Abstracts for Volume 65 | 2004

Volume 65, Issue 1
Author Title
Carla Freccero Queer Nation, Female Nation: Marguerite de Navarre, Incest, and the State in Early Modern France
Jeffrey Masten Material Cavendish: Paper, Performance, "Sociable Virginity"

The essay argues for a reexamination of the theoretical and methodological models that have characterized the study of Margaret Cavendish's writing, her writing and publication practices, and her model of a feminist or "proto-feminist" writing subject. Taking as its example the use of paste-on "cancel" slips used to mark the participation of Cavendish's husband William in the writing of her second volume of printed plays (1668), the essay argues for a reintegration of the ways in which "material" aspects of the printed text figure alongside more familiar discursive/textual marks as performances of Cavendish's authorship and her collaboration with her husband. As a method for rethinking "identity," hermetic authorship, and a writing subject on an "absolutist" model, the essay suggests tracing authorial "identifications," including the complicated nexus of identifications and associations within emergent seventeenth-century "companionate marriage," one of the rhetorics Cavendish deploys in describing her writing. The essay thus seeks to provide a model for thinking about the relation of bibliographic study, "the history of the book," and feminism in a particular time.

Laura Mandell The First Women (Psycho-) Analysts, or the Friends of Feminist History

Enlightenment feminism such as that produced by Mary Hays and Mary Wollstonecraft still contains some as yet unactivated political potential, offering accurate accounts of women's oppression embedded in rhetorical efforts to overcome that oppression. Insofar as those acts are rhetorical, they were at the moment of their production unfinished but can be completed in our moment. One way to do so is through understanding the utopianism essential to feminism as a psychoanalytic approach to history. Enlightenment philosophy is opposed to our current psychoanalytically-inspired view that all reality, past or present, bears the same relation to language as does trauma - in other words, that history is fundamentally inaccessible. Hays and Wollstonecraft are Enlightenment thinkers to the core: implicitly gainsaying the trauma theory of reality, they attempt to make use of transference as both psychoanalytic cure and method for uncovering reality. For them, only partisan historical accounts written by the friends of feminist history can give us a version of reality that is undistorted by the sexist practices of their culture. The friendship that they offer to us through rhetorical performance recapitulates the psychoanalytic encounter, making their historical reality available to us through analysis of transference. Transference is, of course, nothing apart from the counter-transference: reading for transference allows Hays and Wollstonecraft to analyze us, revealing that one of the major forms taken by sexism at our own moment is the tale of fatal attraction.

Rachel Blau DuPlessis Marble Paper: Toward a Feminist "History of Poetry"
Angela Leighton In Time, and Out: Women's Poetry and Literary History

This essay explores the possibilities of defining a literary history of women's poetry in relation to a particular genre of lyric which seems to be almost exclusive to women poets: the lyric of 'being dead'. Not exactly 'self-elegy', this form of poetry, which runs through nineteenth and twentieth-century writing, from Christina Rossetti to Heather McHugh, suggests, on the one hand, that a distinctive literary history of women's poetry can be mapped, and, on the other, that history, at least the biographical history of the first person pronoun, is precisely the thing that women poets are keen to escape. The essay thus suggests that lyric poetry plays up the tension, latent in all literary writing, between history and the aesthetic. The future of a feminist literary criticism might, paradoxically, be found in just the place where history and the aesthetic meet and find their limits.

Joan DeJean The Time of Commitment: Reading "Sapho 1900" Reading Sappho

Those of us who study the works and the careers of authors from earlier periods to whom the adjective "feminist" can be applied are always practicing a particular form of "feminism in time." We are of necessity evaluating projects from other periods from a contemporary vantage point. As a result, we are constantly obliged to question the extent to which our reconstructions of their alliances and commitments may have been colored by our knowledge of the ways in which feminism has developed in our time. In this essay, I consider a period during the first half of the twentienth century and what seems a most unlikely alliance: between a group of radical lesbians and several of the founders of the field known today as Jewish Studies who were also among the most vocal supporters of Alfred Dreyfus. I speculate on both the political goals of this alliance and on how we might understand how it came to be. The central piece of "evidence" upon which my reconstruction is based is the most overtly sapphic edition of Sappho ever published, which appeared in Paris just as that city was liberated after the German occupation.

