Leader, Zachary 1946-
LEADER, Zachary 1946-
PERSONAL: Born December 1, 1946, in New York, NY; son of Anton Morris (a film director) and Rosalinde (in business; maiden name, Palea) Leader; married Alice Spencer Alwerter (a teacher), June 16, 1969; children: Nick, Max. Education: Northwestern University, B.A. (with honors), 1969; Trinity College, Cambridge, M.A. (with honors), 1971; Harvard University, A.M., 1973, Ph.D., 1977. Politics: Democrat.
ADDRESSES: Home—61 Elgin Cres., London W 11, England. Offıce—School of English and Modern Languages, University of Surrey Roehampton, Roehampton Ln., London SW15 5PH, England. E-mail— [email protected]
CAREER: Roehampton Institute (later known as University of Surrey Roehampton), London, England, reader in English, beginning 1977, became professor of English literature. California Institute of Technology, visiting professor, 1991-93.
AWARDS, HONORS: Woodrow Wilson fellow, 1969; Mellon fellow at Huntingdon Library, 1989 and 1991.
Reading Blake's Songs, Routledge & Kegan Paul (Boston, MA), 1981.
Writer's Block, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1991.
(Editor, with Ian Haywood) Romantic Period Writings, 1798-1832: An Anthology, Routledge (New York, NY), 1998.
(Editor) The Letters of Kingsley Amis, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
(Editor) On Modern British Fiction, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor, with Michael O'Neill) Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Major Works, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including London Review of Books and Times Literary Supplement.
SIDELIGHTS: Zachary Leader is an American scholar who teaches at the School of English and Modern Languages at the Roehampton Institute in London. His professional interests include literary criticism and history, and his writing and editorial work has often focused on English writers of the Romantic and Modern periods. One of Leader's most notable books is Revision and Romantic Authorship, in which he challenges the idea that Romantic authors did not revise their works or collaborate with others because they valued a spontaneous, natural creative process. Leader also edited the widely reviewed book The Letters of Kingsley Amis, for which he was credited with careful scholarship in selecting and annotating some 1,200 pages of Amis's alternately humorous and shocking letters.
As Angela Leighton explained in a review of Revision and Romantic Authorship for the Times Literary Supplement, Romantic writers created a myth in which they insisted on "the supremacy of unpremeditated over reconsidered art, inspiration over composition, autonomy over co-operation." Leader examines the work of William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Samuel Coleridge, John Clare, and John Keats to show how in reality their works were indeed revised, either by the writer or by others. Wordsworth "revisited" poems later in life, while Coleridge revised poems when they were to be republished. Byron could not be bothered to clean up his own work, but often gave this assignment to others; Shelley welcomed her husband's changes to Frankenstein; and Clare apparently expected his editor John Taylor to finish poems for him. Leader also considers the lasting impact of the Romantic authorial myth on modern editorial attitudes.
Critics often named Leader's book as an important successor to Jack Stillinger's Multiple Authorship and the Myth of Solitary Genius, and found many other aspects of the book to recommend. Leighton described it as "enlightening, witty and provocative." Writing for Choice, N. Fruman called the subject "inherently fascinating, not only to students of literature but to anyone interested in the arts." "This is a rich, various book, wittily argumentative and independently minded," said Seamus Perry in Review of English Studies; "Leader strives to imagine the human reality of his cases in an attractive and entirely plausible way too often missing in criticism with an avowedly 'historicist' agenda." In Modern Philology Susan Eilenberg remarked that Leader's book "feels strangely unrevised, uneven, unfinished" but concluded that it was "valuable nonetheless, not only as a counterpoise to current editorial fashion, not only as a collection of sometimes winning essays, but also as a reminder of the unglamorously human realities of Romantic writing and the necessarily human obligations those realities impose on us." Terence Allan Hoagwood suggested in Criticism that Leader's book addresses pertinent issues: "Whether editors should reproduce altered texts of poems because authors wanted them to do so, and whether literary scholarship has a sciential function at all, or whether preference and an obsolete concept of 'the self' should determine the aims and methods of literary studies—these are extremely important questions."
