John Barrell (Cambridge, 1972)
Recommended by Jessica Fay
This book gives a lot. It taught me how to recognize and describe the compositional patterns of seventeenth-century landscape painting (which were epitomized in the work of Claude Lorrain), how these patterns became standardized in English landscape art, and how, in turn, they inflected the structures of eighteenth-century topographical poetry. Barrell’s close reading, showing how the syntax of James Thomson’s The Seasons encourages the reader’s eye to move across the page in the way that the eye surveys a landscape painting, reveals how eighteenth-century readers looked at real landscapes. This builds to a foundational study of John Clare’s unique poetic representation of place.