John Carey (critic)

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John Carey
Professor John Carey.jpg
Professor John Carey
Born (1934-04-05) 5 April 1934 (age 81)
Barnes, London
Occupation Literary critic
Language English
Nationality British
Alma mater St John's College, Oxford
Notable works What Good are the Arts?
Spouse Gill (1960–present)
Children Leo & Thomas

John Carey (born 5 April 1934) is a British literary critic, and emeritus Merton Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford. He was born in Barnes, London, and educated at Richmond and East Sheen Boys' Grammar School, winning an Open Scholarship to St John's College, Oxford. He has held posts in a number of Oxford colleges, and is an emeritus fellow of Merton, where he became a Professor in 1975, retiring in 2002.[1]

Literary criticism[edit]

He has twice chaired the Booker Prize committee, in 1982 and 2004, and chaired the judging panel for the first Man Booker International Prize in 2005. He is chief book reviewer for the London Sunday Times and appears in radio and TV programmes such as Saturday Review and Newsnight Review.


He is known for his anti-elitist views on high culture, as expressed for example in his book What Good Are the Arts? (2005). Carey's 1992 book The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880–1939 was a critique of Modernist writers (particularly T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, W. B. Yeats, D. H. Lawrence and H. G. Wells) for what Carey claims were their elitist and misanthropic views of mass society.[2] In his review of the book Geoff Dyer claimed that Carey picked out negative quotations from his subjects.[3] Stefan Collini responded that disdain for mass culture amongst some Modernist writers was already well-known among literary historians.[2]


Carey was born in April 1934 in Barnes, then on the Surrey/London border, the youngest of their four recorded children, to Charles W Carey and Winifred E Cook/Carey.[4]


  • The Poems of John Milton (1968) editor with Alastair Fowler
  • Andrew Marvell: A Critical Anthology (1969) editor
  • The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (1969) editor
  • John Milton (1969)
  • Complete Shorter Poems of John Milton (1971), revised 2nd edition (1997) editor
  • The Violent Effigy. A Study of Dickens' Imagination (1973) published in America as Here Comes Dickens. The Imagination of a Novelist. Republished in Faber Finds (2008)
  • John Milton, Christian Doctrine (1971) translator
  • Thackeray: Prodigal Genius (1977) republished in Faber Finds (2008)
  • English Renaissance Studies: Presented To Dame Helen Gardner In Honour Of Her Seventieth Birthday (1979)
  • John Donne: Life, Mind and Art (1981) new revised edition (1990) republished in Faber Finds (2008)
  • William Golding : The Man and His Books (1986) editor
  • Faber Book of Reportage (1987) editor. Published in America as Eyewitness to History, Harvard University Press, (1987)
  • Original Copy : Selected Reviews and Journalism 1969–1986 (1987)
  • John Donne. The Major Works (1990) editor, Oxford Authors, reprinted with revisions (2000) World's Classics
  • The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880–1939 (1992)
  • Short Stories and the Unbearable Bassington by Saki (1994) editor
  • Faber Book of Science (1995) editor. Published in America as Eyewitness to Science: Scientists and Writers Illuminate Natural Phenomena from Fossils to Fractals, Harvard University Press, (1997)
  • Selected Poetry of John Donne (1998) editor
  • Faber Book of Utopias (2000) editor
  • Pure Pleasure: a Guide to the Twentieth Century's Most Enjoyable Books (2000)
  • George Orwell, Essays (2002) editor
  • Vanity Fair by William Thackeray (2002) editor
  • What Good are the Arts? (2005)
  • William Golding: The Man Who Wrote 'Lord of the Flies' (2009)
  • The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life (2014)

Sources and notes[edit]

  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Collini, Stefan (1999). "With Friends Like These: John Carey and Noel Annan". English Pasts: Essays in History and Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 298–303. ISBN 0-19-158890-3. 
  3. ^ Dyer, Geoff (10 July 1992). "Sunk in the common ground". The New Statesman: 33–34. With scant regard for how they distort the overall picture of the author, Carey goes through his sources in search of incriminating passages 
  4. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 

External links[edit]