Allen Tate was less qualified in his praise, recording his opinion that The Sense of an Ending ‘gives us further proof of the depth of Kermode’s learning and of his . Frank Kermode is one of our most distinguished critics of English literature. Here, he contributes a new epilogue to his collection of classic. The Sense of an Ending has ratings and 39 reviews. Janet said: This was a sublime book that asks the big questions of the writer–what is fiction? ho.

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The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction is the most famous work of the literary scholar Frank Kermode. It was first published in by Oxford University Press. Kermode claims that humans are deeply uncomfortable with the idea that our lives form only a short period in the history of the world.

The Sense of an Ending – Frank Kermode – Oxford University Press

So much has gone before us and so much will come after us. We look for a ‘coherent pattern’ to explain this fact, and invest in the idea that we find ourselves in the middle of a story. In order to make sense of our lives we need to find some ‘consonance’ between the beginning, the middle, and the end. Humans have always used such ‘fictions’ to impose structure on the idea of eternity, including HomerAugustine of Hippo and Plato.


Stemming from a long tradition of Christian apocalyptic thought, we now have the idea that the beginning was a golden age. The middle is the age in which we now live, and is characterised by ‘decadence’, where what was good has declined and is in need of ‘renovation’.

Frank Kermode’s ‘The Sense of an Ending’ reconsidered

In order to usher in a new age, a process of painful purging or ‘terrors’ needs to be undergone. This allows us to explain the chaos and ‘crisis’ we see unfolding around us.

People living in the middle often believe that the end is very near, and that their own generation is the one with responsibility to usher in a new world.

These ‘fictions’ are not dangerous in themselves, but they should not be given the status of ‘myth’ and cause us to take unwarranted actions. Indeed, some people do approach apocalyptic fictions with a ‘naive frxnk. Others have a ‘clerkly scepticism’ and deny that it is possible to accurately predict the world’s end date. Stories of the end also allow individuals to reflect on their own death, and to make sense of their lives, their place in time, and their relationship to the beginning and the end.

This gives rise to Kermode’s memorable phrase: Having laid down this theoretical position, Kermode tracks the creation of new attempts to ‘make sense of life’ through literature. In it was reissued with a new epilogue. On its publication, the book “caused considerable excitement among literary faculties in America”.


In a review of the book, The New York Times described it as “impressively learned, eloquent and brilliant”.

Several obituaries of Kermode took the same title, including those that appeared in The Daily Telegraph [7] and the journal Common Knowledge. The book appears on numerous university reading lists and is still regularly commented upon at academic conferences and in other books on literature.

Colin Burrow wrote in that he regarded it as one of “the three most inspiring works of literary criticism written in the twentieth century” together with Erich Auerbach ‘s Mimesis and E. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the novel, see The Sense of an Ending. Apocalypse and the Postmodern Imagination p.

The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction

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