Abstracts for Volume 61 | 2000

Volume 61, Issue 1
Author Title
Ellen Rooney Form and Contentment
Virgil Nemoianu Hating and Loving Aesthetic Formalism: Some Reasons

The article begins by insistently questioning the wide-spread current critical hostility against literary humanism and against literature as a whole. The first approach to an answer is a historical one. Persecutionary tendencies against literature are pointed out in the two great totalitarian movements of the 20th century (Nazism and Communism), but perhaps even more consistently in "normal commonwealths" (in Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and particularly the modern and democratic ages). The next sections of the essay deal with a number of foci of this situation. Among those mentioned the preferential choice of Nietzsche over Dilthey by the ideological communities of the West is discussed in great detail. Part of the conclusion of the essay is explanatory. Thus the political theories of Michael Oakeshott with their resolute opposition to reductionism are show to be transferable from sociopolitical to the cultural-literary. There is also a brief discussion of the modes of contribution of the science/literature and religion/literature interfaces to an improved appreciation of aesthetic formalism. Nemoianu concludes by enumerating the reasons why aesthetic form is needed nowadays.

Heather Dubrow Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? Reinterpreting Formalism and the Country House Poem

The suspicion attending the study of form in many academic circles is overdetermined: that enterprise, often regarded as ostensibly apolitical but in fact complicitly political, appears to violate many of the principles of contemporary methodologies. Another source and symptom of the rejection of aesthetic analysis is the tendency to gender it female. In addition, such analysis has been demonized because of its connection to the Enlightenment in general and Kant in particular; but a closer examination of Kant demonstrates that his conception of beauty is more complex than literary critics generally assume; arguably, for example, he does not invariably associated beauty with autonomy and disinterestedness. In the instance of the country house poem, aesthetic issues are closely connected to the problems of politics and gender, demonstrating the relevance of aesthetic analysis to contemporary critical approaches; we should not, however, see formal strategies in these and other texts merely as the obedient servants of political concerns.

Ronald Levao "Among Unequals What Society": Paradise Lost and the Forms of Intimacy
J.Paul Hunter Formalism and History: Binarism and the Anglophone Couplet
Robert Kaufman Everybody Hates Kant: Blakean Formalism and the Symmetries of Laura Moriarty
Frances Ferguson Jane Austen, Emma, and the Impact of Form
Garrett Stewart The Foreign Offices of British Fiction

This essay fuses a close-grained stylistics of fictional prose with the broader dimensions of cultural critique. Aligning the deep-structural formalism of Michael Riffaterre (especially in Fictional Truth) with the marxist semiotics of Fredric Jameson (in both The Political Unconscious and his later position paper "Modernism and Imperialism"), the article attempts a newly political understanding of the intertext in Riffaterre's system alongside a rehistoricizing of Jameson's critique regarding a tacitly imperial bias in the rhetorical obfuscations of the modernist sublime. It does so by backdating Jameson's insights about early twentieth-century British prose to the colonial imaginary of Dickens's Dombey and Son while pursuing the semiotic mastertrope of syllepsis as an actualized stylistic function rather than just an abstract paradigm (as it remains in Riffaterre). What results is the comparison of a divisive or two-tiered grammatical structure in Dickens, by turns slapstick and metaphysical, with the figural equivocations of Forster's Howards End, chief exhibit for Jameson of the colonialist mystifications and occlusions of British modernist style.

Franco Moretti The Slaughterhouse of Literature
Catherine Gallagher Formalism and Time
top Volume 61, Issue 2
Author Title
Neil Kenny Books in Space and Time: Bibliomania and Early Modern Histories of Learning and "Literature" in France

Bibliomaniacs achieved particular prominence in eighteenth-century Paris. They collected books not to read them but because they valued them as material objects. By contrast, others collected books as 'works', as transcendent rather than material objects. It was as 'works' that books figured too in the histories of learning and belles-lettres that were compiled with increasing frequency from the late sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century. These compilations were initially presented as figurative 'libraries', but gradually they were organized along chronological lines and became called 'histories': the book production of the past was increasingly conceived as a diachronic history rather than as a synchronic space. Histories of learning seem far removed from bibliomania, which gratified private collectors rather than constructing public or nationalistic narratives. However, there was considerable--if unacknowledged--affinity as well as antagonism between bibliomania and histories of learning. The bibliomaniac's interest in individual copies of books was shared by some historians of learning, who relied on bibliomaniacs for much information. However, by the early nineteenth century, bibliomania had drifted further apart from histories of learning and of belles-lettres. The successor to those histories--modern literary history--has tried to sever all ties with bibliomania.

