Abstracts v.68 | 2007

Volume 68, Issue 1
Author Title
Elisabeth Helsinger Just Beauty: Ovid and the Argument of Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn"

Readings of Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" either have focused exclusively on the text or have tried to identify the urn / vase that was the object of the ekphrasis. This essay identifies Ovid's Amores 3.13 and passages in his Metamorphoses as significant literary sources for the poem. Ovid's moving critique of animal sacrifice reinforced Keats's rejection of the sublime and option for the beautiful in the historical progress towards social justice.

William West Jacob Burckhardt's Untimely Observations

This essay reexamines what is often taken as the core of Burckhardt's argument about the culture of the Renaissance: that Italy gave birth to a unique form of self-consciousness. Rather than challenging this claim head on by citing counterexamples either from early modern Italy or elsewhere, I set this claim into the broader contexts of Burckhardt's historical writings, historiographical lectures, and letters. I conclude that Burckhardt's theory of history does not imagine the location of a fact or event, in particular one as interior as subjectivity, as pre-existing its recognition by a historian. Rather, the past and the present have a mutually informing capability on one another, to the extent that it is inaccurate to speak of them as being distinct. In Burckhardt's most important image, they are like waves on a turbulent sea, connected, and history is their changing relation to one another. Burckhardt's concept of history can be profitably compared to Nietzsche's, and Burckhardt's work deserves the kind of careful reading that his younger colleague's has been given.

Joseph Luzzi Romantic Allegory, Postwar Film, and the Question of Italy

This essay considers an ancient issue from the history of aesthetics that has been central to cinema's interdisciplinary debates: the relationship between symbol and allegory. I revisit this rhetorical crux in light of two crucial moments in the formation of Italian national identity, literary Romanticism and cinematic Neorealism. I aim to connect these two episodes by arguing on behalf of the pervasive influence of a distinctly Italian, and unfashionable and un-European, version of Romantic allegory that fused Christian and nationalist discourses in both the literary nineteenth century and postwar film. The argument traces the nationalist element of the symbol-allegory dialectic from its Romantic apotheosis in Alessandro Manzoni, through the naturalist author Giovanni Verga, and into the controversies over the status of the "literary" in postwar film. The concluding discussion examines the transformation of Neorealist nationalist discourse in the auteur directors Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni, with a focus on how Fellini negotiated a cinematic inheritance exemplified by Roberto Rossellini, the figure whose absorption of nationalist allegory within a religious vision recalls Manzoni.

Andrea Goulet Legacies of the Rue Morgue: Street Names and Private/Public Violence in Modern French Crime Fiction

Recent re-writings of Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue support a long-lasting generic argument: that classic detective fiction fundamentally disavowed political violence in favor of bounded, domestic forms of private crime. But concerns of the State were never comfortably occluded, even in the drawing-room dramas of the late nineteenth century. My essay identifies a chain of French "street-name mysteries" ranging from Adolphe Belot's Le drame de la rue de la Paix (1866), through Léo Malet's 120, rue de la Gare (1943), to Didier Daeninckx's 12, rue Meckert (2001), in order to study the ways in which urban toponymics signal key shifts in the modern genre's attempts to dissociate personal crime from political context. While popular serials of the Second Empire unsuccessfully aim to quarantine street insurrections as external to its domestic criminal passions, WWII fiction re-inserts politics into the genre through the cartographic slippages of Occupied urban space. By the time the noir engagé of the late 20th century has explicitly linked private violence to State crimes, the ideological underpinnings of street nomenclature serve as anti-amnesiacs for the genre: from the Rue Morgue to the Rue Bonaparte, street names anchor urban crime in France's violent national history.

top Volume 68, Issue 2
Author Title
Haun Saussy "China and the World": The Tale of a Topos

The phrase Zhongguo yu shijie, "China and the world," traceable in Chinese only as far back as Liang Qichao (1873-1929), calls for interpretation. Even if only a figure of style, it betokens an imagination of China as separate from "the world," as needing to form a relation with that "world," perhaps even condemned to engaging the "world" only defensively and as a last resort. The continued life of the cliché in the era of globalization raises questions about the stories we tell about China's participation in the world projects or pictures of our own time-- the way we conceive of the widening of literary canons no less than our imaginations of the political order of the coming decades. The essay examines several such stories offered by recent historians and economists, focusing on the "and" of "China and the world."

