Mistress of Deceit

Oxford University Press advertises its Past Master series (of which this book is one) as being "a noble encyclopaedia of the history of ideas" in which "lucid and authoritative" modern critics introduce us to the best of what has been thought and written. Oxford seems to have dropped a brick on this one. Lucid? Here are some passages which may help the reader decide:

The public duty of the playwright was to bring the caviare of his angelic intellectual exercise within the grasp of those savage hordes. . . .

The godlike power of the creators of illusory worlds, the irresistible tendency of man to debauchery rather than improvement, the blindness and self-indulgence of intellectuals, has cropped out, as the defrocked hierophant begs our intercession to save his soul.

The language ranges from Victorian prissy to the imitation of—i.e., "the unsynthesized manifold of everyday life"—a kind of Minimalism.

Authoritative? When Greer talks about Desiderius Erasmus, she identifies him as one of the "schoolmen" and explains that they were philosophical antagonists of Shakespeare. The greatest "schoolmen" had been safely dead for more than a century before Erasmus' birth. And by no stretch of the imagination was Erasmus a medieval. When she analyzes the winter song in Love's Labours Lost

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