Abstracts for Volume 66 | 2005

Volume 66, Issue 1
Author Title
Daniel Javitch The Poetics of Variatio in Orlando Furioso

Ariosto's ability to discover means of varying the repeated actions or events of chivalric romance may well have been the hallmark of his artistry for his early readers, trained as they were themselves to practice and appreciate techniques of variatio. Chivalric romance was a genre that provided Ariosto with numerous occasions for variation, but it is the opportunities that he created as distinct from the ones he inherited that receive attention here, e.g. his imitation of prior texts; his retelling of known stories; his recurring treatment of certain themes; and the replication of his own narrative.Ariosto wants readers to appreciate the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of his variations and also the way his modifications make for a better contextual fit, and, while these changes generate new meanings, readers are not being asked to focus primarily on the different meanings, a misdirected tendency of modern interpreters. Moreover, while Ariosto may want us to admire his artistic virtuosity when he displays an almost endless capacity to rewrite or to improve upon the already told, the improvement is never meant to be final. The poetics of variatio is predicated on the belief that there can be no superior or definitive version of any subject or story.

Julia Reinhard Lupton Rights, Commandments, and the Literature of Citizenship

At stake in the relation between rights and commandments are a number of linked logics that gather up the cruxes of modernity itself: the relations between revelation and reason, positive law and natural law, heteronomy and autonomy, vertical axes of subjection and horizontal networks of citizenship. This essay uncovers the romance of covenant in the architecture of the Decalogue and its exegesis, with special attention to the commandment to honor one's father and mother. It then turns to John Locke as a powerful exegete of the paradoxes of consent embodied in this commandment. The essay ends by attending to the genesis of the Bill of Rights and the social poetics of the First Amendment. The essay uses the discourse of rights to counter the disciplinary and hierarchical functionalization of commandments, and deploys the discourse of commandments against the possessive individualism of rights.

Wolfram Schmidgen Re-embodying the Aesthetic

In this essay, I contend that the current return of the aesthetic is in serious danger of replicating historically outmoded ways of thinking. Broadly associated with German idealism and the notion of the aesthetic as a disembodied sphere of otherworldly pleasure, these ways of thinking are even distorting the renewed attention Adorno has received by critics such as Fredric Jameson and Robert Kaufman. Resisting Kaufman's subjectivist perspective, I recover the contributions Adorno made to a materialist aesthetics and locate them in a flexibly conceived history of objectification. Unlike the traumatic and irrecoverable split between persons and things, use value and exchange value, that has shaped so many Marxist accounts of modernization, this flexible history stresses shifting communities of persons and things and recognizes the limits of Adorno's theorizing in its preoccupation with a disembodied aesthetic subject. It is this larger and more richly textured history of objectification that the essay identifies as the only arena in which a return of the aesthetic can make sense. Such a return, I conclude by revisiting Edmund Burke's and Karl Marx's sensualist aesthetics, must grasp the relationship between beauty, the senses, and objectification as a single history.

Ella Zohar Ophir The Laura Riding Question: Modernism, Poetry, and Truth

Laura Riding's work has been making some significant reappearances; the prospects for her integration into the history and study of modernism remain nonetheless somewhat uncertain. This essay reviews recent efforts to identify Riding's place in twentieth-century poetics, and argues that the impulse to dissociate her from notions of poetic autonomy is misguided. Riding's apparently eccentric preoccupation with truth in fact issued from the same crisis of cultural authority that was responsible for the other aesthetic singularities of her age. She forged a conception of poetic autonomy intended to hold poetry and the poet beyond the epistemological dominion of science; she imagined poetry almost as an alternative reality, a final condition of truth towards which the poet could hope to slowly bring the world. This process issued in the austerity and analytic intellection for which her work has been justly recognized, and was the impetus for her influential developments of the reforms of poetic language that began with Pound. Riding's teleological faith, however, results in the aspect of her poetry likely to remain a liability: not difficulty or abstraction, but the conceptual restrictions and peremptory conclusions by which some of the poems are consequently marked.

top Volume 66, Issue 2
Author Title
Ann T. Delehanty From Judgment to Sentiment: Changing Theories of the Sublime and Its Audience, 1674-1710

This essay explores how the early modern discussion of the sublime in France can be seen as a microcosm for the shift from a poetics model of literary theory to a nascent model of aesthetic theory. It shows how the work of literature moved from being seen as a rule-bound object subject to judgment (the poetics model) to being the stimulus for an experience which was produced by genius and was universally felt (an early aesthetics model). The first part of the essay looks at three thinkers who posit the poetics model of the sublime: Longinus, the early Boileau, and René Rapin. The second section of the essay examines the revised definition of the sublime that Boileau offers in 1710 which focuses exclusively on the sentimental reaction of the audience as the arbiter of a work's excellence. The essay concludes that the terms of the sublime move from the artist to the audience, from the art object to the art experience, from the judgment to the sentiment of the audience, and ultimately, from poetics to aesthetics.

