Basker, James G(lynn) 1952-

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BASKER, James G(lynn) 1952-


Born August 28, 1952, in San Francisco, CA; son of James Wenzel and Anne Marlo (Glynn) Basker. Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1974; Cambridge University, B.A., M.A., 1976; Oxford University, Ph.D., 1983. Hobbies and other interests: Rare books, travel, international education.


Office—English Department, Barnard College, 3009 Broadway, New York, NY 10027. E-mail—[email protected].


English educator. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, lecturer and senior tutor, 1982-84, assistant professor and senior tutor, 1984-87; Barnard College, New York, NY, associate professor of English, 1987—. Oxford University, director of Enrichment, summers 1985-89; Oxbridge Academy Programs, New York, NY, director and president, 1989; Stanford/Harvard Alumni Association Seminar in Oxford, co-president, 1990.


Modern Language Association, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Johnsonians, American Association of Rhodes Scholars, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History (president), Lincoln and Soldiers Institute at Gettysburg College (president).


Tobias Smollett: Critic and Journalist, University of Delaware Press (Newark, NJ), 1988.

(Coeditor with S. J. Alvaro Ribeiro) Tradition in Transition: Women Writers, Marginal Texts, and the Eighteenth-Century Canon, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1996.

(Editor) The Critical Review, or, Annals of Literature: 1756-1763, Pickering & Chatto Publishers (London, England), 2001.

(Editor) Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems about Slavery, 1660-1810, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2002.


James G. Basker, an English professor at Barnard College, has a keen interest in eighteenth-century literature and the antislavery movement. His scholarly passions are reflected in such works as Tobias Smollett: Critic and Journalist, Tradition in Transition: Women Writers, Marginal Texts, and the Eighteenth-Century Canon, and Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems about Slavery, 1660-1810.

Tobias Smollett is based upon Basker's doctoral research about this prolific eighteenth-century journalist, editor, and critic. Smollett was the author of several novels, but Basker maintains that his most important literary achievement was that of founding and editing the Critical Review from 1756 to 1763. Smollett founded the journal in order to educate the British public on matters of literature and art, and, according to Basker, he was quite successful in achieving his goal. Nearly half of Basker's book is devoted to descriptions and analyses of Smollett's editorial and critical activities. These chapters are followed by a discussion of the effect which the Critical Review had upon writers, the reading public, and bookshops.

Basker's "study provides numerous original insights and suggests numerous avenues of inquiry heretofore unexplored," wrote Byron Gassman in Modern Philology. Choice reviewer D. L. Patey considered Tobias Smollett to be "an important book." "Basker convincingly argues his case for Smollett as an Enlightenment spokesman working his way to fulfillment through journalism," said Morris Golden in Journal of English and Germanic Philology. In a Review of English Studies article, J. A. Downie felt that Tobias Smollett demonstrates both the stronger and weaker aspects of an adapted doctoral thesis. Yet, this critic also noted that Basker's work "genuinely breaks fresh ground, offering new information on Smollett and his writings, and changing our perspective on the writer."

In Tradition in Transition Basker and coeditor S. J. Alvaro Ribeiro collect essays written by former students of Roger Lonsdale, a scholar and teacher who contributed to a greater understanding of the depth and breadth of eighteenth-century English poetry. According to Donna Landry in a review for Eighteenth-Century Fiction, contributor Christine Gerrard writes in this work that Lonsdale "taught us to expect the unexpected from eighteenth-century poetry," for he showed that this era of poetry was characterized not only by the more famous writers such as Boswell and Wordsworth, but also by writings from "women …farm labourers, Dissenters, and other previously marginalized writers."

"This volume offers some powerful reappraisals of canonical figures in addition to bringing new subjects to light," Landry remarked. She also wrote that it "is all the more persuasive about the scholarly worth of its project for being understated in its ambitions and conclusions." Karen O'Brien praised Tradition in Transition in a Review of English Studies article. She noted that Basker and Alvaro Ribeiro have selected essays that "reflect the broad range of Professor Lonsdale's influence and work." O'Brien called the book "an eclectic and lively volume."

Amazing Grace, published in 2002, is a lengthy anthology of poetry written by a spectrum of writers ranging from hitherto unknown writers to more famous authors, such as Coleridge, Defoe, Wordsworth, and Johnson. In more than four hundred poems, the writers address the themes of enslavement, captivity, and occasional moments of freedom as experienced by Africans and African descendents in the English-speaking countries of the world. According to Renee Tawa in Knox News, "Barker said he wanted the anthology to address misconceptions that slavery was simply an American issue of the 1800s." Each of the poems is preceded by an introductory essay by Basker, in which he includes any biographical information he may have discovered about the poets.

A Barnard News Center writer described Amazing Grace as a "landmark anthology of poems" that "speak eloquently of the themes of slavery." In a Publishers Weekly review, a critic called Amazing Grace an "enormous …groundbreaking anthology."



Choice, July, 1988, D. L. Patey, review of Tobias Smollett: Critic and Journalist, p. 1692.

Eighteenth-Century Fiction, July, 1997, Donna Landry, review of Tradition in Transition: Women Writers, Marginal Texts, and the Eighteenth-Century Canon, pp. 516-518.

Journal of English and Germanic Philology, July, 1989, Morris Golden, review of Tobias Smollett, pp. 425-429.

Modern Philology, February, 1990, Byron Gassman, review of Tobias Smollett, pp. 311-313.

Publishers Weekly, September 23, 2002, review of Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems about Slavery, 1660-1810, p. 67.

Review of English Studies, November, 1990, J. A. Downie, review of Tobias Smollett, pp. 576-577; August, 1998, Karen O'Brien, review of Tradition in Transition, pp. 362-363.


Barnard News Center Web site, (January 17, 2003), description of Amazing Grace.

Knoxville News Sentinel online, (January 14, 2003), Renee Tawa, review of Amazing Grace. *