Sharpe, Tony 1952-

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SHARPE, Tony 1952-


Male. Born 1952; married; children.


Home—Cumbria, England. Office—Department of English and Creative Writing, Bowland College, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YT, England. E-mail—[email protected]


Educator and writer. Lancaster University, Lancaster, England, head of department of English and creative writing and senior lecturer; Poets' House, Ireland, instructor in master's program in creative writing (poetry) instructor.


T. S. Eliot: A Literary Life, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1991.

Vladimir Nabokov, E. Arnold (New York, NY), 1991.

Wallace Stevens: A Literary Life, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Contributor to books, including Warren Chernaik and Ian Willison, editors, Modernist Writers and the Marketplace, Macmillan (London, England), 1996; and Michael Freeman and Andrew D. Lewis, editors, Law and Literature, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1999.


A book about British modernism.


Tony Sharpe is a British specialist in American and modern literature with an emphasis on poetry. He has written monographs on poet T. S. Eliot, Russian fiction writer and literary critic Vladimir Nabokov, and Wallace Stevens, the last one of the foremost twentieth-century American poets.

The subject of Sharpe's first book, T. S. Eliot, was born in the United States in 1888 and moved in 1914 to England, where he eventually became director of the publishing house Faber & Faber. He died in London in 1965. Once in England, Eliot was strongly influenced by Ezra Pound. Eliot's first book of poetry was published in 1917 and immediately established him as a leading poet of the avant-garde. Eliot is famous for his insistence that there be an absolute separation of the "man that suffers" and "the mind that creates." In his review of T. S. Eliot: A Literary Life in the Times Educational Supplement, Brian Morton noted that while Eliot supporters believe the poet approached his work bearing that separation in mind, he disagrees with this purview; Eliot's work is, according to Morton, unquestionably "packed with transparent autobiographical references [and] ideological and social prejudices." Morton noted that Sharpe focuses primarily on the self-conceptualization pervading Eliot's works and praised the biographer for "recentring Eliot study." He also credited Sharpe with an obvious awareness of the artistic influence that Eliot's sense of displacement had upon his work. In a review for Choice, J. Hafley contended that Sharpe's book serves as an excellent introduction to new students and as a refresher for those more familiar with the highly enigmatic Eliot, particularly as Sharpe illuminates his subject's life and works within their historical and esthetic environment.

The subject of Sharpe's second book, Vladimir Nabokov, was born in Russia in 1888 and died in Switzerland in 1977. He fled both Russia and Germany during World War I, was forced once again to leave France in 1940 during World War II, moving to the United States, where he taught at Harvard, Cornell, and Wellesley. As a child, he read such greats as Keats, Flaubert, Poe, and Tolstoy, and became a prolific writer, penning fiction in English after settling in America. Andrew R. Durkin noted in the Slavic Review that Sharpe discusses in detail only one of Nabokov's Russian works, Invitation to a Beheading. Nabokov's English works, Lolita, Pnin, Pale Fire, and Bend Sinister, which are considered the writer's greatest works, receive in-depth attention. Durkin commented: "While granting full allowance to Nabokov's verbal brilliance … Sharpe successfully avoids the trap of letting Nabokov's gaudy surface distract attention from the core of his novels." Morton noted that while a full-length study of Nabokov's complete works is warranted, "Sharpe's is the current front-runner."

Born in 1879, New England poet Wallace Stevens is renowned for the complexity and often almost inaccessible quality of his poetry. His interest in writing poetry began while at Harvard, and his first book of verse, Harmonium, was published in 1923. Although admired by most of his contemporaries, Stevens received little critical acclaim. Discouraged and lacking confidence in his poetic abilities, he wrote very little until the 1930s. Because Stevens had a full-time corporate career—from being a bonding lawyer for an insurance company to becoming vice president of Hartford Accident and Indemnity—he was considered by Ezra Pound and other young modernists as an amateur because his livelihood did not depend upon his poetry. Stevens died in 1955.

While what many consider Stevens's best works were produced when he was in his sixties and seventies, Wallace Stevens: A Literary Life is especially informative about Stevens's early, more obscure works. A Kirkus Reviews critic said that Sharpe "focuses on the place of Stevens as an American intellectual revolutionary in the spirit of Bradford and Emerson," adding that "Stevens's complex work is a dialogue between the newness and nothingness of America and the history and conventions of Europe." According to Lee M. Jenkins in Notes and Queries, "Sharpe's task is to elicit 'the nothing that is' there in Stevens's relatively uneventful life, and this Sharpe does with elegance and concision." Indeed, the first two chapters are titled "The Metier of Nothingness" and "Starting with Nothing."

J. J. Patton, writing for Choice, believed that Sharpe is "less concerned with biography and more with Stevens's publishing history, critical reputation, and stature as a major poet." Sharpe explores the connections and contradictions between Stevens's corporate and poetic worlds, which—along with personal, historical, and societal influences—also influenced Sharpe's analysis. Of Sharpe's book, a Publishers Weekly critic commented, "What is eerily lacking here is a sense of the poems; very few quotations or discussions exist." And in this context, Mirela Roncevic wrote in Library Journal, "Two things are necessary to make sense of Sharpe's intimidating but intelligent thesis: an interest in Stevens's work and a copy of his Collected Poetry and Prose."



Choice, April, 1992, J. Hafley, review of T. S. Eliot: A Literary Life, pp. 1228-1229; June, 2000, J. J. Patton, review of Wallace Stevens: A Literary Life.

Kirkus Reviews, 1999, review of Wallace Stevens.

Library Journal, October 15, 1999, Mirela Roncevic, review of Wallace Stevens, p. 73.

Notes and Queries, September, 2001, Lee M. Jenkins, review of Wallace Stevens, pp. 347-349.

Publishers Weekly, December 6, 1999, review of Wallace Stevens, p. 73.

Slavic Review, spring, 1993, Andrew Durkin, review of Vladimir Nabokov, pp. 125-126.

Times Educational Supplement, March 13, 1992, Brian Morton, review of Vladimir Nabokov, and T. S. Eliot, p. 30.


Lancaster University Web site, (December 2, 2003), "Tony Sharpe."*