Robyn Wiegman On Being in Time with Feminism

This paper approaches current debates in academic feminism by critiquing lines of inquiry that emphasize generational difference and exploring instead non teleological understandings of feminism as a knowledge project, historical entity, and social force. It focuses in particular on the psychic aspects of sustaining an intellectual political life by returning to the vexed relation between experience and theory in feminist thought, and ends with a consideration of the current psychic life of Women's Studies as an interdisciplinary field.

Jonathan Culler "Feminism in Time": A Response
top Volume 65, Issue 2
Author Title
Aaron Kunin Other Hands in Pepys' Diary

This essay argues that reading, for Pepys, is a two-person activity, and usually means reading to someone (his wife, his patron, or a friend) or being read to (by his wife, a servant, or a friend). Historians of reading have long recognized the crowdedness of such scenes, but nonetheless have reduced them to one figure: the man of letters achieving, as Roger Chartier puts it, "intimacy with his book," while the servants who do the physical work of reading and writing are written out of the history of reading and writing. The essay focuses primarily on Pepys's reading of pornographic novels and poems, and suggests that these scenes may be collaborative rather than solitary. The essay finally raises questions about the use of Pepys as a representative figure for seventeenth-century history: why should Pepys be typical?

Joep Leerssen Literary Historicism: Romanticism, Philologists, and the Presence of the Past
Paul Gilmore Mechanical Means: Emersonian Aesthetic Transcendence and Antebellum Technology

"Mechanical Means: Emersonian Aesthetic Transcendence and Antebellum Technology" argues against both New Critical and New Historicist readings of Emerson's idealist aesthetics by contending that he conceived of aesthetics less as a withdrawal into an ideal realm than an attempt to transform society by challenging notions of the self and the self's material relations to the world. In particular, I trace Emerson's allusions to and metaphors of new technologies to suggest how he attempted to figure aesthetic practice in terms of the human capacity to re-make both the material world and consciousness. Connecting this element of Emerson's thought to his anti-slavery activity, I argue that his delineation of the power of aesthetic experience in terms of technologies enables him to imagine aesthetics both as detached from specific political causes and as essential to liberatory practice.

Michael Harrawood Shakespeare in the Caribbean: The Morant Bay Massacre, Jamaica, 1865

This essay considers the ways in which commentaries on the West Indies, specifically those by Thomas Carlyle and his literary executor James Anthony Froude, used Shakespeare's plays and poetry to advance colonial projects and the racial theories that fueled them. Carlyle's literary aesthetics, which borrowed heavily from Kant, ran close alongside his theories of labor and race, and provided the theoretical foundation for the ideologies of empire in place at the time of the peasant uprising at Morant Bay, Jamaica. Beginning in the 1820s, colonists in Jamaica had noted that lines from Shakespeare plays were turning up in ritual slave "Joncanoe" performances, an unauthorized and unexplained borrowing that provoked both amusement and anxiety. At stake in these borrowings were colonial notions of culture, representation and mimesis, all of which came together in the way Shakespeare's plays were invested with their particular cultural capital. The essay examines the cultural and political force that was generated by Bardologists who thought of Shakespeare as a figure of primordiality, silence and nature, the national poet who both transcended and created history.

top Volume 65, Issue 3
Author Title
Irad Malkin Postcolonial Concepts and Ancient Greek Colonization
John Dagenais The Postcolonial Laura
Lisa Lampert Race, Periodicity, and the (Neo-) Middle Ages

In recent years scholars have begun to explore issues of race and racism in medieval texts and contexts. This essay approaches this work from a new direction, investigating the informing role of the medieval and more particularly of medievalism in the constitution, representation and perpetuation of modern racism. The essay is divided into three parts. The first examines treatments of the medieval period in some influential general accounts of the history of the concept of race. The second discusses the ways in which two medieval romances, Parzival and The King of Tars, illuminate the tangled relationships between "theological" and "biological" notions of race both in the premodern and modern eras. The essay concludes with an account of "neo-medievalism" a trend among International Relations theorists and journalists that relies upon a vision of a homogeneous medieval Europe to attempt to describe current global tensions.