Subsequently, Leader served with Ian Haywood as editor of Romantic Period Writings, 1798-1832: An Anthology. It contains a wide range of writings, which are divided into the categories of radical journalism, political economy, atheism, empire and race, nation and state, gender, and literary institutions. In the Times Literary Supplement, Nora Crook called it a "canon-widening" collaboration that was essentially a course book. Working with Michael O'Neill, Leader has also edited The Major Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, a collection of poetry and prose. Shelley's fame as a poet grew after his widow, Mary, edited his work for new publications. Times Literary Supplement critic Richard Cronin commented on the debt all editors of Shelley's work owe to Mary, and he judged Leader and O'Neill's preface to be "the best brief introductory essay on Shelly yet written."
Interest in The Letters of Kingsley Amis benefited from Leader's meticulous care in presenting the novelist's copious personal correspondence. Amis became an important literary figure when he published Lucky Jim in 1954 and joined the group of British writers known as the Angry Young Men. His letters are of interest because they share the humor and outrage of his novels; they also show Amis to be fiercely opinionated about literature, a frequently unfaithful husband, a devoted friend to poet Philip Larkin, and in the case of his son Martin, who is also a famous novelist, a more jealous than admiring father. Leader is a friend of Martin Amis and was chosen to edit his father's letters after the project was started by another editor.
Leader's selection of more than eight hundred letters was praised by critics. Atlantic Monthly contributor Geoffrey Wheatcroft, for one, called the book "a remarkable work of scholarly industry" despite his desire for "more explanatory detail." In the New York Times Book Review, Michael Lewis said the whole work was "beautifully organized and annotated" and singled out the letters to Larkin as among "the funniest things Amis ever wrote.... [They] suffer less than you might think from being only one side of a long conversation. This is a measure both of their editor's skill and of the author's eye for his audience."
As editor of On Modern British Fiction, Leader collected essays by literary scholars and fiction writers that treat topics including modern historical fiction, "Lad lit," comic tradition, the Scottish novel, and American views of modern British fiction. Writing for the Spectator, Caroline Moore said the book "in general captures the rambling, freshly aired, bring-your-own-views, picnic format of a good conference." Stephen Wade was unsure what audience the book would appeal to, but he commented in the Contemporary Review that it was "a fascinating symposium ranging from artistic credos to revisionist perspectives." The difficulty of determining what is "modern" and "British" was noted by Lawrence Norfolk in a Times Literary Supplement review, but he happily concluded that "all the diverse writers gathered under the rubric of 'Modern British Fiction' are read by British readers, whose eclectic tastes appear untroubled by definitions."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlantic Monthly, September, 2000, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, "Books—What Kingsley Can Teach Martin," p. 110.
Choice, July, 1997, N. Fruman, review of Revision and Romantic Authorship, p. 1801.
Contemporary Review, August, 2003, Stephen Wade, "Fiction in Modern Britain," p. 113.
Criticism, fall, 1997, Terence Allan Hoagwood, review of Revision and Romantic Authorship, p. 617.
Journal of English and German Philology, July, 1998, Mark Jones, review of Revision and Romantic Authorship, p. 450.
Modern Philology, November, 1999, Susan Eilenberg, review of Revision and Romantic Authorship, p. 289.
New York Times Book Review, January 13, 2002, Michael Lewis, "The Old Devil," p. 12.
Review of English Studies, February, 1998, Seamus Perry, review of Revision and Romantic Authorship, p. 93.
Spectator, October 19, 2002, Caroline Moore, review of On Modern British Fiction, p. 56.
Times Literary Supplement, January 11, 1991, Claire Harman, "All the Hell of an Author," p. 4; August 2, 1996, Angela Leighton, "Visions Revised," p. 5; March 5, 1999, Nora Crook, review of Romantic Period Writings, 1798-1832: An Anthology, p. 26; February 14, 2003, Lawrence Norfolk, review of On Modern British Fiction, p. 28; October 3, 2003, Richard Cronin, "Shelley's Pirates," p 12.*