Abstracts for Volume 62 | 2001

Volume 62, Issue 1
Author Title
Manuel Martín-Rodríguez "A Net Made of Holes": Towards a Cultural History of Chicano Literature

This essay argues that the traditional historiographical models currently employed to (re)construct Chicano literary history are not appropriate for the task. Because the history of Chicano letters is full of gaps and discontinuities (the "net made of holes" in the title), a chronological listing of authors and works would give a false impression of teleological progression from past to present. Furthermore, since Chicano literature is the product of a transnational, transcultural experience, its history should not be limited by national boundaries, as most traditional literary histories are. As an alternative, this essay advocates for a transnational, rhizomatic history of both production and reception that would benefit from recent theoretical advances in borderlands, feminist, postcolonial, and cultural studies.

Margaret Bruzelius "The King of England...Loved to Look upon a MAN": Melancholy and Masculinity in Scott's Talisman
Alan Fischler Guano and Poetry: Payment for Playwriting in Victorian England

The absence of poetry--or, for that matter, quality--on the early 19th-century English stage has been frequently lamented, and many causes have been proposed to account for it: restrictive laws governing the theaters, enormous playhouses in which all but rant was lost, and the uneducated working-class audiences who were the only regular patrons of these establishments. All of these factors surely had their effect, but it may be argued that the impoverishing terms under which playwrights were paid for their work, which was commonly purchased outright by theatrical managers, constituted a still more decisive cause of the decline of the drama. For much of the era, dramatists who had to produce a vast quantity of work in order to earn a living had little time for quality; thus it was the case that, as Dion Boucicault said, "more money has been made out of guano than out of poetry." Boucicault himself took the most crucial step toward reform when, in 1860, he did not sell "The Colleen Bawn" to the manager of the Adelphi but rather negotiated a profit-sharing arrangement whereby the playwright retained for himself the rights to what proved to be an enormously successful piece. A few years later, Tom Robertson began receiving a fee from his managers for every performance of his plays, thus pioneering the modern royalty system. As pay-per-play rose, so did literary quality, as such late Victorian dramatists as W.S. Gilbert, Henry Arthur Jones, Oscar Wilde, and Arthur Wing Pinero now had the luxury of polishing the relatively few pieces they wrote to a very high gloss. Better compensation for playwrights, not better playwrights, was the prime cause of the displacement of guano from the English stage.

Matthew Curr Recuperating E. M. Forster's Maurice

Maurice has long been read as a weak novel. Aestheticist readers regard it as technically weak. Even queer theorists sneer at it for being published posthumously. But once read as part of the social critique of all his novels, Maurice emerges as the key to Forster's work and not as the weak link. Maurice functions as a retrospective to the other novels and mirrors plainly the underlying ethical quotient of novels which are otherwise too easily cornered as beautiful portraits and not searing social satire. The biographical immediacy of the early novels is largely suppressed by cautious instinct whereas Maurice, when read in conjunction with longer or better-known texts, alerts the reader to a private pain and subtle articulation of suffering that has to be respected both as the significant impulse of his creativity and the high-water mark of his art.

top Volume 62, Issue 2
Author Title
Steven Dillon Victorian Interior

The essay attempts to contribute to the developing field of visual studies by attending carefully to the social spaces figured forth by Victorian interior design and exterior architecture. The limitations of important theorists of nineteenth-century visuality--Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, Jonathan Crary--are argued, and an alternative sense of boundaries and transparency is claimed for English culture (in contrast to French). The essay discusses examples of visual culture from the London club scene, Thackeray's writings, pictures from the Illustrated London News, and The Crystal Palace. Instead of looking at nineteenth-century visuality as pre-cinematic, anticipates D.W. Griffith, it is suggested that we treat nineteenth-century visual culture through the history of architecture, looking instead towards Whistler. The final part of the essay examines the idea of the "empty room" in fiction, book illustration, and painting.

Mark Goble Cameo Appearances; or, When Gertrude Stein Checks In to the Grand Hotel

This essay looks at both Stein's autobiographical writings of the 1930s and the larger iconography of celebrity that patterns her work in this period. It suggests that this iconography overlaps in several ways with the particular modernity captured by MGM's 1932 blockbuster Grand Hotel, chiefly in the profusion of cameo appearances which mark the film's primary innovation as a product of the Hollywood studio system, but which also contribute to its representation of modern life as an experience of overwhelming publicity and social motion. It traces a remarkably similar emphasis throughout The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and Everybody's Autobiography, paying close attention to the way both the film and Stein's texts seem to project the implications of their stars' sexualities--Garbo, Stein, Toklas--onto a curious circuitry of moments involving dogs and telephones.