Tony Day Locating Indonesian Literature in the World

Few readers of “world literature” are aware that Indonesia is home to some of the world’s oldest literary traditions. Poetic texts, based on Sanskrit models and written in Old Javanese on copper inscriptions, date from the beginning of the ninth century; literature in Old Malay, influenced first by Sanskrit, then by Arabic and Persian, begins at about the same time. Modern Indonesian literature is the heir to both these traditions, as well as to literature from China and the West. In the case of the only modern Indonesian writer who commands a world readership, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, however, the focus of critical commentary has been on the anti-colonial and nationalistic thematics of his work, rather than on the deeper, older currents of world literature found within his texts. In this essay I want to argue that in order to read modern Indonesian literature as “world” literature, it is not enough to recognize its relevance to the study of Third World nationalism and postcoloniality. As suggested by one of Pramoedya’s short stories, Indonesian texts are central rather than peripheral to the history of how literary forms have been circulating around the globe for centuries, assuming local shapes while retaining global meanings.

David Damrosch Scriptworlds: Global Scripts and the Formation of World Literature
Rebecca Johnson, Richard Maxwell, and Katie Trumpener The Arabian Nights, Arab-European Literary Influence, and the Lineages of the Novel
Jahan Ramazani Traveling Poetry
Muhsin J. Al-Musawi Engaging Globalization in Modern Arabic Literature: Appropriation and Resistance

Like the literatures of many cultures and nations, Arabic literature is caught between the new offers of a global age, and a needful balance between tradition and the engulfing market economy, with its many demands on nationhood. The case is even more acute for the Arabs due to a strong power of the past when there was an Arab empire with its own politics of cultural and economic expansion that widely differ from the ones usually associated with the New World Order. Narratives deal with this complexity in a number of ways that can be historically mapped in colonial, post-colonial, and global terms. The colonial desire to duplicate itself in a nation state that is not fully acclaimed as legitimate offspring receives great attention in a large number of narratives, by the Egyptian Tawfiq al-Hakim, the Iraqi Dhu al-Nun Ayyub, and the Sudanese Tayyib Salih, to mention a few. The post-colonial is more pivotal, as the nation-state may well succumb to the market economy to solve its consistent estrangement from the people, and sustain the power of its elite. The Egyptian Sunallah Ibrahim’s Committee is the most representative text that has a sharp critique of both the corrupt nation-state and the global order in its most devastating and secretive dealings with third world countries. This not the same track as the one followed in a narrative by the Saudi woman lawyer Raja Sani’ in her novel Riyadh Chicks. The internet is the medium and narrative circuit in this work. Through the author’s messages and survey of responses we get acquainted with the byways of tradition as manipulated and used by the empowered to preserve hegemony, whereas upper class women are given space to argue and fight for more freedom. Poetry and drama are no less engaged, and trajectories of modernity and tradition are no longer as clear cut as the ones shown in earlier writings.

Monika Kaup "The Future is Entirely Fabulous": The Baroque Genealogy of Latin America's Modernity

In Latin America and the Caribbean, modernity is haunted by the return of its antithetical, premodern other—the Baroque. I argue that the Neobaroque—the recuperation of the "obsolete" baroque in twentieth-century literary and artistic production—constitutes what critic Irlemar Chiampi calls Latin America's alternative modernity. My analysis discusses key theorists and problems of the Neobaroque and the New World Baroque (Alejo Carpentier, José Lezama Lima, Bolívar Echevarría and others) within the context of alternative modernity studies (Dipesh Chakrabarty, Néstor García Canclini, and others). In particular, it addresses the creation of new temporalities and subjectivities that undermine Eurocentric modernity's plot of linear developmentalism. The emergence of the Neobaroque and the New World Baroque is driven by political desire, social creation and the notion of reorigination: alternative Latin American Baroques are the products of the transformative ingestion, transculturation, and recoding of a major expressive form (the metropolitan implant of the official Baroque) at the hands of colonized subjects forced to inhabit them. The article closes with a discussion of Carpentier's novel Concierto barroco (1974), a musicological and historical fantasy and a fictional rendering of the transformations giving rise to the Neobaroque and New World Baroque.

