I liked Simon Winder’s reflection on Penguin’s “Great Ideas” series. I only bought two of the books: Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents (#19), and Hazlitt’s On the Pleasures of Hating (#12). I bought the former because I didn’t yet own a copy, and the latter because I was curious about Hazlitt who, as Winder observes, is rather talked about, but doesn’t seem to get published much anymore. It was tempting to buy more: everything about the series, from the compact size to the simple covers with their bold or elegant typefaces, is aesthetically pleasing. And at $9.99 (Can), the books really are friendly towards one of their intended demographics: the student — though perhaps not all of us are morbid and sexually confused (actually, we mostly are those things). Generally, I didn’t buy the books because I already tended to own copies of the works in various anthologies or annotated editions. A fact which seems to suggest that it’s not only Penguin’s series that continues to be Eurocentric and phallocentric, but that the cannon of English literature — the one that structures the everyday English undergraduate degree — also still heavily draws on the Eurocentric and phallocentric.
Not new news at all. But Penguin shouldn’t bear all the blame.
29 August 2010 ~ Hamilton
And yes, I’m tempted to write in and explain why Ben should have made the cut. He would have at least gotten more readers than Thomas Browne. (Or so I tell myself, in order to sleep at night.)