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This week: Venetian art & the English heart
Housman Country: Into the Heart of England, by Peter Parker (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): Released in 1896, A. E. Housman’s poetry collection A Shropshire Lad grabbed England’s attention three years later at the start of the Second Boer War, and finally ascended into the poetic canon when the English returned to war again in 1914. It’s no trouble to see why decades of conflict made Housman a must-read—his poems juxtapose meditations on death with light verse and idyllic English country scenes, making them perfectly suited to arouse nostalgia among the generations of Englishmen who carried copies of A Shropshire Lad off to foreign battlefields. In Housman Country, the critic Peter Parker makes a case for reading Housman as the consummate Englishman, placing him within the lineage of writers—Donne, Hopkins, Dickens, etc.—who were hailed by the twentieth-century critic F. R. Leavis for describing universal themes of life with a distinctly English sound and sensibility. —MU
“Alexei Jawlensky” at the Neue Gallerie (through May 29): Alexei Jawlensky (1864–1941) painted at the center of Modernist innovation but endures on the periphery of our historical understanding. A student of Ilya Repin, Jawlensky moved away from realism, and his native Russia, to become close friends with Kandinsky and an associate of Paul Klee, August Macke, Franz Marc, and the artists of Der Blaue Reiter. A new exhibition at the Neue Galerie now continues this museum’s remarkable rediscovery of the German Modernists with seventy-five paintings by Jawlensky ranging from 1900 to 1937. —JP
A Tribute to C. K. Williams at The Auditorium at 66 West Twelfth Street (February 22): The work of C. K. Williams, whose collection Repair won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000, draws heavily upon the classics and Williams’s own breadth of artistic experience. Allusions to Greek drama (Williams produced celebrated translations of Euripides and Sophocles) and aesthetics (he was also a casual critic of architecture) gave Williams’s work a venerable quality that braced it against the constant shifts of contemporary poetry. This Wednesday, the Poetry Society of America and the New School will cohost a tribute to Williams’ career, with a gathering of poets on hand to give new voice to the late poet’s timeless verse. —MU
“Love in Venice” at the New York Public Library (through August 26): Until Napoleon’s invasion in 1797, the Republic of Venice flourished for centuries as a maritime trading power. As Venetian merchants grew wealthier, and travelers from surrounding European areas increasingly chose Venice and its lagoon communities as their tourist destination, more money and time were dedicated to cultural pursuits; as a result, the Republic’s art, music, and literary worlds exploded. The NYPL, in conjunction with Carnegie Hall’s festival “La Serenissima: Music and Arts from the Venetian Republic,” will explore Venice’s rich cultural history in an exhibition entitled “Love in Venice,” featuring art, books, letters, and etchings from the NYPL’s special collections. Together with Carnegie Hall, the NYPL will illuminate how Venice earned its formal title: “Most Serene Republic.” —RH
From the archive: “F. R. Leavis: a reevaluation,” by Norman Podhoretz: A reflection on the taste and legacy of the English critic.
From the current issue: “Cultural backwash”: On the muddied state of art and identity.