Richard Maxwell Pretenders in Sanctuary

Royal pretenders appear frequently in fiction. This long-standing identification--where fiction treats historical themes, there are bound to be wandering royal claimants--is not completely dependent on the influence of the Waverley novels, important though they are in the overall picture, but rather on a deep generic and cultural logic. The role of pretendancy in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novel can be traced through the motif of sanctuary, a space outside the law sought by lost, pursued, or abandoned, would-be royals.The affinity between royal ambition and asylum produces foundational insights--not only about pretenders but also about relations between history and fiction in a world of emerging mass-democratic movements. More specifically,this web of relationships is exemplified in such novels as Prévost's Cleveland, Sophia Lee's The Recess, the anonymous Le Faux Pierre, Scott's Waverley, Dumas's Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, and Twain's Huckleberry Finn.

Eric Rothstein Broaching a Cultural Logic of Modernity

The term "Modernity," dereified, is most useful as a scalar measure of how attuned a practice or collectivity is to the ideal of continuous, deliberate, directional modification of persons and environment. Homeostasis--preservation of identity--then entails calculated change, therefore risk assessment, and an increased premium on information that helps one prepare for future possibilities. The laws of science but also the counterfactualities of literature do this. Literature also presents informational spaces with a density of significant particulars. From this logic of Modernity, a Darwinian argument follows. It conditions literary value, the development of genres, the autonomy of literary works, and various literary devices. The article also comments on "Pre-" and "Post-Modernity," on countermodernity, on the carrots and sticks that drive Modernity, and on the disjunctive historiography of Kuhn and Foucault.

top Volume 61, Issue 3
Author Title
Dennis Kezar Shakespeare's Guilt Trip in Henry V

This essay considers the relation between ethical accountability and authorship in Henry V and other Shakespearean plays. It argues that the insistent displacement and redistribution of guilt by Henry V, and by the play's choral reflections, meditate upon a similar phenomenon encountered by Shakespeare in an increasingly corporate theater. The play's pronounced metadramatic self-consciousness concerns the same literary history with which it participates: how does one own (and own up to) one's words and actions in a theater populated by middlemen and structured against private ownership? Henry V's complication of culpability reflects and embodies the theater's vexing of conventional notions of authorial responsibility. This complication corresponds with a moment in Shakespeare's career at which the authorial voice of lyric, and even the solitary responsibility claimed in the epilogue of 2 Henry IV, was becoming unstable and untenable.

Annabel Patterson A Restoration Suetonius: a New Marvell Text?

In 1672, John Starkey, dissenting publisher, member of the Green Ribbon Club, and later a political exile in Amsterdam for having published Nathaniel Bacon's Historical Discourse in 1683, issued a new translation of Suetonius' History of the Twelve Caesars. A Bodleian copy of this work was was attributed to Andrew Marvell in a seventeenth-century hand, an ascription that made sense in view of the fact that Marvell had obviously been working closely with Suetonius in both parts of the Rehearsal Transpros'd, especially the Second Part, and offered extensive analogies between Nero and Caligula and Samuel Parker, his opponent in the debates over enforced conformity. This ascription was later undermined by Pierre Legouis on the grounds that the passages about Nero and Caligula in the translation and in Marvell's tracts were "ni identiques, ni tres differentes," an inconclusive conclusion. Careful philological comparison, however, can now confirm that Marvell had the Suetonius translation in front of him (or in his head) as he marshalled his ammunition against Parker, though he rearranged or condensed its sentence structure, perhaps precisely to conceal the fact that he was the author of all three works. It appears that Marvell also consulted the earlier translation by Philemon Holland (1606), whose style was now obsolete, but whose vocabulary was occasionally too vivid to ignore. The entire exercise offers us a glimpse of the complex and far from disinterested motives behind translation--and retranslation--of the classics in the early modern period.

