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Brooks, Peter 1938–

Brooks, Peter 1938–

(Peter Preston Brooks)

PERSONAL:

Born April 19, 1938, in New York, NY; son of Ernest, Jr. and Mary Caroline Brooks; married Margaret Elisabeth Waters (a teacher), July 18, 1959 (divorced, 1995), married Rosa Ehrenreich, May 15, 2001; children: three (first marriage), one (second marriage). Education: Harvard University, A.B., 1959, M.A., 1962, Ph.D., 1965. Politics: Democrat.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Department of Comparative Literature, Yale University, P.O. Box 208299, New Haven, CT 06520-8299. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Yale University, New Haven, CT, instructor, 1965-67, assistant professor, 1967-71, associate professor, 1971-75, professor of French and comparative literature, 1975-80, Chester D. Tripp Professor of Humanities, 1980-2001, Sterling Professor of Comparative Literature and French, 2001—, chair, Department of French, 1983-88, Department of Comparative Literature, 1991-97, director of literature major, 1974-83, director of Whitney Humanities Center, 1981-91, 1996-2001; Eastman visiting professor, University of Oxford, 2001-02.

MEMBER:

Modern Language Association of America, American Comparative Literature Association.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Marshall fellow, 1959; Morse fellow, 1967, Guggenheim fellow, 1973-74; Officier des Palmes Academiques, 1986; honorary M.A., Yale University, 1975; American Council of Learned Societies fellow, 1980—; National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, 1988; honorary Ph.D., Ecole Normale Superieure, 1997.

WRITINGS:

The Novel of Worldliness, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1969.

(Editor) The Child's Part, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1972.

(Editor, with Alvin B. Kernan and J. Michael Holquist) Man and His Fictions, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1973.

The Melodramatic Imagination, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1976, with new preface, 1995.

(Editor, with Joseph Halpern) Genet: A Collection of Critical Essays, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1979.

Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative, Knopf (New York, NY), 1984.

(Editor) Henry James, The Wings of the Dove, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1984.

Body Work: Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1993.

Psychoanalysis and Storytelling, Blackwell (Cambridge, MA), 1994.

(Editor, with Paul Gewirtz) Law's Stories: Narrative and Rhetoric in the Law, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1996.

(Editor) Honoré de Balzac, Père Goriot: A New Translation, Norton (New York, NY), 1998.

World Elsewhere (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.

Troubling Confessions: Speaking Guilt in Law and Literature, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2000.

(Editor, with Alex Woloch) Whose Freud? The Place of Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2000.

Realist Vision, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2005.

Henry James Goes to Paris, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2007.

Contributor of articles and reviews to literature journals, including New Republic and The New York Times Book Review. Associate editor, Yale French Studies, 1966—; contributing editor, Partisan Review, 1972-88. Chair, editorial board, Yale Journal of Criticism.

SIDELIGHTS:

Peter Brooks is a distinguished scholar who specializes in comparative literature. In Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative, he points out that plot has long been dismissed as the lowest element that goes into the making of a novel. Brooks commented that while plot analysis may be obvious, that does not mean it is not fruitful. Reviewing Reading for the Plot in New York Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt found it to be occasionally dense reading, yet the reviewer commended Brooks for upholding the legiti- macy of plot and for making "a new and useful connection between criticism and psychoanalysis" by identifying plot as "an aspect of Freud's pleasure principle." In the Times Literary Supplement, reviewer Terence Cave called Reading for the Plot "a major book by a major critic. It will appeal both to literary theorists and to readers of the novel, and it is likely to be seen as an important point of reference for many years to come."

Troubling Confessions: Speaking Guilt in Law and Literature is Brooks's consideration of the urge for and practice of confession throughout history and at various levels of society. Brooks gives readers an explanation of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, which established the need for confession in order to gain eternal salvation. From this proclamation, believes Brooks, has come the contemporary need to confess secrets publicly. He notes that people frequently confess when they could apparently get away without doing so, and that people even confess to crimes they did not commit. Richard Lourie, writing in New York Times Book Review, commented: "[Troubling Confessions is] a book so rich in fresh ideas that I found myself underlining as madly as an undergraduate." "Brooks argues that people confess to make their interrogators more lenient, and to gain absolution—a critical and persuasive insight," stated M.N.S. Sellers, reviewing in Washington Post Book World. Richard A. Posner, reviewing Troubling Confessions in New Republic, observed: "Brooks is not a lawyer, but he handles legal materials with aplomb, and he writes with equal authority about the other domains of human activity in which the confession figures largely. His range is impressive." Posner acknowledged that at times, Brooks's book is "somewhat overwrought," but concluded that overall, it is "fascinating and erudite."

Brooks ventured into fiction writing with World Elsewhere, a historical novel about a European rake who flees his messy, decadent life in Paris to sign on board a ship destined to go around the world. Making landfall in Tahiti in 1768, the protagonist begins an affair with a native woman and soon finds himself embroiled in the conflict between Europeans and the indigenous people. As the time draws near for departure, he realizes that his simple connection with his Tahitian beauty is really much more profound than all his Parisian dalliances, and he must decide whether to "go native" or return to the world he knows best. World Elsewhere is "skillfully composed and accurately detailed," according to Gilbert Taylor in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that the characters were somewhat two-dimensional, but praised the author's "limber prose and articulate dialogue" in this "very well-crafted first novel." Reviewing the book in the Wall Street Journal, Elizabeth Bukowski wrote: "Mr. Brooks leads the reader along this memorable tale without a misstep." Michael Frank stated in Los Angeles Times, "contemporary in its empathy, compassionate in its perspective and capacious in its ideas, this historical novel belongs both to the 18th and to the late-20th centuries. It is a rarity, a novel generated in the library that comes richly to life outside of it, a book that shimmers with sensuality, suspense and much genuine human feeling."

