|Anahid Nersessian||Two Gardens: An Experiment in Calamity Form |
Recent calls to understand eighteenth-and nineteenth-century poetry as a response to deteriorating environmental conditions insist on a problematic continuity between our own time and the time of Romanticism. This essay explores the aesthetic and ethical possibilities of nescience, or unknowing, as a way to confront uncertain futures. Drawing on the work of William Cowper and Derek Jarman, it considers the discursive relationship between AIDS activism in the 1980s and the nature poetry of the Romantic period and finds in that relationship a philosophical bond between past and present states of being in the dark. This nescient or ignorant epistemology has resonances with Roland Barthes’s writings on Zen as well as with Derek Parfit’s rejection of personal identity and, by extension, of self-interest as a catalyst for moral action.
|Robert D. Hume||“London” in Comedy from Michaelmas Term to The Beggar’s Opera |
Some 250 English comedies are set in London between circa 1600 and 1737. Three clichés about them remain current. First, “Jacobean city comedy” performs serious sociopolitical work. Second, the social level of the protagonists rises in the “comedy of wit” or “comedy of manners.” Third, “low” and “satirical” comedy gradually gives way to “sentimental” and even “exemplary” comedy. None of these claims is more than very partly true. Throughout this span of time we find topical (City Politiques) and topographical (Covent Garden) comedy, social satire (The Provok’d Wife), ideological argumentation (The Country Gentleman), and ambivalent or ironic presentation of conflicted or unstable values (The Man of Mode). London can be fun (The Shoemaker’s Holiday), glamorous (The Lady of Pleasure), wicked (Friendship in Fashion), low (The Roaring Girl), ugly (The Wives Excuse), or allegorical (Albion and Albanius). The degree of realism varies drastically. The plays exhibit far greater diversity of attitude and are much more difficult to interpret with confidence than most critics have been willing to admit. We do well, therefore, to take them on a case-by-case basis, acknowledging that some are ambiguous, internally contradictory, or just plain opaque.
|Nicholas Halmi||Romanticism, the Temporalization of History, and the Historicization of Form |
Since the beginning of its academic study around 1870, Romanticism has been defined simultaneously as a historical period (chronologically restricted) and as a stylistic type (chronologically open). This paradox, consisting in the difficulty of reconciling historical temporality with the systematization of knowledge, can be traced back to the “temporalization” of history in the second half of the eighteenth century, when transhistorical aesthetic classification was destabilized and literary history developed as a distinct critical practice. But the troubled historical consciousness manifested in aesthetic theory of the time—nostalgia for an irrecoverable past—also expressed itself artistically in forms at once engaged with and detached from history, notably stylistic simulacra of the past and, in poetry, failed or ironized revivals of the classical gods.
|Merrill Turner||The Chekhovian Point of View in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse |
Although Virginia Woolf’s critical writings pay special tribute to Anton Chekhov’s stories and plays, his role as preceptor in relation to her own fiction has not been fully explored. Not only does the manuscript of To the Lighthouse display clear affinities with Chekhov’s sensibility (as apprehended in Woolf’s 1925 Common Reader essay, “The Russian Point of View”), but this congruence was intensified during extensive final revisions, begun in typescript just after Woolf had viewed a production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters in late October 1925. Woolf’s purposeful assimilation of Chekhov’s inconclusive, disjunctive manner in her meticulously composed, autobiographically candid novel bespeaks an unapologetic openness to authorial influence, made all the more provocative by the adoption of a foreign model whose merit was then still little recognized in English literary circles.
|Jeffrey Todd Knight||Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern; Gerard Passannante, The Lucretian Renaissance: Philology and the Afterlife of Tradition|
|Tom Conley||Louisa Mackenzie, The Poetry of Place: Lyric, Landscape, and Ideology in Renaissance France|
|Ben Glaser||Meredith Martin, The Rise and Fall of Meter: Poetry and English National Culture, 1860 – 1930|
|Robert L. Caserio||Peter Lancelot Mallios, Our Conrad: Constituting American Modernity|
|Paula Rabinowitz||Sonnet Retman, Real Folks: Race and Genre in the Great Depression|
|Klaus Hofmann||Gerhard Richter, Afterness: Figures of Following in Modern Thought and Aesthetics|
|Alexander C. Y. Huang||Robin Visser, Cities Surround the Countryside: Urban Aesthetics in Postsocialist China|
Modern Language Quarterly | Department of English, Box 354330 |
University of Washington | Seattle, WA 98195-4430