|Aaron Kunin||Characters Lounge |
This essay defines character as a device that collects every example of a kind of person. This formalist definition derives from seventeenth-century books of characteristic writings. The essay tests this definition against the antiformalist one derived from the realist novel, in which the job of a character is to individuate. The comic rather than tragic historiography of the formalist account makes it slightly preferable to the antiformalist one. The essay's archive is intended to be comprehensive and includes representative examples from poems, novels, plays, comic books, and works of criticism.
|Donald Gilbert-Santamaría||Maravall's Post-Hegelian Roots |
Culture of the Baroque offers José Antonio Maravall's most comprehensive vision of the baroque in Spain as a historical phenomenon that encompasses virtually all aspects of seventeenth-century social and cultural life. Maravall's study reappraises the conventional view of the baroque as the privileged locus of Spanish literary and historical production by appealing to the secularized post-Hegelianism of Jacob Burckhardt and Heinrich Wölfflin. In particular, Maravall's analysis draws on two related elements in the post-Hegelian approach to early modern historiography that contemporary work tends to ignore or even contradict: a nominalist view of the baroque that rejects the transcendent claims of Hegelian historiography and an explicit embrace of subjectivism as the necessary condition of historical scholarship. Maravall's adherence to these foundational principles of post-Hegelian historiography illuminates the original stakes of early modern periodization and their radical deformation over time. In the process, his work not only facilitates a reassessment of many of the conventional claims made for the Spanish baroque but, more important, establishes a theoretical perspective from which to evaluate contemporary scholarship on the baroque as a historical and aesthetic concept.
|Thomas DiPiero||Voltaire's Parrot; or, How to Do Things with Birds |
Beginning in the mid-seventeenth century, thinkers in various disciplines evoked birds and other animals that appeared able to talk to make points about language use and human reason and identity. Talking birds initially allowed philosophers to draw parallels between language and the Cartesian model of human beings as both body and spirit, since language consisted of material sounds as vehicles for abstract ideas. By the eighteenth century the talking bird in literature had become a metaphor for a natural language that could express the truth in any and all circumstances. In later works of both literature and natural history, talking birds—and also monkeys—symbolized the point where thinking and material substances met. However, instead of offering a synthesis of those two substances, as the human does in Cartesian philosophy, talking animals highlighted a point of contention where thought and human identity were continuously and dynamically produced.
|Thomas J. Otten||Hawthorne's Twisted Letters |
Ekphrasis undergoes a decisive shift in Nathaniel Hawthorne and his contemporaries. Whereas Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and other seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writers (John Dryden, Alexander Pope) distinguished between verbal and visual arts through metaphors of realms and boundaries, Hawthorne twists the genres together again, as do John Keats and Robert Browning. Snakes in The Marble Faun, vines in The Blithedale Romance, and the A in The Scarlet Letter are tangled figures that at once image both the relationship between the genres and the newly powerful nature of relationships between persons. Similarly, the fullness and the insecurity of friendship are conveyed by verbal pictures that borrow a sense of plenitude from the visual arts even as they fail to achieve the direct presence of those media. An analysis of words and images in The Token, the gift book in which so many of Hawthorne's early tales first appeared, suggests that to read ekphrasis attentively in Hawthorne is to read the idiom of the interpersonal realm. Ekphrasis thus emerges not as a timeless figure to be cherished only by formalists but as a powerful tool for the historian, a moment that compresses into a single figure a culture's fictions of affiliation and estrangement.
|Robert Appelbaum||Benedict S. Robinson, Islam and Early Modern English Literature: The Politics of Romance from Spenser to Milton|
|Kathleen Blake||Mary Poovey, Genres of the Credit Economy: Mediating Value in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain|
|Richard Block||Peter M. McIsaac, Museums of the Mind: German Modernity and the Dynamics of Collecting|
|Richard Watts||K. Martial Frindéthié, The Black Renaissance in Francophone African and Caribbean Literatures|
Modern Language Quarterly | Department of English, Box 354330 |
University of Washington | Seattle, WA 98195-4430