Abstracts v.80 | 2019

Volume 80, Issue 1
Author Title
Rachel Albow Taking Responsibility in Desire and Domestic Fiction

Nancy Armstrong famously identifies middle-class white Victorian women writers not just as passive victimes of ideology but as possessors of relative privilege in relation to power. Even more radically, she identifies herself as possessing analogous forms of power as a woman writer and a feminist critic.

Ian Duncan Against the Bildungsroman

Trained on the history of the novel in English, Nancy Armstrong’s Desire and Domestic Fiction also illuminates continental European developments. Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, the prototype of the nineteenth-century “novel of development” (Bildungsroman), forms itself against domestic fiction and its core principle, that “the modern individual was first and foremost a woman.” Goethe’s novel elects a male protagonist as the universal subject of a modern developmental logic of human nature, and articulates his progress upon a succession of sacrificial stages occupied by the story’s women. In a militant response, Germaine de Staël’s Corinne re-feminizes the novelistic protagonist, investing the role with the developmental imperative of Bildung and the claim on universal human representativeness, realized through the heroine’s artistic vocation. Corinne, however, falls into a conventional love story and is sacrificed to a marriage plot, which here and elsewhere Staël identifies with the distinctively English genre of domestic fiction. Refusing to naturalize the arrangements analyzed in Desire and Domestic Fiction from its position outside the English tradition, Corinne shows that the hegemony of domestic realism was neither absolute nor inevitable.

Deidre Lynch Social, Sexual, and Other Contracts in Eighteenth-Century Novels

This essay highlights the role that Enlightenment conjectural histories and liberal concepts of contractual exchange play in Armstrong’s revisionist description of the rise of the novel. It urges scholars of the novel to follow the example of Desire and Domestic Fiction and remember more often the eighteenth-century narrative experiments that unfolded when liberalism was still new. Eliza Haywood’s novel of amorous (and sapphic) intrigue The British Recluse (1722) suggests one reason to do that remembering. To see how Haywood uses the figure of the contract--in ways very different from Richardson and Austen-- is to better apprehend how in the early eighteenth century the marriage plot’s ideal of heterosexual complementary had not yet become the only game in town.

Jesse Rosenthal Keeping Secrets

This essay looks at literary criticism’s persistent confession of critics’' secret relations to literature. The essay argues that such formalized secrecy and confession is used to insist on a personal orientation toward the literary object, which helps to deny the institutional forces---both practical and abstract---on which criticism depends. Desire and Domestic Fiction, which focuses on the rewriting of the political and economic as the personal, offers a powerful lens for understanding this process.

Michelle M. Dowd Judith Shakespeare's Brother

Virginia Woolf’s account of Shakespeare’s fictional sister, Judith, in A Room of One’s Own offers a productive vantage point for investigating questions of gender, authority, and inheritance in Shakespeare’s late romances. These plays are notable for their formal hybridity and their acute attention to the role of women, particularly daughters, within the patriarchal family and its attendant economic systems. They share Woolf’s interest in the economic, inheritable underpinnings of female authority, the social forms of a patrilineal culture that help demarcate the possibilities for women as subjects. Shakespeare adapts the lost-child device from Roman new comedy to make female loss central to his tragicomic plots—much as it is to Woolf’s tragic narrative of Judith. New comic plotting offers a provisional, conservative solution to the historical problem of the heiress, but Shakespeare’s romances also at times imagine alternative configurations of genealogical knowledge.

Zsolt Komáromy Contradictions as Patterns in Literary History: Skepticism, Common Sense, and the Conversational Idiom of Churchill and Cowper
top Volume 80, Issue 2
Author Title
Sophus Helle What is an Author? Old Answers to a New Question

Premodern sources mainly depict authors as textual transmitters rather than original creators. To treat these figurations of authorship as meaningful in their own right, one has to overcome a series of methodological hurdles. The polarized image of the author as either creative God or passive scribe must be replaced by a focus on the middle ranges of literary agency, which in turn requires theoretical elaboration. Premodern tropes of authorial activity, such as the metaphor of authorship as textile labor, gain a much fuller range of complexity and nuance when they are read with an eye to authorial mediation. Further, conceptualizing authors as mediators provides a better framework for writing the history of authorship, as it clarifies synchronic tensions and diachronic developments that unfolded within this frame. It also reveals that the modern ideal of authorial originality came about not as a radical break with the older ideal of authorial mediation but as a modification and rearrangement of its constitutive terms.

