This section of my bookshelf is an eclectic mish-mash, reflecting the interests and passions of its owner. It illustrates my hybrid identity as an enthusiast for language, literature, and the intersection between them, as well as the more specific facts that I have just finished a book on portraiture in the novel of the Romantic period and am just starting one on Jane Austen’s language. These two areas of my research are evident here, as are my past and ongoing dabblings in experimental literature, cognitive poetics, narratology and the Occupy movement. The shelf is, in short, all over the place. I have sometimes begun to attempt to organize books at home and work according to some principle or other, but always given up in despair.
Two books stand out in different ways. Robert MacFarlane’s Landmarks is right at home in such haphazard company; it is a wonderfully off-beat investigation of how our interactions with the world around us are shaped by both linguistic detail and literary imagination. The most non-descript-looking book hiding away on the right and leaning idly on the others is in fact my most prized recent acquisition: a first edition of the second volume of Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, which I am especially interested in because it contains a musical score which folds out (supposedly composed by Clarissa herself). I plan to talk about this, and similar experiments in material and graphic design found throughout the eighteenth-century novel, at a forthcoming public event, The Book: Changing Technologies, at Bank Streets Arts in Sheffield on Friday 30 October.