Laura E. McGrane Fielding's Fallen Oracles: Print Culture and the Elusiveness of Common Sense

This essay explores the topos of the classical oracle in Henry Fielding's plays and periodical writings. Building on early modern conceptions of the oracular voice as duplicitous and dangerous, Fielding reformulates the oracle, representative of both ministerial corruption and aesthetic failure, as a lingering threat to common sense interactions. In works including Pasquin (1736) and essays in Common Sense and The Champion, Fielding deploys the oracle to symbolize and satirize a crisis of political and authorial legitimacy in contemporary print and political culture. Even as Fielding's works deride manipulative forms of governance in an increasingly market-driven print domain, however, they exhibit the skeptic's longing for a lost form, a grand and mystical authority capable of speaking or writing a truth beyond the partial knowledge of mere public opinion.

Renata Kobetts Miller Child-Killers and the Competition Between Late Victorian Theater and the Novel

"Infanticide, Child Neglect, and Abortion" argues that the theater's increased respectability in the 1860s led novelists to seek an intellectual, rather than popular, readership, and gave rise to a competition between the theater and the novel-a competition so fierce that its defining figure was infanticide. By tracing infanticide in works such as T.W. Robertson's play Caste (1867), George Moore's novel A Mummer's Wife (1885), and plays and novels by Elizabeth Robins in the early twentieth century, I demonstrate how the theater's improved stature led the two literary forms to evolve, striving for greater realism in various forms, and to define their evolution in relation to each other.

Marina MacKay Putting the House in Order: Virginia Woolf and Blitz Modernism

This essay reads Virginia Woolf's Between the Acts (1941) in relation to the mainstream Second World War rhetorics of home front reform, or what The Times called "putting the house in order." I argue that the book shows Woolf at the end of her career reflecting on the iconoclastic ambitions of modernist literary form and on interwar modernists' conservative domestic politics, and qualifying both in the light of the ongoing war.

top Volume 66, Issue 3
Author Title
Mohamed-Salah Omri History, Literature and Settler Colonialism in North Africa

French occupation of Algeria in 1830 and of Tunisia in 1881 inevitably generated an intra-Mediterranean conflict where the history and memory of colonizer and colonized overlap and intersect. The subsequent rise of French settler colonialism fed on and was served by legitimating narratives and "academic" evidence. Louis Bertrand and others promoted the idea of the Latin character of North Africa in their fiction and in their research. In Tunisia, Yves Chatelain produced a sketch map and an anthology of a French-based entity he called "Tunisian" literature, revising French Orientalist and exotic literature along the way. On the "native" side, the assertion of an independent and viable culture based in the Islamic and Arabic traditions saw its fullest expression in the journal al-Mabahith (1938-1947). This essay looks beyond the two antagonistic discourses themselves to the processes employed by both sides in rewriting and refashioning the history and literature of this Mediterranean cultural space, such as the use of Roman, Greek and Arab icons and topoi like Apuleius, Ulysses, Sindbad, Ibn Khaldun…. The intersection between Mediterranean history, colonialism and Orientalism makes this a particularly complex situation where the interaction between literature and history can be observed.

Megan M. Ferry Women's Literary History: Inventing Tradition in Modern China

Literary histories emerged in early twentieth century China as a result of increased interaction with other nation-states and operated as a systematic means to measure Chinašs modern development. Part of this development reconsidered womenšs social roles and the possibility for gender equality. Histories of pre-1911 Chinese women writers recuperated their writings from presumed obscurity to recast a cultural tradition that had previously excluded women. This paper argues that even though these literary histories form part of an emancipatory project to liberate women and Chinese society from their "unmodern" Confucian past, they paradoxically place the female subject of the literary historical narrative in two temporal spaces: a utopian, pre-Confucian, prepatriarchal past and an idealist, unattainable future in order to delineate a Chinese writing practice as well as to claim Chinašs equal status in a global context. This historiographic project reveals the contradictory recuperation of women as historical subjects within specific, and often limited, parameters of essentialized femaleness, maintaining womenšs contribution to literary history as a symbolic gesture that circumscribes their historical contribution to Chinese literature and culture.

Anthony J. Cuda Who Stood Over Eliot's Shoulder?

This essay traces the development of a recurrent theme in T. S. Eliot's poetry, plays, and prose, using it as a vantage point from which to view his ongoing intellectual struggle to understand the nature and limitations of the human soul. It identifies what he calls in The Dry Salvages (1941) "the backward half-look / Over the shoulder" with the Shakespearean "recognition scene," and examines the ways in which Eliot experiments with the scene in "Marina" (1930) and after. The essay draws from a variety of unpublished and uncollected letters, reviews, and essays to explore Eliot's interest in the hidden faculties of the psyche, those foreign regions glimpsed only from the corner of the mind's eye and never fully focused, and in the emotional turmoil that results from the conscious mind's sudden realization of its own incompleteness and contingence. It concludes by discussing how two of Eliot's most prominent twentieth-century descendants, Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes, rediscover and recuperate his insights into recognition and the hidden soul and integrate those insights into their own imaginative projects.