In Henry James Goes to Paris, Brooks takes a look at the year that Henry James spent in France when he was in his early thirties and not yet known for his modernist novels that were to become his hallmark in later years. Having stopped off in London for a visit to some tailors, James landed in Paris and soon made the acquaintance of a number of prominent writers living or visiting the city at the time, including Turgenev, Zola, and Maupassant. Brooks reveals that James exhibited rather conventional opinions at the time, and he goes into detail regarding the trip, James's thoughts on art and literature, and how the city ultimately affected him. Anita Brookner, writing for Spectator, praised the book, though she noted that Brooks strays somewhat off course, stating: "What began as an account of a fledgling writer's enthusiasms and resistances turns one's attention back to Paris and the amazing developments in painting and literature which James in effect condemned. His own stealthy evolution is a radical departure from the prevailing ethos, and as such a different form of modernism, whether backward looking or progressive is difficult to say."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

ABA Journal, June, 1996, review of Law's Stories: Narrative and Rhetoric in the Law, p. 102.

American Literature, December, 1984, review of Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative, p. 631; October, 1985, review of The Melodramatic Imagination, p. 503.

Antioch Review, fall, 1984, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 507.

Booklist, May 15, 1984, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 1287; February 1, 1999, Gilbert Taylor, review of World Elsewhere, p. 960.

Choice, November, 1996, review of Law's Stories, p. 535.

Christian Science Monitor, February 11, 1999, review of World Elsewhere, p. 16.

Comparative Literature, winter, 1996, review of Psychoanalysis and Storytelling and Body Work: Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative, p. 65; spring, 1987, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 176.

Comparative Literature Studies, April, 1996, review of Body Work, p. 427.

Critical Inquiry, autumn, 1989, Jay Clayton, "Narrative and Theories of Desire," p. 33.

Encounter, July, 1985, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 27.

French Review, March, 1981, review of Genet: A Collection of Critical Essays, p. 606.

Hudson Review, summer, 1985, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 321.

Journal of English and Germanic Philology, January, 1986, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 87.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1984, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 333; November 1, 1998, review of World Elsewhere, p. 1548.

Library Journal, July, 1984, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 1327; April 15, 1993, Richard Kuczkowski, review of Body Work, p. 90; January, 1999, Robert E. Brown, review of World Elsewhere, p. 146; September 1, 2000, David Valencia, review of Whose Freud? The Place of Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture, p. 233.

Literature and History, autumn, 1985, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 295.

London Review of Books, May 27, 1993, review of Body Work, p. 7.

Los Angeles Times, February 19, 1999, Michael Frank, review of World Elsewhere, p. E3.

Michigan Quarterly Review, winter, 1995, review of Body Work, p. 124.

Modern Fiction Studies, winter, 1985, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 840; summer, 1994, review of Body Work, p. 423.

New Criterion, January, 2001, Marc M. Arkin, review of Troubling Confessions: Speaking Guilt in Law and Literature, p. 76.

New Republic, July 9, 1984, Victor Brombert, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 36; December 9, 1996, review of Law's Stories, p. 27; August 21, 2000, Richard A. Posner, "Let Them Talk," p. 42.

New York Times, July 11, 1984, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 23; March 21, 1999, Hilary Mantel, review of World Elsewhere; July 16, 2000, Richard Lourie, review of Troubling Confessions.

New York Times Book Review, July 22, 1984, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 31; September 15, 1985, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 38; March 21, 1999, Hilary Mantel, review of World Elsewhere, p. 24; July 16, 2000, Richard Lourie, review of Troubling Confessions, p. 14.

Nineteenth Century Literature, June, 1986, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 100.

Poetics Today, Volume 7, number 3, 1986, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 555.

Publishers Weekly, April 13, 1984, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 55; November 2, 1998, review of World Elsewhere, p. 70.

Quarterly Journal of Speech, November, 1987, review of Law's Stories, p. 478.

Review of English Studies, August, 1986, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 450.

Sewanee Review, January, 1987, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 134.

Southern Humanities Review, spring, 1995, review of Body Work, p. 187.

Spectator, April 21, 2007, Anita Brookner, "What Henry Knew."

Times Literary Supplement, January 4, 1985, Terence Cave, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 14; July 2, 1993, review of Body Work, p. 24; September 11, 1998, review of Law's Stories, p. 27; October 13, 2000, review of Troubling Confessions, p. 27.

Village Voice, August 31, 1993, review of Body Work, p. 89.

Virginia Quarterly Review, winter, 1985, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 20.

Wall Street Journal, March 23, 1999, Elizabeth Bukowski, review of World Elsewhere, p. A20.

Washington Post Book World, July 26, 1992, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 12; September 3, 2000, M.N.S. Sellers, review of Troubling Confessions, p. 8.

Western Humanities Review, summer, 1985, review of Reading for the Plot, p. 187.

World Literature Today, winter, 1994, Marian Angele, review of Body Work, p. 266.

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