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Without Mastery

Reading and Other Forces

Sarah Wood

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Speaks to and helps us address where we are now, institutionally, environmentally and in thinking about reading

Without Mastery engages the pleasures and rigours of reading, invoking Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters, Plato’s Lady Necessity, Freud, Derrida, Cixous, animals, angels, ghosts and children to explore our desire for mastery - especially the omnipotence of thoughts. Masterful thinking has brought the planet into environmental crisis. The acquiescence of reading, Wood shows, allows us to make contact with the unthinkable.

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Through the Reader
Inventing the Reader
Try Thinking As If Perhaps
A Mere Instinctive Deconstruction
Close to the Earth
Beyond Me Nowhere But This Earth
Reading Matters
Some Thing, Some One, Some Ghost (About the Fires of Writing)
Too Late To Begin?

About the Author

Sarah Wood teaches English literature and literary theory at the University of Kent. She is an Editor of Oxford Literary Review and of Angelaki. She is also a trainee at the Guild of Psychotherapists in London


From the first word that isn’t a beginning word to the last word that isn’t a concluding word Sarah Wood’s gripping text journeys us through ourselves in our time. Forcing us beyond a puffed-up and thin-skinned narcissism that supposes human beings the admirable centre of everything, and finding ourselves again, uncleansed, as a force that distinguishes itself, above all, in destructiveness. This is an (un)timely work of a well versed (in)sister. It is serious without being pious, and critical without being aloof. It is writing worth reading for.

Simon Glendinning, Reader in European Philosophy, London School of Economics and Political Science.


Out of the blue, yet always into this endangered blue planet, her questions, "who do you work for?", "what do you read for?", overwhelm you with cataclysmic force. You are without mastery and never more happy with her embrace of the anacoluthic, her severity, the often lol funny verity of obedient freedom that blazes on every page. At once exhilarating and serenely harmonious, this boldly distended and beautifully concatenated volume unfurls a newly inventive page of literary reading and thinking. Sarah Wood's smile-bringing, 'yes!'-inducing creations of critical, sensorial writing move in constant ricochet with the poetics of numerous artists, among whom she, in this divergent concameration, comes to be included.

Thomas Dutoit, University of Lille.

Sarah Wood’s Without Mastery: Reading and Other Forces is a matchless book, at once breathtaking and inspiring.
- Clare Connors, University of East Anglia, Modern Language Review, Vol 111, Part 1

reading with Wood leaves one enriched.

- Jemma Deer, Textual Practice, Volume 30, Issue 1

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