Nancy Vogeley How Chivalry Formed the Myth of California

Edward Everett Hale is generally credited with discovering the origins of the name California in the Spanish romance of chivalry, Sergas de Esplandian (1510). Writing in 1862, Hale detected in the name of the Amazon queen, Calafia, and in her island's name, California, the source for that state's naming. Neither scholars of American literature nor Hispanists have paid attention to that find. This article agrees with previous research that reading did inspire Spanish soldiers and mariners, but argues that these romances of chivalry, rather than drawing marvelous worlds as critics have thought, tell of contemporary events in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Near East. Political, religious and racial realities inform their chivalric conflicts and love interests. The books' stories, therefore, could be applied to the newness Spanish explorers were discovering in the Americas. After his initial linkage of California's name to a Spanish source, Hale took the book's symbolism to suggest contemporary realities of the Civil War in the United States. He thus confirmed chivalry's capacity for realistic statement. The existence of a political party in California in the 1860s, whose members were called "the chivs" and which worked to bring Southern practices of slavery to the state, also shows how chivalry's idealism could be stretched.

top Volume 62, Issue 3
Author Title
John T. Hamilton Thunder from a Clear Sky: On Lessing's Redemption of Horace
Julie Ellison News, Blues, and Cowper's Busy World
Mark Wolff Individuality and L'Esprit Français: On Gustave Lanson's Pedagogy
Sergio Waisman Ethics and Aesthetics North and South: Translation in the Work of Ricardo Piglia

I analyze how Ricardo Piglia's work emphasizes the privileged role of mistranslation, rewriting, and misreading in Argentine literature. The article focuses on Assumed Name and The Absent City (1992), in which Piglia reworks some of the techniques practiced by Jorge Luis Borges and Roberto Arlt, such as the appropriation and recontextualization of foreign texts, and applies them to the contentious socio-political setting of Argentina's 1970s, 80s, and 90s. By questioning literary lineages at times of political and aesthetic uncertainty, Piglia demonstrates how translation can function as an act of resistance in the periphery. As one of Piglia's translators in the U.S., I argue that translating Piglia's texts complicates the matter by revealing the need to include center-periphery dichotomies into contemporary debates about the effects of neoliberalism on culture and society. In the novel The Absent City, Piglia explores the relationship between individuals and language and the circulation of this relationship through society in narratives, mistranslated against the flow of state and market discourses, in the process addressing some of the key issues of our times, for north and south alike.

top Volume 62, Issue 4
Author Title
Russell Berman Politics: Divide and Rule
Srinivas Aravamudan The Return of Anachronism
Margreta de Grazia Hamlet Before Its Time
Robert Griffin The Age of "The Age of" is Over: Johnson and New Versions of the Late Eighteenth Century
Anne Mellor Were Women Writers Romantics?

Do literary periods as we have academically constructed them apply equally well to women writers? Taking the fields I know best, 18th- and 19th-century British literature, I argue that the canonical divisions between the Enlightenment / Neoclassicism, Romanticism, and Victorian literature are conceptually useless in describing the tradition of women's writing in this period. Women writers saw their female forebears, not as authorities to be challenged or overthrown, but rather as collaborators to be imitated and memorialized.

Michael North Virtual Histories: The Year as Literary Period

Academic studies of particular years approach the problem of periodization from a particularly contemporary perspective. Despite the argument offered by the most self-conscious of such studies, James Chandler’s England in 1819, that contemporary historicism traces its existence to Romanticism, annual literary histories such as Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht’s in 1926 actually reflect much more recent realities. Unlike Chandler’s own account, works like Gumbrecht’s do not focus on the role of literature in the national self-reckoning of one country, but are instead international and inter-artistic. Instead of defining the “Spirit of the Age,” works like Gumbrecht’s use the arbitrariness of the calendar year to define a time that is unified not by spirit but rather by mechanical simultaneity. The temporal synchronicity of such accounts more nearly resembles the discourse networks of Friedrich Kittler, where connections are mechanical and involuntary. In some sense, all such accounts are versions of Y2K, the technological immediacy signified by that date read back into earlier years.

Timothy J. Reiss Perioddity: Considerations on the Geography of Histories

Comparing questions raised in the physical sciences about the nature of time to similar questions raised in literary and cultural historiography about the idea of history and the nature of historical objectivity, this essay traces historically situated ways of knowing history (e.g., narrative, annals, calendars, etc) in order to explore now-habitual western periodizations. Focusing on early modern Europe, nineteenth- and twentieth-century Caribbean, colonial Mexico, and pre-independence India, the essay examines different modes of knowing historical events and conditions over time to suggest how people in different times and places establish their histories against various parameters of analysis such as place, moral experience, "myth," bodily rhythms, symbols, and catastrophes. These signal understandings and lived practices that are neither incommensurable nor directly commutable require careful understanding to get at what, for example, it means to speak of a primacy of moral experience over chronology, or of a place of memory over a time of memory. They require time and practice taken in how different cultures and groups compose their "times," in sensing plural gaps, overlaps, workings and reworkings.


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