Eric Cazdyn Anti-anti: Utopia, Globalization, Jameson
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Author Title
David Scott Wilson-Okamura The French Aesthetic of Spenser's Feminine Rhyme

Since the Restoration, feminine rhyme has been restricted in English poetry almost exclusively to satire and comedy. This usage was already becoming established in the mid-1590s; Edmund Spenser, though, in the same decade when other English poets were beginning to dismiss feminine rhyme for serious subjects, reverses course and begin using it for epic. Some of the resulting rhymes are comic, but many were not. To account for his non-comic rhymes, we review the history, theory, and practice of complex rhymes in French poetry from the same period, especially la rime féminine. Classified as a subset or variant of la rime riche, feminine rhyme is used in French verse for a variety of subjects, including love poems, drinking poems, and epic. It does not convey a particular theme; the difficulty, rather, of making such rhymes embellishes whatever theme happens to be in play. Spenser's use of feminine rhyme conforms with the French practice, ranging from satire in Mother Hubberds Tale, to epic in his Faerie Queene and love in his Epithalamion. It demonstrates the importance of European, as well as native, models for basic elements in his English prosody and shows also his independence, while writing in Ireland, from trends at home.

Ricardo Padrón Against Apollo: Góngora's Soledad primera and the Mapping of Empire

It has been said that the diatribe against navigation in Luis de Góngora's Soledad primera represents a poetic cartography of the world, but this analogy with maps and mapping has never been pursued in detail. This essay explores the cartographic and anti-cartographic dimensions of this passage as a critical response to the conjunction of vision, knowledge and power that emerged in early modernity and that can be most clearly glimpsed in Renaissance cartography.

Barbara Fuchs Don Quijote I and the Forging of National History

In this essay, I show how Don Quijote I systematically questions the verities of national history by placing them on a continuum with chivalric fiction and foregrounding the appeal of pseudo-histories. Moreover, by tracing through the text the figure of Archbishop Turpin-author of a purported history of Roland, Charlemagne, and Saint James-I argue that Iberia 's peculiar position as the Saracen other of the French medieval imaginary complicates the forging of Spanish national history both in chivalric and religious terms.

Guenter Leypoldt Aesthetic Specialists and Public Intellectuals: Ruskin, Emerson, and Contemporary Professionalism

This essay explores how today's public intellectual emerges from the presumption that literary-aesthetic knowledge conveys privileged access to the social domain. The (late) romantic "invention" of the aesthetic specialist – who "reads" cultural core values in the gestalts of architectural form (Ruskin) or "hears" them in the musicality of literary style (Emerson) – provided nineteenth-century intellectuals with narratives of legitimation that helped them cope with the effects of cultural diversification and professionalism. The ways in which these narratives reappear in twentieth-century discourse raises important questions about how literary-aesthetic knowledge can be legitimated today.

top Volume 68, Issue 4
Author Title
Kristina Mendicino Milton, the Gunpowder Plot, and the Mythography of Terror

Both In Quintum Novembris, Milton's early heroic poem or "epyllion," and Paradise Lost participate in a "mythography of terror" – a factitious discourse that arose in response to the terrorism of the Gunpowder Plot. The early poem is unambiguously jingoistic in its adoption of the mythography, reconstructing the events of the Plot as a Satanic conspiracy foiled as a sign of England's providential destiny. The later poem is neither unambiguous nor jingoistic, and it adopts elements of that mythography in fragments. But both poems take terrorist violence not only as an example of what evil can do in the world but as a model of what evil is. Terrorism in both poems is a symptom of the other. And so is evil. This essay documents the many writings that arose in response to the Gunpowder Plot, shows how In Quintum Novembris differed in some respects from the tradition while copying it in others, and explains how and why Paradise Lost was still preoccupied with motifs developed in the early poem. It also explains how the idea of terrorism can be applied to literature from a period that predates the coinage of the term and the self-conscious development of the idea. Terrorism is not a new phenomenon and it is not a new challenge for the literary imagination.