Roland Greene Colonial Becomes Postcolonial
Mary Louise Pratt The Anticolonial Past: Interruption, Digestion, Substitution, Reversal

This essay examines how what are known as the rise of the west and the spread of western modernity have been depicted by anti-colonial and anti-imperial thinkers whose work is tied to demands for decolonization. The essay will focus on four tropes that have been advanced as correctives or counternarratives to the story of diffusion. These are: interruption, digestion, substitution, and reversal.

Robert Markley Gulliver and the Japanese: The Limits of the Postcolonial Past

This essay examines Gulliver's voyage to Japan in Book Three of Gullivers Travels in the context of three important bodies of literature: accounts of the short-lived English trading post in Hirado (1613-23); histories of the expulsion of the Jesuits and the extirpation of Catholicism in Japan; and narratives of Dutch merchants' willingness to submit to the political ritual of trampling on Christian icons in order to maintain their trading privileges in Japan. Gulliver's encounters with the Japanese indicate that Swift knew this literature and was well aware of the unsettling implications that Japan posed for Eurocentric visions of trade, history, and theology. In their combination of fantasy and realism, Gulliver's encounters with the Japanese register profound anxieties about the limitations of English economic power, national identity, and morality in a world that until 1800 was dominated economically by the empires of the Far East.

Deepika Bahri Predicting the Past

How to read history as simultaneously synchronic and diachronic? How to read the past and imagine the future without succumbing to the specious charm of novelty? These questions organize the response to the contributions in this special issue. "Predicting the Past" evaluates the authors' challenge to traditional historical divides and customary postcolonial tropes. It concludes by suggesting that extending the time and space of colonial/postcolonial experience is useful only within a larger plot that acknowledges the presence of a necessitarian history alongside a recognition of utopian and resistive elements within it.

top Volume 65, Issue 4
Author Title
Aimée Boutin Shakespeare, Women, and French Romanticism

The essay explores how writings from the 1820s and 30s on Shakespearean heroines reveal the conflicting literary, political and gendered ideologies of French Romanticism. Whereas the literary history of Shakespeare in France has been mostly concerned with the contributions of male Romantics, I examine how three women poets­two of whom pioneered French Romanticism's appropriation of Shakespeare­responded to the idealization of the charms and purity of "English" womanhood typical of Shakespearean character criticism, exemplified in the compilation Galerie des femmes de Shakspeare. Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, Amable Tastu and Louise Colet imitated Shakespeare in different ways, but each imitation underscores the poets' scholarly and public voices at a time when women, like Shakespeare's heroines themselves, were being sequestered in domesticity.

Mary A. Favret War in the Air

This essay examines the metaphor of war as weather, and the implications of imagining the sky and its meteorological fluctuations as a register for history. Tracing on the one hand, changes in weather science in the course of the long eighteenth-century, and georgic models of prognostication and mediation, it argues that the emergence of a global, aerial meteorology in late century allowed poets (such as Cowper, Barbauld, and numerous popular poets publishing in journals and newspapers) to turn to the skies to communicate something affecting about distant, global war.

Thomas F. Haddox Elizabeth Spencer, the White Civil Rights Novel, and Postsouthern

This essay argues that the emergence of what I call the white civil rights novel--a genre whose most famous example is Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)--in the 1940s and 1950s in the U.S South should be understood as a mark of the new "postsouthern" literary culture. While the monuments of southern modernist literature of the 1920s and 1930s had characterized the South as an authentic community, possessed of a tragic sensibility and metaphysical depth, the newer postsouthern texts ironically deploy southern tropes that are fast becoming simulacra. Using Lewis Simpson and Michael Kreyling's theories of the postsouthern, I develop this argument through a reading of one of the most important white civil rights novels, Elizabeth Spencer's The Voice at the Back Door (1956). Spencer's novel, like other white civil rights novels, adopts a highly personalized politics of liberal gradualism and mocks the drama and metanarrative gravity of southern identity that earlier novels had celebrated. Yet precisely because its ironic effect depends on familiarity with an earlier model of southern identity, it does not mark a decisive break with the southern past that some admirers of the postsouthern might wish to see in it. Finally, through its depiction of Beckwith Dozer, The Voice at the Back Door suggests that African-American men possess whatever dignity, depth, and potential for agency postsouthern culture may retain.


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