Brantlinger, Patrick 1941–
BRANTLINGER, Patrick 1941–
(Patrick Morgan Brantlinger)
Born March 20, 1941, in Indianapolis, IN; son of Morgan Wilson (a journalist) and Lavon Ruth (a musician) Brantlinger; married Ellen Carleen Anderson (a professor), June 21, 1963; children: Andrew Morgan, Susan Rachel, Jeremy Zoar. Education: Antioch College, B.A., 1963; Harvard University, M.A., 1965, Ph. D., 1968.
Office—Department of English, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. E-mail—[email protected]
Indiana University—Bloomington, assistant professor, 1968-72, associate professor, 1972-78, professor of English, beginning 1978, became James Rudy Professor Emeritus of English, director of Victorian Studies Program, 1978-90, department chair, 1990-94. National Endowment for the Humanities evaluator, 1988-89.
Modern Language Association of America (Victorian Literature Committee, 1988-93), American Association of University Professors, American Federation of Teachers, Midwest Victorian Studies Association (vice president and president, 1991-93).
Woodrow Wilson fellowship, Guggenheim fellowship, 1978-79; summer fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1983; named distinguished faculty member, Alumni Association of the College of Arts and Sciences, 2001.
The Spirit of Reform: British Literature and Politics, 1832-1867, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1977.
Bread and Circuses: Theories of Mass Culture as Social Decay, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1984.
Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1988.
(Editor) Energy and Entropy: Science and Culture in Victorian Britain; Essays from Victorian Studies, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1989.
Crusoe's Footprints: Cultural Studies in Britain and America, Routledge (New York, NY), 1990.
(Editor, with James Naremore) Modernity and Mass Culture (essays), Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1991.
Fictions of State: Culture and Credit in Britain, 1694-1994, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1996.
The Reading Lesson: The Threat of Mass Literacy in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1998.
Who Killed Shakespeare?: What's Happened to English since the Radical Sixties, Routledge (New York, NY), 2001.
(Editor and author of introduction) H. Rider Haggard, She: A History of Adventure, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 2001.
(Editor, with William B. Thesing) A Companion to the Victorian Novel, Blackwell (Malden, MA), 2002.
Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races, 1800-1930, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2003.
Editor of Victorian Studies, 1980-90.
Patrick Brantlinger is a professor of English and scholar of Victorian studies who has published several books linking Victorian issues and literature with theories of modern culture. In his Bread and Circuses: Theories of Mass Culture as Social Decay, the author discusses what he terms "negative classicism," or the theory that society is weakened and eventually destroyed by its dependence on mass culture. Underlying the thoughts of all the individuals Brantlinger studies is the common belief that progress breeds decay, and "that there had once been a better age, somewhere in the past," according to Voice Literary Supplement critic Laurie Stone.
Brantlinger traces negative classicism from the French Revolution to the late twentieth century, starting with Victorian reactions to the modernization of their culture, and moves chronologically, drawing from the works of many writers, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Soeren Kierkegaard, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Albert Camus, T.S. Eliot, and Marshall McLuhan. In his discussion of each writer, Brantlinger points out that subject's concern about his society's future based on then-current trends, and examines how each saw a better model somewhere in the past.
In her Voice Literary Supplement review, Stone wrote that Bread and Circuses "is a joy to read. Brantlinger is learned, witty, and, best of all, inviting of conversation. Pleasure in the play of his mind smiles from nearly every sentence, and he is wonderfully generous, noting intelligence and plausibility, where they exist, in the anti-democratic theories of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, and esteeming the Frankfurt philosophers, despite their gloom, for sniffing out oppression in places liberals seldom think to look." The critic also declared that Brantlinger's "work in the 19th century has steered him wisely and well to his current subject, which could be described as a history of reactions to modernization."
Another of Brantlinger's works, Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914, is what the author describes as "cultural history," depicting how Victorian literature affected the building of the British Empire and supported the Empire's prevalent racism. Again, Brantlinger interrelates historical facts with the observations of numerous writers, among them William Makepeace Thackeray. "The results are illuminating," wrote John Sutherland in Times Literary Supplement, "not because of any new critical wrinkle but because Brantlinger is a sound critic and a well-read historian who writes clearly on topics with complex interrelations." Sutherland added: "Brantlinger's is an important book whose effect will be felt on a number of fronts."