Sanford Budick Kant's Miltonic Test of Talent: The Presence of "When I Consider" in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals

I propose that Kant's Groundwork is extensively related to Milton's sonnet on his talent and blindness, "When I Consider." I am aware that my proposal of a significant relation between Kant's thought in the Groundwork and a passage of seventeenth-century English verse may seem not only incredible or trivial but, much more offending, necessarily (in Kant's terms) heteronomous to the autonomy that is the condition of the categorical imperative. I try to suggest, however, that Kant's relation to Milton's performance provides Kant's access to autonomy in the exercise of his "special talent" [besonderes Talent] for exemplarity, that is, for his particular "teaching" [Belehrung] of exemplarity in the categorical imperative (4:388-9). Kant's teaching in and of autonomy thus represents his way of learning from Milton. At the same time, I do not require immediate credibility for this suggestion as a condition for establishing the principal facts of the relation between the Groundwork and Milton's sonnet. Indeed, it is clear to me that further articulations of the significance of this relation may well be in order.

Stacy Burton Paradoxical Relations: Bakhtin and Modernism
top Volume 61, Issue 4
Author Title
Henry Schwarz Aesthetic Imperialism: Literature and the Conquest of India
Steven Monte Ancients and Moderns in Mrs. Dalloway

This article explores some ways in which Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, responds to modern and ancient works and in doing so outlines perspectives on literary history. Since its publication in 1925, critics have often compared Mrs. Dalloway to Joyce's Ulysses. There have also been many isolated comparisons between Woolf and almost any nineteenth- or twentieth-century writer one can think of: Mansfield, Pater, Eliot (George and T.S.), Proust, Austen, Tennyson. A few studies take a broader subject of comparison--the Romantics, the Renaissance, the Russians--but there has been little synthesis of this material, and rarely more than passing references to the Greeks. Bringing a wider perspective to bear on Woolf's relations with other writers can help one avoid seeing these relations solely in the light of continuity and revision. Such a perspective moreover has particular relevance for Mrs. Dalloway, whose compositional history shows that Woolf worked out her vision of the modern novel by working through her relations with contemporaries and other writers to whom she viewed herself an heir. Woolf's readings of writers ancient and modern reflect her own concerns, but her aesthetic aims and her manner of pursuing these aims change as a result of her engagement with them.

Stephen Lewis Love and Politics in Wyndham Lewis's Snooty Baronet

Wyndham Lewis exhibits special concern with nonviolence and love around the time he wrote the novel Snooty Baronet (1932)--a period in which he supported first Italian fascism and Bolshevism, and then Hitlerism. How could these political commitments coincide with such a concern? Lewis struggled to respond artistically to a supposedly behaviorist sociopolitical world with a deep conviction that natural rather than aesthetic stimuli govern human behavior. This he believed had spawned an abiding passion for violence. In Snooty Baronet Lewis rearticulates social relations, especially love, in aesthetic rather than behaviorist terms. He satirizes supposed failures in contemporary efforts by Hemingway, Roy Campbell, and Henry de Montherlant to imagine alternatives to sociopolitical decadence. However, in claiming that such authors celebrate behaviorist violence, Lewis condemns reference to interiority in descriptions of human behavior, thereby signaling a proximity between behaviorist use of language and his own attention to the "surface" of things, advocated in The Art of Being Ruled (1926) as the sole means to neutralize love of violence. Snooty Baronet fights such proximity through radical use of a surface aesthetic to express "indifferent" love, but the counterintuitiveness of such love seriously undermines the effectiveness of the surface aesthetic as a mode of political engagement.

Anita Patterson Jazz, Realism, and the Modernist Lyric: The Poetry of Langston Hughes

This essay examines Langston Hughes's jazz poetics within the arc of his entire career, and argues two main points. First, I suggest that Hughes's modernist predilection for experimental forms is evident even in his earliest, most documentary, realist poems, and in this respect, he challenges the critical distinction between "realism" and the "avant-garde." Second, I suggest that there are striking, and previously overlooked similarities between Hughes's techniques and those of transatlantic modernists such as Eliot and Pound. Hughes's interest in the analogy between musical and poetic forms; his fascination with cross-cultural identification and exchange; and his experiments with the improvisatory formal freedoms of jazz all show his engagement with questions shared by his high modernist contemporaries.


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