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Sentence :

Jack's various essays from the 1950's are still readable, though somewhat dated, as, to a greater extent, are those by Neville Braybrooke and Christopher Hollis from the same decade.

Can anyone explain/simplify in plain English on the bolded line in the sentence above?

This is from a journal. I couldn't understand what is happening after word dated. What is significance of comma after dated like is it dividing a clause? What is as doing to essays by Braybrooke and Christopher? Is it coordinating comparison or subordinating comparison? Is it saying that Braybrooke and Christopher essays are not outdated or similarly outdated like that of Jack's?

Edit1: Adding whole passage, its not jack(I made up name for posting here, besides this name, everything as per passage) Also the author is pretty well known literary critic. So

Passage Source: College Literature Journal by John Hopkins University, Vol 11, Issue 1

Title : Trends on George Orwell Criticism

Author: Paul Schlueter

This is the entire passage for context purposes

B. 5: Religious Approaches to Orwell

Given the apocalyptic nature of Orwell's best-known novels, it is not surprising that religious as well as political perceptions and interpretations of Orwell are common. In addition to the many superficial treatments of Orwell's work found in well-meaning warnings about the "last days" of the earth, there have been a few such studies worth a glance by virtue of their scholarly solidity, balanced perspective, or overall moderation of tone. Geoffrey Ashe was one of the first to make such an emphasis; his various essays from the 1950's are still readable, though somewhat dated, as, to a greater extent, are those by Neville Braybrooke and Christopher Hollis from the same decade.

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    I've just realised that the first instance of the cited text arbitrarily changed the third author's name from Geoffrey Ashe to Jack. So I created this NGram to see how often they've been referenced in recent decades. Ashe is more popular today, so probably the others are more dated. Nov 2, 2021 at 17:40
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    References to Ashe peaked around 1990, but references to Hollis peaked in the mid 30s to mid 50s, so almost certainly that would imply Hollis's writing are more dated than Ashe's, since it looks pretty obvious that Hollis was much older (by inference from their frequency of mentions; I haven't bothered explicitly checking that). Nov 2, 2021 at 17:45
  • @FumbleFingers, thanks for the Graph. It gives nice info
    – Jax Hammer
    Nov 6, 2021 at 18:43

3 Answers 3

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Jack's various essays from the 1950's are still readable, though somewhat dated, as, to a greater extent, are those by Neville Braybrooke and Christopher Hollis from the same decade.

Parse 1: Jack's various essays from the 1950's are still readable|, though [they are] somewhat dated|, as, |to a greater extent,| are those by Neville Braybrooke and Christopher Hollis from the same decade|.

You can move "to a greater extent" to the end of the sentence:

Parse 2: Jack's various essays from the 1950's are still readable|, though [they are] somewhat dated|, as are those by Neville Braybrooke and Christopher Hollis from the same decade| which are even more dated.

The only bit that might be hard to read for a learner after the parse, is the phrase: "to a greater extent"|.

Essays by Neville Braybooke and Christopher Hollis from the same decade are dated to a greater extent than Jack's essays. In other words, those writers essays are even more dated than his.

to a greater extent = even more dated. It's a comparative.

These essays are dated to a greater extent than some other essays.

Another example: This expression is dated to a greater extent than some other expression.

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  • Hi @Lambie, like AndyBonner and ColleenV said above wouldn't "to greater extent" mean readability part as well? Or is it just comparing dated part?
    – Jax Hammer
    Nov 2, 2021 at 14:52
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    @JaxHammer There is nothing that I said that implies it isn't about readability. All the essays are dated, In terms of what? Readability. There is nothing else their being dated can apply to.
    – Lambie
    Nov 2, 2021 at 15:53
  • oopsy doopsy, now I get it, thanks
    – Jax Hammer
    Nov 2, 2021 at 16:17
  • @Lambie, I have a similar question to Jax, does "to a greater extent" mean "it is more readable" or "it is more dated"? (I understand "dated" here as synonym to "archaic", is it the case?). So my question is: does Jack's essay use more archaic wordings (more dated) or less archaic wordings (more readable)? (I assume "readable, though dated" to mean that "dated" hampers readability)
    – justhalf
    Nov 3, 2021 at 8:26
  • Dated is similar (but not quite the same) to archaic, yes. And the "to a greater extent" refers to the dated. You could read the whole thing as: "Jack's essay are readable. Unfortunately Jack's essays are also a bit archaic. Neville and Christopher's essays are even more archaic than Jack's".
    – Mark Allen
    Nov 3, 2021 at 12:55
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Jack's various essays from the 1950's are still readable, though somewhat dated, as, to a greater extent, are those by Neville Braybrooke and Christopher Hollis from the same decade.

Jack's essays are readable but dated. The essays by Braybrooke and Hollis that were written in the same decade are even more dated than those written by Jack.

The 'as' indicates essays written in the same decade by other authors are dated just like those written by Jack. The "to a greater extent" is wedged in there to say not only are the other essays dated (as Jack's are too), they are even more out-of-date.

If we said "the other essays are as dated as Jack's", that would express the essays are about the same degree of out-dated.

