Absent Minds

Absent Minds : Intellectuals in Britain

3.89 (18 ratings by Goodreads)
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A richly textured work of history and a powerful contribution to contemporary cultural debate, Absent Minds provides the first full-length account of 'the question of intellectuals' in twentieth-century Britain - have such figures ever existed, have they always been more prominent or influential elsewhere, and are they on the point of becoming extinct today?

Recovering neglected or misunderstood traditions of reflection and debate from the late nineteenth century through to the present, Stefan Collini challenges the familiar cliche that there are no 'real' intellectuals in Britain. The book offers a persuasive analysis of the concept of 'the intellectual' and an extensive comparative account of how this question has been seen in the USA, France, and elsewhere in Europe. There are detailed discussions of influential or revealing figures such as
Julien Benda, T. S. Eliot, George Orwell, and Edward Said, as well as trenchant critiques of current assumptions about the impact of specialization and celebrity. Throughout, attention is paid to the multiple senses of the term 'intellectuals' and to the great diversity of relevant genres and media
through which they have communicated their ideas, from pamphlets and periodical essays to public lectures and radio talks.

Elegantly written and rigorously argued, Absent Minds is a major, long-awaited work by a leading intellectual historian and cultural commentator, ranging across the conventional divides between academic disciplines and combining insightful portraits of individuals with sharp-edged cultural analysis.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 538 pages
  • 137 x 216 x 27mm | 663g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0199216657
  • 9780199216659
  • 733,876

Table of contents

Introduction: The Question of Intellectuals ; PART ONE: THE TERMS OF THE QUESTION ; 1. The History of a Word ; 2. A Matter of Definition ; PART TWO: FONDER HEARTS ; 3. Anglo-Saxon Attitudes ; 4. Of Light and Leading ; 5. Highbrows and Other Aliens ; 6. The Long 1950s I: Happy Families ; 7. The Long 1950s II: Brave Causes ; 8. From New Left to Old Chestnut ; PART THREE: COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVES ; 9. In their Natonal Habitat ; 10. Greener Grass: Letters from America ; 11. The Peculiarities of the French ; 12. The Translation of the Clerks ; PART FOUR: SOME VERSIONS OF DENIAL ; 13. Clerisy or Undesirables: T. S. Eliot ; 14. Professional Cackling: R. G. Collingwood ; 15. Other People: George Orwell ; 16. Nothing to Say: A. J. P. Taylor ; 17. No True Answers: A. J. Ayer ; PART FIVE: REPEAT PERFORMANCES ; 18. Outsider Studies: The Glamour of Dissent ; 19. Media Studies: A Discourse of General Ideas ; 20. Long Views I: Specialization and its Discontents ; 21. Long Views II: From Authority to Celebrity? ; Epilogue: No Elsewhere
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Review quote

Review from previous edition Stefan Collini's Absent Minds provided an intriguing analysis of the question of intellectuals in Britian during the twentieth century...a superb, well-writtian book with few discernible flaws...Collini has tackled a complex subject in an imaginative and compelling fashion, and Absent Minds will only enhance his reputation as the leading schloar of British intellectual history. * Michael D. Stevenson russel:the Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies * Complex and challenging work. * Times Higher Education Supplement * Absent Minds is a tour de force by a scholar and critic at the height of his powers * James Wilsdon, Financial Times * Absent Minds is an intriguing, sometimes illuminating, book written with elegance and elan. * David Stack, The English Historical Review * Stefan Collini promises a panoramic view of British intellectuals in the 20th century ... with contemporary disquisitions on "media studies" and celebrity. Collini is expert at the urbane insertion of a dagger: Should be provocative fun. * Steven Poole, The Guardian * Collini should be praised for his rigour and integrity....Absent Minds is a provocative and impressive read. * Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Telegraph * This magnificently perceptive survey of the British intellectual caste will prove hard to outstrip as the definitive account of its subject * Terry Eagleton, New Statesman, reprinted in Guardian * a frequently brilliant survey * Mark Bostridge, Independent on Sunday * As a history of thinking about intellectuals, Absent Minds is a valuable study * Kenan Malik, Sunday Telegraph * ...a splendidly challenging book * Bernard Bergonzi, The Tablet * clever and entertaining revisionist history....Absent Minds brilliantly exemplifies the sort of human, intelligent and accessible critique he so eloquently advocates * Michael Saler, TLS * ...splendid new book... * Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian * ...[a] magisterial study...Collini is a skilled portraitist and provides us with some judicious, vividly detailed cameos of such figures as Collingwood, T S Eliot, Orwell, A J P Taylor and Freddie Ayer...this magnificently perceptive survey of the British intellectual caste, with a handful of French and American thinkers thrown in for good measure, will prove hard to outstrip as the definitive account of its subject. ,,,It is a stylish, finely analytical study... his
literary style combines journalism with erudition, in the best manner of the tradition he investigates... it is a superb distillation of several decades of research and reflection.... this magnificently perceptive survey of the British intellectual caste, with a handful of French and American
thinkers thrown in for good measure, will prove hard to outstrip as the definitive account of its subject. * Terry Eagleton, New Statesman * Absent Minds is first rate...immensely authoritative * Winston Fletcher, THES * a rich, subtle and complex book, which is a constant stimulus to thought...full of witty phrases * Robert Skidelsky, Prospect *
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About Stefan Collini

Stefan Collini is Professor of Intellectual History and English Literature at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Clare Hall. A frequent contributor to The Times Literary Supplement, The London Review of Books, and other periodicals both in Britain and the USA, his previous books include Public Moralists (1991), Matthew Arnold: a Critical Portrait (1994), and English Pasts (1999). He is a Fellow of both the British
Academy and the Royal Historical Society.
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Rating details

18 ratings
3.89 out of 5 stars
5 28% (5)
4 50% (9)
3 11% (2)
2 6% (1)
1 6% (1)
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