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A Reader of Fictions: Other Possibilities - Rachel Portman

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Other Possibilities - Rachel Portman

Disenchantment: George Steiner and the Meaning of Western Civilization After Auschwitz

Author: Catherine D. Chatterley
Pages: 182 (of which almost 50 are notes and references)
Publisher: Syracuse University Press

Disenchantment
is Catherine Chatterley's dissertation, which has evidently been deemed worthy of publication. I did not decide to pursue a history degree, but I did attend an undergraduate institution which required me to write an I.S. (sort of a master's thesis for undergrads). Chatterley's dissertation definitely took me back to the time I spent composing my own insanely long historical paper.

Her essay resembles mine also in scope and organization. She analyzes the history of one historian's (George Steiner's) opinions through the lens of his works, as I did with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The layout is remarkably similar too: starting with an introduction, then a biography, then through the works by time period. Although, she only explicitly goes through work by work in the second chapter. After that, she still analyzes publication by publication, but does not really organize it that same way, which I found to be weak and clunky.

I read this hoping for more of an analysis on the Holocaust, putting a stresser on Auschwitz in the subtitle rather than Steiner, but this is really more about Steiner's own personal opinions than that. Not knowing anything about Steiner, this was a bit boring for me. Plus, it reads like a dissertation, which is to be expected, but still is not particularly attractive.

Chatterley definitely seems to have done her research; she knows Steiner backward and forward. If I were studying Steiner, this would be an invaluable source. So, for historical research, Disenchantment would be quite useful, but, as a pleasure read, not so much.

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