Nicholas Carr Modern Time: Temporality and the Realism of Romantic History

This article places the works of American Romantic history in the tradition of the nineteenth-century novel. The result is a reframing of a strand of historiography that, for all its great men and its laws of progress, has at its core a realist negation of the freedoms and imaginative possibilities associated with the Romantic. However, this apparent tension between romance and the real ought to be seen as the dialectical face of a historicism that sought to master temporality by ending it with the arrival of the modern. The shifting narrative tenses of both realism and Romantic history stage a debate between epistemological and aesthetic impulses that the affirmation of the eixstent resolves.

Jason De Stefano The Birth of Creativity: Emerson's Creative Impulse

This essay shows how Ralph Waldo Emerson's ideas of mental and artistic creativity emerged from debates about the creation of living form. Emerson came to believe that "creating nature" manifested the same "creative force," a belief instilled in him by German Romantic Naturphilosophie and its principal Anglophone explicators, the German American philosopher Johann Bernhard Stallo and the English anatomist Richard Owen. They taught Emerson that the intellect does not transcend or otherwise stand outside the natural world; it evolves immanently through reciprocal activity with the material environment. The impulse to create is thus as natural as evolution, but this means that creativity has to be traced beyond the brain and away from autonomous models of mind. In particular, Emerson's idea of "creative impulse" relied on epigenetic conceptions of generation and birth. He defined life in terms of creative capacity and helped redefine creativity as an innate, impulsive, and ubiquitous quality, definitions that influenced such thinkers as Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson, and the psychologist James Mark Baldwin and that have stakes for contemporary discussions of creativity, evolution, and mind.

Lukas Moe Elegy's Generation: Muriel Rukeyser, M.L. Rosenthal, and Poetry after the Left

From the late 1930s through mid-century poets in the United States reckoned with the decline of the political Left through a practice of elegy. The debates of interwar modernism shifted toward those of a postwar culture in which Depression-era aesthetics and politics came under the pressure of anticommunism. The 1940s work of Muriel Rukeyser, turning away from an earlier documentary poetics, exemplifies her generation’s concern with the continuity between the Popular Front and World War II, challenging a narrative of retreat from New Deal reform to patriotic consensus. This understudied period in her career spanning U.S. 1 (1938) and Elegies (1949) saw Rukeyser enthusiastically join the work of radical poets to recover the legacy of the Spanish Civil War, while modifying elegy and adapting popular genres such as the soldier’s letter to the struggles of the present. In their counterintuitive figures of address, meter and rhyme, Rukeyser’s wartime poems offer a revisionary perspective on modern elegy, and in the context of their reception by the critic M.L. Rosenthal, an alternative to the milieus and politics of late modernism in American postwar literary culture.

top Volume 80, Issue 3
Author Title
Robert Hudson Vincent Baroco: the Logic of English Baroque Poetics

As many scholars, including the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary, continue to cite false etymologies of the Baroque, this article returns to a scholastic syllogism called Baroco to demonstrate the relevance of medieval logic to the history of aesthetics. In particular, the syllogism is connected to early modern artforms that Enlightenment critics considered excessively complicated or absurdly confusing. Focusing on the emergence of baroque logic in Neo-Latin rhetoric and English poetics, this article traces the development of increasingly outlandish rhetorical practices of copia during the sixteenth century that led to similarly far-fetched poetic practices during the seventeenth century. John Stockwood’s Progymnasma scholasticum (1597) is read alongside Richard Crashaw’s Epigrammatum sacrorum liber (1634) and Steps to the Temple (1646) to reveal the effects of Erasmian rhetorical exercises on English educational practices and the production of English baroque poetry. In the end, the conceptual unity of the Baroque is demonstrated by showing the consistency between critiques of Baroco, critiques of English metaphysical poetry, and critiques of baroque art during the Enlightenment.

