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On Richard Berengarten’s ‘The Manager’.

A Fortnightly Critical Dossier

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Edited by

Paul Scott Derrick.

 

RICHARD BERENGARTEN’S underappreciated book-length poem The Manager has appeared in three editions: Elliott & Thompson, 2001; Salt, 2008 and Shearsman, 2011. In many ways The Manager is unique within Berengarten’s oeuvre. Although he tends to construct poetic sequences – such as Black Light, his homage to Greece and the work of George Seferis, or In a Time of Drought, his celebration of Balkan culture and tradition – Berengarten has on no other occasion published a book-length sequence that employs the recourse of the verse-paragraph, nor one that deals with a comparable subject matter: the peculiar and arguably grotesque modes of thinking, speaking and believing of the fauna inhabiting the corporate and financial environments of late twentieth-century England.

The three essays presented here form part of a critical study of The Manager co-editor Sean Rys and I are presently preparing.

Anthony Walton: Disorganization Man. First, reading the book through a socio-political lens, Anthony Walton places The Manager in the context of various business models that were in vogue in the culture at the time of its composition. Frederick Winslow Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management, as well as John F. Welch’s radical management style in the 1980s form the background for a discussion of the forces leading to the collapse of Charles Bruno’s life and the terms of his redemption.

A Robert Lee: He Do The Different Voices. A. Robert Lee deals with the rich cornucopia of speech acts, dialects, conversation and languages that make up Berengarten’s poem and considers its ambiguous relationship with the Modernist aesthetics of Eliot. Lee reads the poem as a complex riposte to the voices that reverberate through The Waste Land. How does it respond, react, echo, call back to Eliot? And how does Berengarten’s choral recall expand the sense of his Modernist predecessors?

Kay Young: “On her promise of recognition”: Intersubjectivity and Richard Berengarten’s The Manager. In the third essay, Kay Young argues that one of the keys to the success of The Manager is Berengarten’s creation of what she calls a “zone of intersubjectivity”. In a close reading of Section 81, she elucidates a crossing-over between the reader and the poem through which we share in the protagonist’s thoughts and hopes and witness how they are transformed over time.


Paul Scott Derrick is a Senior Lecturer in American literature at the Universitat de València in Spain. He is co-editor, with Norman Jope and Catherine E. Byfield, of The Companion to Richard Berengarten (UK) (Shearsman, 2016) and, with Viorica Patea, co-translator of Ana Blandiana’s My Native Land A4 (UK) (Bloodaxe, 2014). His critical essays, translations and poems have appeared in many print and electronic journals in Europe and the U.S.

 

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