Abstracts v.63 | 2002

Volume 63, Issue 1
Author Title
Dennis Kezar Law, Form, History: Shakespeare's Verdict in All Is True

This essay considers a long-running institutional antagonism between law and theater as a concern (on the side of the law) about formal contagion -- a fear that drama's modes of representation and interpretation can somehow infect the legal process of finding fact and constituting truth. Shakespeare's All is True (or Henry VIII) presents this antagonism not only as a contest between theatrical and legal modes, but also as a contest between two conceptions of history (form and content). The play is finally committed to collapsing these binaries -- to delivering verdicts (speaking truths) that take their authority from the law and historical particularity, as well as from the protocols of drama.

Colin Jager Mansfield Park and the End of Natural Theology

This essay argues that Mansfield Park critically examines the argument from design, the most widespread and important theological tenet among England's educated classes. The heroine Fanny Price reaches toward an imaginative reinterpretation of eighteenth-century latitudinarian ecclesiastical history, but this possible history can appear only as a fantasy world. Meanwhile, the naturalized status of latitudinarian orthodoxy to which the hero Edmund Bertram is heir begins to look less natural as various allegories for the narrative-improvement, acting, and slavery-are introduced. This instability becomes clear, finally, in several conversations about nature itself, in which it turns out that some people, Mary Crawford especially, are simply resistant to the argument from design's persuasive powers. Mary's negative presence achieves formal recognition when the narrative shatters its own easy-going procedures in order to expel her and bring Edmund and Fanny together. In thus ambivalently turning away from design as a narrative device, Austen highlights its developing inability to reliably narrate a life.

Andrew H. Miller Perfectly Helpless

This essay studies the aesthetic experience of readerly helplessness before the suffering of characters in novels, and in the novels of Jane Austen in particular. The first half of the essay attempts both to evoke this experience of helplessness; the second half attempts to situate it historically and conceptually within nineteenth century perfectionism.

Kang Liu The Short-lived Avant-Garde Literary Movement and Its Transformation: The Case of Yu Hua
top Volume 63, Issue 2
Author Title
Joseph A. Dane and Margaret Russett "Everlastinge to Posterytie": Chatterton's Spirited Youth

Thomas Chatterton, often regarded as a figure on the fringes of eighteenth-century culture, is best understood as the originator of that cardinal Romantic maxim: "the child is father of the man." Chatterton, in other words, is Romanticism's figure for temporal recursion, and for a challenge to literary genealogy that is sometimes misread as Freudian "family-romance." Examining Chatterton's own poetry and prose, as well as key texts in his eighteenth-century, Romantic, and later editorial reception, Margaret Russett and Joseph A. Dane argue that Chatterton powerfully disrupts linear accounts of poetic development and of the relationship between original and imitation. This disruption is a function of the genealogical fantasy that proved attractive to both Chatterton and his detractors: that of a purely masculine lineage that validates the modern poet as chosen son. Having traced this fantasy through to Chatterton's late nineteenth-century editor, W. W. Skeat, the authors conclude with a brief meditation on how it has been reified as the Anxiety of Influence.

Heather McHugh Presence and Passage: A Poet's Wordsworth
Nancy Yousef The Monster in a Dark Room: Frankenstein, Feminism, and Philosophy
Gail McDonald The Mind a Department Store: Reconfiguring Space in the Gilded Age

The essay examines the metaphor of blurred or absent architectural boundaries–what Georg Simmel termed the "modern feeling against closed spaces"–in three discursive arenas: the physical space of domestic interiors and department stores, the mental space of William James's psychological writings, and the fictive space of utopian and naturalist novels. Edith Wharton's and Ogden Codman, Jr.'s The Decoration of Houses and Henry James's The American Scene express alarm at the paucity of closable doors in American architecture, seeing in this form of decor a disregard for decorum. In contrast, Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward and Bradford Peck's The World a Department Store celebrate the open-plan emporium as a blueprint for the successful cooperative society. The open-plan appears again in William James's descriptions of mentation: mobility, circulation, interdependence, replaceability, malleability and drift displace the more static models of faculty and associative psychology. James's substitution of fluid constructs for static ones has significant consequences for conceptions of selfhood. The malleable self, its permeability and relationality, provides both a topic and a set of narrative problems for writers like Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, and Frank Norris.

top Volume 63, Issue 3
Author Title
Steve Newman The Scots Songs of Allan Ramsay: "Lyrick" Transformation, Popular Culture, and the Boundaries of the Scottish Enlightenment
Luke Carson Republicanism and Leisure in Marianne Moore's Depression
Jeffrey Pence The End Of Technology: Memory In Richard Powers's Galatea 2.2
top Volume 63, Issue 4
Author Title
Nicholas Mason Building Brand Byron: Early Nineteenth-Century Advertising and the Marketing of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Ted Underwood Historical Difference as Immortality in the Mid-Nineteenth-Century Novel
Tamara S. Wagner "Overpowering Vitality": Nostalgia and Men of Sensibility in the Fiction of Wilkie Collins

This essay traces the development of the new men of sensibility in Wilkie Collins' fiction, arguing that while his early novels subscribe to mid-Victorian ideals of manliness, his later fiction eschews muscular masculinity, anticipating the rise of a new fin-de-siècle anti-hero, but also harking back to the sentimental heroes of the eighteenth-century novel of sentiment or sensibility. This shift is connected to a sentimental reaffirmation of nostalgia, lovesickness, and love at first sight as well as to a corresponding redefinition of the villains, whose vitality contrasts with a series of very similar feminized hypersensitive heroes. The pining of lovesick and nostalgic men of sensibility is being reclaimed from allegations of effeminacy as well as from Victorian pathologies and instead praised as a virtue. To map this development, the essay takes a close look at the mental, moral, and bodily strengths and weaknesses of Wilkie Collins' (anti-)heroes and also at their relationship with formidable and robust women - a relationship that sheds an intriguing light on gender issues in Victorian fiction.

Barbara Mann Picturing the Poetry of Anna Margolin

This essay examines the work of Anna Margolin (1887-1952), an exemplary case of Yiddish poetry's straddling of the tension between the tenets of world modernism, on the one hand, and the demands of Jewish culture's normative claims to morality, on the other. Margolin's work deploys notions of poetry's ability to mimic artistic and visual media, a discourse typifying Imagist trends in modernism; however, the medium of the Yiddish language presents a challenge to this visualising practice, given its unavoidable, orthographic connection to Hebrew, and thus to traditional Jewish prohibitions on visual representation. The resulting tension finds expression within Margolin's work through a variety of stylistic devices, and through an engagement with modernist poetry in other languages, including Pound, Rilke and Mandelstam. Margolin's observation and synthesis of modernism from the relative margins of Yiddish creativity, provides a lens for re-evaluating the relation of canonicity, multilingualism and gender.

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