S. Reynolds. Knopf. $35.00. In this exhaustive study of America's great 19th-century writers in the context of antebellum popular culture, David S. Reynolds seeks to consolidate and deepen the insights of [...]

Dickinson In Her Time

Emily Dickinson. By Cynthia Griffin Wolff. Knopf. $25.00.A Charm invests a face / Imperfectly beheld—," Emily Dickinson wrote, and there is much evidence to suggest that her reputation as "the Myth of Amherst," already current in her lifetime, was [...]

Revisiting Native Grounds

An American Procession: The Major American Writers from 1830 to 1930—The Crucial Century. By Alfred Kazin. Knopf. $18.95. In his preface to that extraordinary analysis of modern American prose literature, On Native Grounds (1942), published when [...]


The Alexander Baldwins never argue, but they are arguing now. Urgent whispers, rising up the stairway. Their three-story colonial is massive, beautifully restored (thick champagne-colored carpet recently installed throughout, even in the bathrooms; [...]

His Name Was Lennie

One morning in November a man and his daughter arrived at the county hospital, an old red-bricked building that might have been a barracks or a prison. Most of the hospital's patients came from surrounding farms and the scattering of towns in a 30- [...]


On the morning we went to the marina, a vicious argument had erupted between my parents. It would be their last, though I don't believe anything about that morning—a mild Saturday in April—suggested last things, or a new beginning, or relief of [...]

The Poet As Teacher

The Didactic Muse: Scenes of Instruction in Contemporary American Poetry. By Willard Spiegelman. Princeton. $39.50 cloth, $10.95 paper. In this ambitious study of contemporary American poetry, Willard Spiegelman employs a critical framework that i [...]

An Unacknowledged American Poet

The Time Traveler. By Joyce Carol Oates. Dutton. $18.95. Several years ago, John Updike told an interviewer that critics of contemporary poetry ignore, almost by reflex, the poems of any writer whose primary genre is fiction; despite having publishe [...]