|David Quint||“Things Invisible to Mortal Sight”: Light, Vision, and the Unity of Book 3 of Paradise Lost |
Milton tightly structures book 3 of Paradise Lost around analogies and distinctions between divine and solar light, the invisible heaven beheld by the poet’s blind faith in the book’s first half and the visible universe and sun visited by Satan in its second, vision down and up the ladder of Creation. The vision of “things invisible to mortal sight” that the poet asks for in the opening invocation is analogized, in the divine council that the book depicts, to the Son’s faith in his triumph over death. False analogy leads the fools of the Limbo of Vanity to understand God in terms of his and their own works; equally vain philosophers falsely separate the sun from God as an independent power source. Milton criticizes both the Neoplatonic solar mysticism and the godless materialism that could be associated with the new heliocentric model of the cosmos. He stakes out a middle ground for poetry to occupy vis-à-vis the New Science, a poetry skeptical of its own inherited fictions based on the old cosmology, a poetry whose own formal patterns and unity intimate order against a more sweeping empirical doubt.
|J. Andrew Hubbell||“It Was an Ancient Mariner”: Sir Ernest Shackleton Rewrites the Romantic Quest |
While other critics have examined how Antarctic literature of the heroic age of exploration reflected masculine ideals and an imperialist agenda, this essay argues that Shackleton consciously structured South, his memoir of the Endurance’s voyage, around Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” as well as other literary texts, to transform the failure of his quest for a transantarctic crossing into a glorious triumph. Shackleton’s allusions and structural borrowings substitute the truth of literature for the reality of the polar experience. While this substitution is typical of “voyage of discovery” literature and other subgenres of the adventure story that inform South, Shackleton is distinctly more skillful at manipulating the genre’s tactical potential to construct a fantasy of subjectivity based on the internal quest romance, thereby altering the definition of heroics that nourishes the ideologies sustaining the late British imperial adventure. The essay, which places this rhetorical analysis of South in the context of Britain’s decline as an imperial power after World War I, argues that the tradition of internal quest romance operates in the cultural imaginary as a counternarrative to the experience of failure.
|Marius Hentea||The Silence of the Last Poet: Matthew Arnold, T. S. Eliot, and the Value of the Classic |
This essay explores the conceptions of the classic, and of literary value more generally, in T. S. Eliot's "What Is a Classic?" and Matthew Arnold's "Study of Poetry." Eliot's address heavily depends on Arnold's study, but there are significant points of difference, especially when it comes to the question of Homer and Virgil. Fundamentally, though, both Arnold and Eliot reach toward a transcendental, even religious, view of the classic. The essay concludes by developing the implications of Eliot's "last poet" and the silencing qualities of the classic hinted at in his address. These qualities have not been sufficiently understood, but taking them seriously shows why the current defense of the classic is dubious.
|Kathleen Verduin||Imprinting Mortality: Updike Reading Books |
Self-consciousness was eminently John Updike's hallmark theme, the matrix of his sustained confrontation with mortality and the condition of his alliance with Christianity. As with most literate persons, Updike's self-consciousness was stimulated by reading. His extensive oeuvre and recurrent confessional impulse permit reconstruction of much of his reading experience, recording not simply his internalization of formative texts but also his attraction to books as auratic objects for consumption. For students of book history, Updike's "story of reading" yields a quarry of information, intersecting continually the larger narrative of twentieth-century print culture: his self-defining agon with mortality may in fact be traced to a concomitant chronicle of American publishing history. Building on the story "Pigeon Feathers" as exemplum, this essay traces the progress of Updike's engagement with books from childhood to early adulthood, focusing on his well-known interest in Søren Kierkegaard and Karl Barth and contextualizing that interest by reference to such contemporary publishing ventures as Anchor Books and the Harper Torchbooks.
|Susanna F. Ferlito||Joseph Luzzi, Romantic Europe and the Ghost of Italy|
|Tamara S. Wagner||John Plotz, Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move|
|Peter Coviello||Christopher Castiglia, Interior States: Institutional Consciousness and the Inner Life of Democracy in the Antebellum United States|
|Robert L. Caserio||Douglas Mao, Fateful Beauty: Aesthetic Environments, Juvenile Development, and Literature, 1860–1960|
|Rachel Price||Laura Lomas, Translating Empire: José Martí, Migrant Latino Subjects, and American Modernities|
Modern Language Quarterly | Department of English, Box 354330 |
University of Washington | Seattle, WA 98195-4430