as the Dreyfus Affair, and the poem inngeneral is Hill’s homage to the triumphnof Peguy’s life of defeat, as hencalls it, and which recognizes him asnone of the great souls and propheticnintelligences of our century.nA critic writing in the British periodicalnEncounter has rated Hill’s collectionnof literary essays, The Lords ofnLimit, as the most important first booknof criticism by a major English poetnsince T.S. Eliot’s The Sacred Woodn(1920). Like his poetry. Hill’s essaysnare packed with originally turned ideasnand considerable learning. This learningnis so wide-ranging, in fact, thatnsome 30 pages of reference notes arenrequired at the back of the book. Therenare marvelous essays that deal withnRobert Southwell, Jonathan Swift,nBen Jonson, Shakespeare, GerardnMauley Hopkins, and John CrowenThe Flawed Tragedian by Paul Gottfriedn”He has learned speech and windy thought and thenpolitical temperament.”n—Sophocles’ AntigonenGeorge Steiner: Antigones; OxfordnUniversity Press; New York; $29.95.nGeorge Steiner: A Reader, OxfordnUniversity Press; New York; $25.00.nAmong literary intellectuals,nGeorge Steiner holds a place ofnunmistakable influence. His essays onnphilosophy and literature can be foundnin the New York Review of Books,nLondon Times Literary Supplement,nand in other publications associatednwith making it in the world of letters.nSince the 1950’s he has publishednnearly a dozen books, most of whichninterpret Continental Europeannthought for the benefit of Anglo-nAmerican readers. Some of Steiner’snbooks, most notably his discussion ofnMartin Heidegger, combine insightnwith considerable learning. His booknon Heidegger not only uncovers thenbrilliant ideas behind the horrors ofnHeideggerian syntax, but also takesnseriously the antimodernist aspects ofnHeidegger’s social criticism, Steinernneither denies nor exaggerates Heidegger’snshort-term fascination with thenNazi movement. He sets it into perspectivenby showing that it was Heidegger’snold-fashioned communitariannideals that allowed him to sympathizenwith at least some early National So-nPaul Gottfried is author of ThenSearch for Historical Meaning: Hegelnand the American Right (NorthernnIllinois University Press).ncialist programs. Steiner notes hownquickly Heidegger changed his mindnabout Nazism once Hitler had come tonpower.nDespite his talent as a literary analyst,nSteiner does have tics which, Inbelieve, are damaging to his scholarship.nI stress the qualifier “I believe,”nsince what irritates me most about hisnwriting may also explain his popularitynamong proper highbrows. Steinernwrites like a perpetual emigre, in convolutednprose that often seems deliberatelynmurky. His essays include “ThenDistribution of Discourse,” “FuturenLiteracies,” and “Privacies of Speech.”nThough Steiner warns repeatedlynagainst the dangers of social-culturalnconformity, he himself conjures withnthe appropriate academic shibboleths.nHe is overly fond of “deconstruction”nand “angst” and feels obliged to dwellnon Marxist interpretations of literaryntexts, however little they may contributento our understanding of a work.nHis recent study of thinkers who haveninterpreted Sophocles’ Antigone givesnfar too much attention to Marx onnGreek tragedy. Marx may have influencednthe practice of social revolution,nbut beyond noting his almost willfulnmisreading of Aeschylus’ PrometheusnBound (which owed more to Shelley’snpoetry than Asechylus’ play), it isnhard to justify any space being givennto Marx as an interpreter of Greekntragedy.nSteiner professes concern aboutntrendy issues (e.g., the need for nuclearndisarmament) or about issues thatnnnRansom. The essays would be worthnreading if only because they provideninsights into that intricate life of thenpoet’s mind. In any event, readers innthe English poetic tradition had betternrealize at once that in Geoffrey Hill wenhave a significant poet on our hands,none whose works have already distinguishednhim from a host of morenfashionable but lesser talents. ccnused to be trendy (e.g., anti-Semitism).nHe advertises what some readersnmay find endearing quirks. He hasnstated during interviews that becausenhe and his family were Jewish refugeesnfrom Nazism, he now feels compellednto carry multiple passports. Only innthis way can he protect himself againstnthe possible eruption of Nazi-type violencenin the country where he presentlynresides, which happens to be England.nAlthough my own familynsuffered a similar fate, I have nevernunderstood Steiner’s bizarre behavior.nDoes he believe that pieces of papernwill save him if the Western worldnsuddenly (and improbably) turns Nazi?nIt is as if he has begun to believe thenpredictions published in at least somenof the publications that celebratenGeorge Steiner but condemn “fascistnAmerica.”nI make these observations as a qualifiednadmirer of Steiner’s work. IndeednI continue to marvel at his eruditionnJANUARY 1986 / 11n