Mark Maslan The Faking of the Americans: Passing, Trauma, and National Identity in Philip Roth's The Human Stain

Philip Roth's The Human Stain dramatizes the conflict between racial and national identity. For Roth, the racial model is grounded in historical continuity, whereas the national one is grounded in discontinuity. The book's narrative form tips the balance in favor of nationality by converting historical discontinuity into a basis for collective identity. The Human Stain presents itself as a memoir of Coleman Silk by his friend, Nathan Zuckerman. This allows Roth to emphasize the limits of Nathan's knowledge: he learns Coleman's history only after his death, and even then his information is incomplete. In this sense, Nathan's story bears the marks of historical discontinuity. Yet Nathan's lack of factual knowledge gives rise to a subjective bond with his dead friend that enables him not only to reconstruct Coleman's life, but to bear witness to it. In this way, Roth transforms historical discontinuity into a source of shared historical experience. The central question of this essay is whether the embrace of such discontinuities can provide the idea of group identity as shared history with the logical coherence it otherwise lacks. If not, Roth's preference for American identity over African-American is groundless.

top Volume 66, Issue 4
Author Title
Pat Rogers John Philips, Pope, and Political Georgic

The article centers on a poem by John Philips, Cyder (1708). It considers the work as a pioneering instance of Tory georgic, adapting the Virgilian model by the incorporation of a directly political theme. Some of this derives from traditional panegyric, a form Philips had employed in his earlier poem Bleinheim (sic). In addition the poem enlists local material and contains a schematic version of English history. In combination these elements serve to identify national destiny with the person of the monarch, Queen Anne, and with the "country" ideology of Tory politicians from Philips's own home county of Herefordshire. Second, the article suggests that in the next few years other poets followed the example given by Philips, among them Alexander Pope, John Gay, William Diaper and Joseph Trapp. In particular, the links between Cyder and Windsor-Forest are shown to be more extensive than previously recognized. As well as some newly identified verbal parallels, this connection embraces the wider themes and rhetorical aims of the two poems, as exemplars of a new sub-genre.

Tamara S. Wagner "A Strange Chronicle of the Olden Time": Revisions of the Regency in the Construction of Victorian Domestic Fiction

The silver-fork novel is often misunderstood as merely a transitional stage of early-nineteenth-century popular fiction that had little, or no, impact on the development of the Victorian novel. This essay reconsiders the genre's significance for the construction of Victorian domestic fiction through the lens of two long neglected novels that, in the mid-nineteenth century, redefined early silver-fork representations of the Regency period: Emily Eden's The Semi-Attached Couple and Catherine Hubback's The Younger Sister. Their revaluation of changing ideals of the gentleman is fascinatingly accomplished through a triangulation of three modes. Jane Austen as the exponent of a moral Regency fiction is posed against early silver-fork novels and further against a layering of retrospective representations by a "second wave" of writers. Filtering mid-century ideals of domestic life and domestic fiction through their backprojection into the Regency, their novels formed an intriguing speculation on a new interest not only in the recent past, but also in its ambiguously attractive values and plots. Such experiments significantly influenced the shaping of the Victorian novel. Cautioning against viewing silver-fork fiction in isolation, the article proposes a rethinking both of the intersecting subgenres of nineteenth-century fiction and of the novel genre's literary history.

Damian Love Doing Him into the Eye: Samuel Beckett's Rimbaud

The crisis of communication in French Symbolism was a vital avant-garde legacy for Beckett. Rupture between poet and audience is a Rimbaldian theme that influenced his view of art as the apotheosis of solitude. In his early writings and lectures he interprets the Symbolist aesthetic of the self-referring, self-contained poem as a response to that rupture, whereby the poet ('je est un autre') becomes his own audience. For Rimbaud the aesthetic fails, rendering 'I' a hostile audience or 'eye' of self-consciousness. Beckett invokes Rimbaud, who gave up writing, as a point of departure for an art of failure. In Beckett's late prose, Symbolist aesthetics - language unfolding according to its own self-contained logic in a play of sound and semantics - becomes a dramatic 'not I' disintegration of identity, permeated by a hostile Rimbaldian eye. His debt to Symbolism reveals Beckett's work as in some respects a culmination of the Romantic agony.

Martin Joseph Ponce Langston Hughes's Queer Blues

Langston Hughes's use of black music and other vernacular forms as a basis for his poetics has long been recognized as an important intervention-at the level of race and class-into the politics of representation and form during the New Negro renaissance. However, the gender and sexual implications of Hughes's turn to the blues in particular have been largely overlooked. Drawing together insights from formal criticism concerned with the relation between poetry and music, and queer criticism concerned with Hughes's ambiguous sexuality, this essay analyzes the gender-crossing first-person "I"'s that emerge in the unframed blues poems in Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927). Showing how the blues poems swing generically between the lyric and the dramatic monologue, the essay reads the poems as Hughes's literary "response" to the "call" of the vernacular blues. Affirming and giving voice to a variety of viewpoints, including erotic longing for men, Hughes thereby constructs and inhabits a queer positionality.


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