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    Actually, reading your answer, I see that mine is in no way a certain reading, and in fact one could even perversely argue that "as... are" modifies "readable" alone. I think it's just a really ill-advised sentence. Nov 2, 2021 at 14:00
  • @AndyBonner The writer just tried to cram too much into one sentence, making it difficult to understand their point when the sentence is taken out of context.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 2, 2021 at 14:03
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    @JaxHammer Wow, I think that is the first time getting more context has made a sentence's meaning less clear. :) I guess being able to criticize how others write doesn't necessarily mean you do it well yourself.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 2, 2021 at 14:57
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    I initially thought there was no obvious way to choose between the two interpretations here (more readable, or more dated?). But having realised that "Jack" is actually "Geoffrey Ashe", I was able to get more background info about how the three named writers stack up. It's contextually (but not syntactically) absolutely certain the intended meaning is more dated (applying to the other two writers; Ashe / Jack seems to be much more popular today, presumably because his work isn't so dated). Nov 2, 2021 at 17:55
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    Colleen - as implied by your earlier comment AND the fact that my initial "contextless" interpretation turned out to be incorrect, I think it's fair to say the cited text isn't that well written! Critics can dish it out, but they can't express it perfectly! Nov 2, 2021 at 17:58
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That's quite a sentence! Right off the bat, let's acknowledge that it's a bit ambiguous or at least confusing, and could have benefitted from rewording. I'll make an assumption that it means that all the essays by all the authors are both readable and dated, and analyze it accordingly.

To break it down, let's imagine how the author might have built it up from simpler beginnings.

Jack's essays are still readable.

"Sure, but they're kind of dated. I'll add a dependent clause."

Jack's essays are still readable, though somewhat dated.

"You know what, this describes the essays by Braybrook and Hollis—'still readable, though somewhat dated.' I'll mention that."

Jack's essays are still readable, though somewhat dated, as are those by Baybrooke and Hollis.

[Editor's note: At this point the author took a bit of a misstep, since this could be taken to mean that B & H's essays are only "dated," not "readable." I'm pretty sure the author means both, though.]

"In fact, 'readable but dated' describes Baybrooke's and Hollis's essays even better than Jack's. I'll add another dependent clause."

Jack's essays are still readable, though somewhat dated, as, to a greater extent, are those by Baybrooke and Hollis.

And there's the structure of the final version (with a few adjectives still left out). We have a dependent clause, "as are those by...", itself interrupted by another dependent clause, "to a greater extent". Note, the author could have put ", to a greater extent at the end of the sentence instead.

As noted, though, the sentence is so convoluted that it's confusing, and the reader might consciously or unconsciously think that "... as are" modifies only "dated," not "readable" as well. (Or maybe the author did mean only "dated," in which case it's even more misleading.) What might be a good rewrite?

Jack's various essays from the 1950s are still readable, though somewhat dated. Those by Neville Braybrooke and Christopher Hollis from the same decade are even more readable, though even more dated.


Update: After reading Colleen's take, I'm not at all confident that what I wrote above is the only interpretation supported by the grammar. Hopefully the context makes it clearer. Why is it so difficult? Let's once again imagine a simpler sentence:

Ms. Smith is strict but fair, as is Mr. Johnson.

Here, "but" is a coordinating conjunction; both "strict" and "fair" equally describe Ms. Smith. It's reasonable, then, that the "as is" applies both to Mr. Johnson as well.

Ms. Smith is strict, though occasionally kooky, as is Mr. Johnson.

Here we have the ambiguity that was present in the original example. The main verb and object of the sentence are "is strict," and "though occasionally kooky" is a subordinate dependent clause. To be honest, I'm not sure at this point whether strict grammatical analysis gives any ruling on whether "as is Mr. Johnson" must modify "kooky" or "strict," or both. Common sense would lead us to choose "kooky," simply because it was last mentioned.

If the author intended the B & H essays to only modify "dated," an absolutely horrible rewrite that makes the sentence even more convoluted but more clear might be:

Jack's various essays from the 1950s are still readable, though (as, to a greater extent, are those by Baybrooke and Hollis) somewhat dated.

But much better would be to split up the sentence:

Jack's various essays from the 1950s are still readable, though somewhat dated. Those by Neville Braybrooke and Christopher Hollis from the same decade are even more dated.

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  • I would need more context to say for certain, but I don't think the "readable" part carries over to the other essays because of the "though". The entire point of referencing the other essays seems to be about softening the negative assertion that the essays are dated by saying Jack's essays aren't as dated as those by his contemporaries.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 2, 2021 at 14:01
  • Even I was under impression that author took a misstep, but his position in literary criticism is pretty solid and is very well known critic.
    – Jax Hammer
    Nov 2, 2021 at 14:35
  • @JaxHammer Heh, credentials certainly don't guarantee clear communication. I have a love-hate relationship with the writing of venerable rock-star musicologist Richard Taruskin, who flaunts paragraph-long sentences interrupted by clauses set of by em-dashes which themselves contain comma-separated series, and words like "horripilating, "gnomic," and (ironically) "pleonasm." Nov 2, 2021 at 14:40
  • @Andy Bonner, I have added the whole passage for context. I would love to see your take on it. Thanks
    – Jax Hammer
    Nov 2, 2021 at 14:42
  • @AndyBonner true, creds dobt equate clear communication
    – Jax Hammer
    Nov 2, 2021 at 14:43

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