Brantlinger's Crusoe's Footprints: Cultural Studies in Britain and America describes the way in which universities and the media are adapting to an everchanging society, one in which women, people of color, and other minorities are given a voice and represented in literature and art, and are thus empowered in society. He sees a need for cultural studies to embody the whole mosaic of society. Times Literary Supplement critic Wendy Steiner declared Crusoe's Footprints "excellent both as an introduction and as a sourcebook to the cultural studies movement."
The connection between economics and the production of literature is explored by Brantlinger in Fictions of State: Culture and Credit in Britain, 1694-1994. He links the growth of Britain's national debt with the expansion of the empire and the rise of nationalism, and discusses in depth the economic shadings of works by Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Swift. He studies the implications of the advent of paper money and the increasing use of credit. The author "astutely unpacks both the economic role of credit and the public debt and the imaginary role that the public debt took on," according to James Najarian in a College Literature. review.
In The Reading Lesson: The Threat of Mass Literacy in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction, Brantlinger revisited the theme of Bread and Circuses: the idea that popular culture could lead to social decay. In the nineteenth century, novelists were at pains to point out the vast difference between good reading and bad reading. Reading elite works was seen as desirable and good, while reading popular fiction was seen as a bad habit. The general public itself was characterized in a derogatory manner, as having the potential to become a dangerous mob very quickly. "Brantlinger's theme is linked to the ever present topic of censorship and its close cousin, cultural elitism," noted Christine Pawley in Library Quarterly. The author's "analysis provides a much needed—and readable—historical context and social comment."
Brantlinger's Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races, 1800-1930 discusses the destruction of various indigenous people, whose "primitive" way of life was often seen as rightly done away with in the name of progress. This notion of the inevitable advance of civilization was a powerful justification for policies that quickly undercut the lifestyles and cultures of ancient peoples and their civilizations. Leading thinkers of the era with widely divergent viewpoints somehow all agreed that the primitive races were simply fated to disappear. "One is struck by the uniformity of views that cut across professions, classes, geographies, and time," stated Deborah Neill in Canadian Journal of History. "Brantlinger shows consistencies through deft comparisons and innovative sources that include poems, songs, novels, essays, scientific treatises, and history texts." He contrasts the Western idea of social perfection with the extinction of various races throughout the Americas, Polynesia, and the British empire. Regenia Gagnier, a contributor to English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, credited Brantlinger "with his customarily thorough scholarship." Gagnier also commented: "This book makes clearer than most post-colonial critiques since Fanon how closely extinction was the reverse narrative of progress and civilization, the other side of the coin."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Brantlinger, Patrick, Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1988.
Canadian Journal of History, April, 2005, Deborah Neill, review of Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races, 1800-1930, p. 180.
College Literature, fall, 1998, James Najarian, review of Fictions of State: Culture and Credit in Britain, 1694-1994, p. 164; winter, 2001, John L. Hoch heimer, review of Reading the World through the Word: The Power of Literacy in a New Media Age, p. 202.
English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, winter, 2005, Regenia Gagnier, review of Dark Vanishings, p. 227.
Library Journal, August, 2001, Terry Christner Hutchinson, review of Who Killed Shakespeare?: What's Happened to English since the Radical Sixties, p. 126.
Library Quarterly, April, 2000, Christine Pawley, review of The Reading Lesson: The Threat of Mass Literacy in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction, p. 271.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 11, 1985, Alex Raksin, review of Bread and Circuses: Theories of Mass Culture as Social Decay, p. 8.
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, summer, 1997, Robert Markley, review of Fictions of State, p. 637.
Studies in the Novel, winter, 2004, Robert A. Colby, review of A Companion to the Victorian Novel, p. 580.
Times Literary Supplement, September 9, 1988, John Sutherland, review of Rule of Darkness, p. 996; January 25, 1991, Wendy Steiner, review of Crusoe's Footprints: Cultural Studies in Britain and America, p. 7.
Victorian Studies, summer, 2004, Philip Davis, review of A Companion to the Victorian Novel, p. 679.
Voice Literary Supplement, February, 1984, Laurie Stone, review of Bread and Circuses, pp. 10-12.*