“…A fantastic combination of solid scholarship and genuinely arresting narrative. It's a great book and is the heir to the best kind of scholarly writing, i.e. Trilling, that was once
appreciated by a literate, general public, as opposed to the indecipherable, navel-gazing garbage that hack Ph.D.'s churn out by the ton these days.” ~ Thomas Vinciguerra, NY Times
"A splendid book! Original, controversial, academic, readable, serious, light-hearted, sensible, charming..." - Hazel Holt, Literary Executor of the Barbara Pym Estate, author of Barbara Pym’s biography, A Lot to Ask: A Life of Barbara Pym and editor (with Hilary Pym) of Barbara Pym’s unpublished work, Civil to Strangers and Other Writings; leading crime novelist.
"It should be mandatory reading for all undergraduate students of English Literature; no American students of English Literature should be allowed to set foot upon campus without having proved that they have read it..." - Peter Miles, Emeritus Fellow of the English Association.
American writer Harrison Solow has been honoured with multiple awards for her literary fiction, nonfiction, cross-genre writing, poetry and professional writing, most notably winning a Pushcart Prize for Literature in 2008. Harrison Solow is one of the two best-selling University of California Press authors of all time (at time of publication), a Notable Alumna of Mills College where she earned an MFA, and holds the rare distinction of a British PhD in English (Letters) with a critical and creative dissertation “Accepted as Submitted: No Changes” from Trinity Saint David, 2011.
This little passage has raised some controversy among a few readers, particularly those who read it on my blog and did not read the book, which goes on to say that there are shining examples of beautifully educated professors, gifted with insight, who understand the process of producing literature and who offer valuable insights on literary process: how literature is engendered - how it forms, grows, eventuates - without any experience of it themselves, but they are few.
The intent here was not to purport that anyone who teaches Shakespeare must have written a Shakespeare-quality work but simply that it is *generally* wiser to teach from experience and not from reading about the experience of others. The formation of a text must be taken seriously. Even if a professor has only written critical material (and I consider all writing a "creative" act if it is born of original thought and not merely synthesis of others' ideas) and has not produced original fiction, poetry plays, etc., s/he has a better chance of conveying that formation than someone who is entirely divorced from the creative act and serves only as a critic/pontificator.
This is not altogether a popular view.
Felicity & Barbara Pym
As to your question, ‘How do I choose my professors wisely?’ You must read what they write, of course. You wouldn’t trust the tutelage of a Professor of Neurosurgery who had never practised surgery, or a piano teacher who did not know how to play the piano or a driving instructor who had never driven a car. Why would you care to be taught Literature by people who have never produced any? (fiction or non.) You will hear the argument that they are there to teach you how to read a novel or a poem and to deconstruct it, and that they are able to do that without ever having written anything themselves. Well, if you want to buy that, you are free to do so.