Volume 79, Issue 2 | June 2018

Author Title
John Richardson Britannia, the Individual, and the Public Sphere: Thomson to Coleridge  
In the eighteenth-century Britannia became a vehicle for poets and other writers to reflect upon the difficult place of the individual in the emerging public sphere. Writers of the first half of the century characteristically imagined the goddess in a domestic political sphere, persuading her "children" to exercise greater patriotism. She sways public opinion to effect improvement. Alone among writers of this period, James Thomson intuitively understood that no single voice has authority in the new politics and that all interventions are contingent. His 1729 Britannia ends with the goddess rushing off to parliament, and the powerless poet left behind in a bleak, coastal setting. Later in the century, the importance of Britannia faded, but the patterns established in earlier texts continued. Anna Seward's 1781 Monody on Major Andrè retains some features of the tradition, but rather than moving towards hope in the manner of most earlier texts, it ends with Seward's melancholy recognition of her own weakness. Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 1798 "Fears in Solitude," which also retains some features of the tradition, is a sustained reflection on the individual's limited influence in the public sphere.
Sanford Budick Acts of Meditative Mind in "The Ruined Cottage"  
The poetic work of "The Ruined Cottage" is carried out by acts of the "meditative mind" (81) that Armytage identifies near the beginning of the poem. The history of interpretation of the poem has been sorely vexed by Armytage's closing statement, "I turned away / And walked along my way in happiness." (525-6). Yet far from standing alone, Armytage's statement flows immediately from his repeated identification of a kind of "meditation" (524-5). Contrary to Wordsworth's later disclaimers, he learned much about this activity of meditative mind from Kant's theories of the sublime. Husserl's deepenings of aspects of these Kantian theories are apt for understanding what Wordsworth saw in Kant and what he achieved in "The Ruined Cottage," going even beyond Kant—and Husserl as well. Wordsworth's meditative activity produces, in practice, the distinctive consciousness which is this poem's greatest achievement. Coleridge, who was well aware of this achievement, but resisted acknowledging it, provides important suggestions for locating it substantively, most specifically in Wordsworth's Kantian engagement with Milton's poetry.
Joseph Luzzi Leopardi Local and Global: Italian Society, European Modernity, and Poetry’s “Natural Duty”  
This essay will show how the dialogue between antimodernist and Romantic elements in the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi fueled his thinking on the crucial issue of italianità or “Italian identity.” I argue that the antimodern, classically minded Leopardi wanted to protect what was unique and enduring in Italian culture, especially its ancient Roman literary heritage, which he sought to quarantine from an increasingly commercial, internationalist Europe and its expressive forms. But the Romantic Leopardi understood that his fragmented, chaotic, and stagnant country (which would not become a unified political state until 1861) needed renewal and change, a recurring subject in his early patriotic odes. I analyze Leopardi’s ideas on Italy in the Discorso sopra lo stato presente dei costumi degl’italiani (Discourse on the Present State of the Customs of the Italians [c. 1824]) and in the “Palinodia al marchese Gino Capponi” (“Recantation for Marchese Gino Capponi” [1835]), as I explore how Leopardi’s views on these texts connect to his powerful defense of the social function of poetry. More broadly, I aim to contribute to our understanding of Leopardi’s place in literary history by considering his work as an essential bridge between ancient and modern literary concerns. We will see how Leopardi exploits the aesthetic tensions resulting from this historical rift by brilliantly applying them to the embattled issue of an isolated and politically fragmented Italy’s role in an interdependent, internationalist world.
Ben Parker Value and Abstraction in Thomas Hardy  
This essay argues that the production of abstract value—not limited to the transformation of labor under the exigencies of capitalism, but extending to modes of signification undermined by abstract equivalence—plays an unprecedented yet overlooked role in the major novels of Thomas Hardy. Unprecedented, because the realist novel has been previously theorized in terms of an expressive self-production thwarted by social alienation or the usurpation of individual agency; overlooked, because Hardy criticism has focused on work as a protected category of meaning-creation and social continuity. Abstract value is, however, an empty quantification of labor’s duration and the enforcement of its equivalence—not an extension of self into world. Across his novelistic career, Hardy revises the tragic weight given in his early fiction to binding material attachments, so that the later novels are, by contrast, tragedies of abstract equivalence and separation. In the face of an encroaching regime of capitalist abstraction and its relentless downward mobility, Hardy upholds not the continuity or intimacy of work but the more uncertain affiliations of precarious and uprooted surplus populations.
Author Title
Andrea Frisch Hélène Bilis, Passing Judgment: The Politics and Poetics of Sovereignty in French Tragedy from Hardy to Racine
Mary Childs Rebecca Gould, Writers and Rebels: The Literature of Insurgency in the Caucasus
Jennifer Wallace Yopie Prins, Ladies' Greek: Victorian Translations of Tragedy
Nicholas T Rinehart Daniel Hack, Reaping Something New: African American Transformations of Victorian Literature
Christian Moraru Jeremy Rosen, Minor Characters Have Their Day: Genre and the Contemporary Literary Marketplace

Modern Language Quarterly | Department of English, Box 354330 | University of Washington | Seattle, WA 98195-4430