A Piece of the Action

The Critics Bear It Away is a collection of eight essays by Frederick Crews, dating "from the later 1980's and early 1990's," starting off, after the accurate road map of the "Introduction," with "The Sins of the Fathers Revisited," an afterword written to accompany the 1989 reprinting of The Sins of the Fathers (1966), which Crews describes as "the most influential of my critical studies," one that seems to have "helped to establish a vogue for Freudian criticism not just of Hawthorne but of American writers generally." More than 20 years of active critical engagement since then have allowed Crews the chance to change his mind about some things, to modify some earlier judgments, and, at the very least, to admit to the need for a much more expanded and complicated context than strictly "the intrapsychic realm" of Freudian psychoanalysis. Moreover he recognizes, in a personal, at times confessional, stance and tone that he himself has now become part of the picture, someone with his very own piece of the action: "My drastically changed relation to Sins and to psychoanalysis has itself, I realize, become a topic of academic notice, provoking responses ranging from puzzlement to titillation to dismay." The other essays, versions of most of which appeared in Crews' familiar public showcase, the New York Review of Books, are mostly extended...

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