Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Teachers of Lore 2: John Goode

In June 1978 John Goode interviewed me for a place on the MA in Literature course at Warwick University, where I met my wife Makiko Minow, and at the end of that academic year he sent me down the road to Oxford to work with Terry Eagleton, so he certainly played a major role in shaping my personal, professional and political life. He co-taught literary theory to us on the Warwick MA course, and I did not then fully grasp what an important nineteenth-century scholar and critic he was. It was only later at Oxford, as my own thoughts turned to William Morris, that I began to take the measure of Goode’s significance as a Morris scholar in particular. His work mattered so much because – unusually among that generation of Morris critics – he brought the lessons of the ‘theory revolution’ of the 1980s to bear upon News from Nowhere and other key works. Under the impact of Louis Althusser and Pierre Macherey, he had moved from a ‘reflectionist’ to a ‘productionist’ concept of the literary text, and he produced his most important work on Morris in the light of the latter.


I attended John Goode’s inaugural professorial lecture at Keele University in February 1992, and learnt of his death in January 1994 at the age of fifty-four with great sadness. I heard later from Keele colleague Charles Swann that on his death-bed John had been reading, in such moments of respite as he had, Henry James’s The Wings of the Dove and volume two of J├╝rgen Habermas’s Theory of Communicative Action, both immensely formidable texts in their different ways even if you were in the very best of health. So he leaves us not only an important body of writing about Hardy, Gissing, Clough, Morris and other Victorian literature topics (partly gathered in the Collected Essays of 1995), but also that moving example of intellectual dedication even in the face of great adversity.

2 comments:

Volumnia Fox said...

Good to see this tribute to a fine scholar and unwavering Marxist! If you look at the full bibliography of Goode's writings in the Keele 'Collected Essays', though, it looks to me as though there's enough useful stuff there still uncollected to make up a second volume. That may not any longer be a commercial proposition, but mightn't the Morris Society think about sponsoring/publishing such a volume?

Tony Pinkney said...

Yes, John Goode was one of a whole generation of talented Marxist critics and theorists who died far too early. They would include: Raman Selden (about whom I've already written in this blog), Francis Barker, Antony Easthope, Mike Sprinker, Norman Feltes. It's almost enough to turn one into a conspiracy theorist ...