Ian Ross "Avery Knowing American": The Inca Garcilaso de la Vegaand Swift's A Modest Proposal

A Modest Proposal (1729) has been variously regarded as a black joke; a masterly exercise in irony; and a satire on contemporary economic theory and practice. Latterly, criticism has examined the relationship between the Proposal and late-renaissance accounts of cannibalism, yet has overlooked a major source for Swift’s pamphlet: the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega’s Comentarios reales (1609), in Sir Paul Rycaut’s translation, Royal Commentaries (1688). Royal Commentaries offers a detailed account of the systematic breeding of children for food and gastronomic pleasure among non-Inca Amerindians – a form of anthropophagy that is neither ritual nor survival cannibalism. Tracing the textual history of this account from Garcilaso’s own sources to Royal Commentaries, the first part of the essay indicates how Swift might have come to know the account and to argue that he drew on it in A Modest Proposal. The second part examines the implications knowledge of the source holds for a reading of the Proposal, notably in suggesting parallels between the mestizo Garcilaso and the Anglo-Irish Swift. A Modest Proposal then appears not simply as a satire on contemporary economic projectors but as a sustained and savage meditation on the uneasy distinction between barbarism and civilization.

Susan Manning Henry Mackenzie's Report on Ossian: Cultural Authority in Transition

The Committee of the Highland Society of Scotland appointed in 1795 to inquire into the “Nature and Authenticity of the Poems of Ossian” finally published its report in 1805 under the editorship of Henry Mackenzie. Mackenzie’s retrospective synopsis engaged the authenticity debate surrounding the poems specifically with rhetorical and methodological concerns widely canvassed across central fields of Scottish Enlightenment inquiry; it was a late product of the extraordinary discursive homogeneity of the Edinburgh Enlightenment, in which legal, medical, historical, political, and literary expression enjoyed a series of overlapping and mutually permeable discursive frameworks. The cultural authority of the Report resided primarily in Mackenzie’s capacity to re-connect the questions that had animated the original debate with the rhetorical and aesthetic concerns of Adam Smith, David Hume, Hugh Blair, John Home, and Adam Ferguson – some of them instigators and supporters of Macpherson’s project, and themselves Mackenzie’s colleagues and associates. In this respect, the essay argues, the Report was itself part of the cultural afterlife of the conditions that fostered the production of Ossian, and may tell us more about these. But 1805 was the year not only of the Report and of Malcolm Laing’s skeptical two-volume annotated Ossian edition, but also of The Lay of the Last Minstrel, Walter Scott’s debut as an author of modern antique poetry, and – if we believe his subsequent testimony – of the first seven chapters of Waverley; or, ’Tis Fifty Years Since (dedicated to Mackenzie on its publication in 1814, when “Fifty” became “Sixty”). So the further purpose of this essay is twofold: to assess the extent to which the Report is simply a relic of the cultural terrain it looks back on, a belated coda or epilogue to the Ossian affair; or, alternatively, how far it embodies developments in these concerns that contribute to our understanding of Scottish culture in the early years of the nineteenth century, and clarifies continuities between the readily dichotomised periodizations of “Enlightenment” and “Romantic” Scotland. In addressing these questions, the essay makes a claim for the significance of this neglected document to the literary history of cultural authority in transition.

José María Rodríguez García Valencia's Verlaine: The Social History of a Colombian Verse

"Je ne crois pas en Dieu" [I do not believe in God] is a resonant statement both in the literary and the political history of Colombia and in the life and career of Paul Verlaine. The poem where this half-line takes place, "L'Angoisse" (from Poèmes saturniens [1866]), is one of the texts that mark the French lyricist's transition from poète du Parnasse to poète maudit. The present essay sets out to trace the various appropriations and manipulations to which Verlaine's words were subjected from the years 1904 (when Guillermo Valencia translated them as "No creo en Jove") and 1914 (when he opted for "¡No creo en Dios!") to the restoration of the first rendering in 1952, when the much-revised and censored edition of Valencia's complete poems and translations was published.

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