The ferrante Letters
Like few other works of contemporary literature, Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels found an audience of passionate and engaged readers around the world. Inspired by Ferrante’s intense depiction of female friendship and women’s intellectual lives, four critics embarked upon a project that was both work and play: to create a series of epistolary readings of the Neapolitan Quartet that also develops new ways of reading and thinking together.
REVIEWS AND PRAISE
"The intimate tone lends a beguiling humanity to the book, inducing a pleasure more often associated with novels: the pleasure of character...The most provocative claim in The Ferrante Letters is that criticism might not only illuminate a text; it might also mimic a work, inhabit its form. This makes for mesmerically reflexive reading, in which the authors, characters in a plot of their own making, gradually become subject to Ferrante’s themes."
The New Yorker
"A work of criticism that does that rare work of reflecting its source material with uncanny accuracy."
The New Republic
"Absorbing...the letters give you the impression of being a fly on the wall at a top-notch slow book club...I would heartily recommend The Ferrante Letters to fellow Ferrante fans, to feminist scholars, to readers interested in collective critical experiments, and to anyone who misses being part of a book club during a lockdown."
Times Literary Supplement
"Chihaya, Emre, Hill, and Richards maintain resolutely distinctive voices, even as they perform this act of collective criticism. With fiery insight and feminist spirit, they have written a fitting companion to Ferrante’s books."
Booklist (starred review)
"This book is a must-read for anyone who loves Elena Ferrante and for anyone who wants to think about new directions in literary criticism."
"There is uncommon courage and generosity in the authors’ appeal for a more holistic and truly cooperative approach to intellectual labour, one that is grounded in feminist praxis....The Ferrante Letters is a bold, often inspiring attempt to rethink literary criticism and teaching practices on a collective basis, bridging the personal, critical and pleasurable."
Times Higher Education
"Readers are immediately immersed in a series of short exchanges among the professors that are as literarily engaged as they are engaging....A sharp and lively book for fans and scholars."
"A truly innovative approach to understanding the author-reader connection made all the more compelling for having one of the 20th century's greatest literary works at its core."
"Thoughtful and thought-provoking...The combination of intellectual rigor and personal reaction makes this fascinating reading for Ferrante fans."
"The Ferrante Letters gives us a unique opportunity to read—or reread—the Neapolitan novels with four distinct guides beside us, both literary and personal, posing questions and offering insights, analysis, and discussion that enrich and deepen our experience of the books."
Ann Goldstein, translator of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels
"The Ferrante Letters is a smart, beautiful, often moving meditation on the experience of reading the Neapolitan Quartet. This collection of letters and essays deftly manages that tricky balance of the creative, the critical, and the personal. A magnificent accomplishment."
Namwali Serpell, author of The Old Drift: A Novel
"These four smart feminist critics reflect on the Neapolitan novels' exploration of women's friendship, intellectual labor, and personal lives. Reading The Ferrante Letters feels like you have stumbled upon your favorite reading group talking about your favorite author. It captures the way critical thinking should work, not in isolation but in conversation."
Pamela Thurschwell, University of Sussex
"In The Ferrante Letters, expertise and passion dovetail to great effect. This absorptive, idiosyncratic book is a work of collective criticism that offers a set of rigorous, convivial, and stylish readings of its primary texts, staging the critical act as also a creative one. This book reveals that the form literary criticism takes is as important as its content."
Sarah Blackwood, author of The Portrait's Subject