Friday, July 12, 2013


Negative Reading List

Dear Mike,

Oscar Wilde's list of books not to be read reminds me of Leo Spitzer's "Negative Reading List," said to have been passed out in mimeographed form to his students at Johns Hopkins. I've never seen a copy, but he prints the black list in a footnote to his "unrelenting attack" (the victim's words) on Stephen Gilman's The Art of "La Celestina" (University of Wisconsin Press, 1956) in Hispanic Review vol.25 no.1 (January 1957), p.19 (note 13):
Mr. Gilman confesses his qualms at applying contemporary philosophy to older texts, but in general he appears satisfied with the attitude video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor. I should like to establish once and for ever a "negative reading-list" (that is a list of books not to be read) for our younger scholars who deal with older literature:

Buber Freud Scheler
Bergson Heidegger Spengler
Dilthey Ortega Unamuno
In his obituary of Spitzer in Comparative Literature vol.12 no.4 (Fall 1960), p.324, RenĂ© Wellek notes that this is "pedagogical advice that Spitzer happily did not himself follow as a young man. What would he have become without, at least, three names on the list: Freud, Dilthey, and Bergson?"

As ever,

Ian [Jackson]

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