Joshua Branciforte Pope’s Perversity: Tastemaking in Liberal Culture

Pope envisioned his poetry as conducive to a social order shaped and guided by taste. However, unlike later models of taste based on the projection of idealized norms, Pope used techniques that were oppositional, individualized, materialist, and perverse. His aesthetic strategies aimed at achieving homogeneity across diverse populations without normative prescriptions. Pope drew on the skeptical notion of the “ruling passion” to model his understanding of taste as a social process. Construed solely as a model of personality, Pope’s theory of the ruling passion is frequently dismissed by critics; it becomes intelligible when read as a model for tastemaking. While Pope's classicizing moral and aesthetic values can seem quite distant from the assumptions of our late liberal culture, the techniques he makes use of to “rule” tastes indirectly remain fundamental imperatives in liberal aesthetic culture.

Scott Hess The Romantic Work of Genius: Author, Nature, Nation and the ‘Genial Criticism’ of Samuel Taylor Coleridge

This essay explores how “genius” in the nineteenth century simultaneously constituted both individual and collective national identity, thus helping to produce new forms of liberal democratic nationalist culture. It offers a Latourian interpretation of genius, in terms of the kind of social work and connections that the term enabled. Genius became associated in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with author, nature, and nation in ways that grounded new models of literature and identity in the supposedly transcendental truth of nature and in specific landscapes as “sites of memory.” This discourse of genius played a keystone role in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s aesthetic and social criticism, or “genial criticism,” which exerted deep influence on nineteenth-century Anglophone culture. The essay concludes by assessing the overall cultural politics of genius in relation to various categories of identity, especially gender, and by suggesting how the “romantic work of genius” continues to operate and hold power in our (post)modern societies today.

Morgan Day Frank Fourth and Long

Literary scholars in recent years have endowed institutions with tremendous explanatory power, insisting that these social formations exercise a determining influence on cultural production. The fiction that institutions can impose themselves as coherent subjects on cultural activity has its origins in the Progressive Era and persists today across a variety of social contexts beyond literary studies, surfacing even (and especially) in moments of institutional precarity. This essay examines three such moments of institutional precarity: the losing football games in Owen Johnson’s early campus novel Stover at Yale (1912) and Don DeLillo’s postwar experimental novel End Zone (1972), and Jay M. Smith and Mary Willingham’s exposé of the college athletics scandals at the University of North Carolina, Cheated (2015). The fact that the institutional analysis of End Zone and the institutional critique of Cheated both so closely resemble the celebration of institutions in Stover at Yale – the fact that the progressive fiction of institutional subjecthood has historically reasserted itself even when writers like DeLillo, Smith and Willingham set out to denaturalize it – reflects the fundamental inadequacy of recent critical attempts to fathom literary history at the scale of the institution.

top Volume 80, Issue 4
Author Title
Susan Stanford Friedman Alternatives to Periodization: Literary History, Modernism, and the “New” Temporalities

Can literary history be done without the conventional reliance on linear periodization? What might a literary history of modernism look like without the usual periodization of roughly 1890-1945? This essay reviews the arguments for and against periodization and then argues that the “new time studies”—based in non-linear concepts of time for the study of the contemporary--offers alternatives to the Eurocentric periodization of modernism. These new temporalities were anticipated by early twentieth-century Euro-American modernism, presented in the essay with an account of the dramatic debate between Einstein and Bergson in 1922 and a discussion of Woolf’s experiments with the relationality of space and time in her fiction. Multidimensional, layered, and disjunctive concepts of time are better suited for the study of planetary modernisms that incorporate the colonial and postcolonial modernities. Kabe Wilson’s contemporary multi-media installation based on a re-mix of A Room of One’s Own and selected criticism on modernism are used to illustrate alternatives to linear periodization.

Katerina Clark The Soviet Project of the 1930s to Found a ‘World Literature’ and British Literary Internationalism

A major lacuna in Pascale Casanova’s account of World Literature in her World Republic of Letters is the Soviet venture into establishing a “world literature” (mirovaia literatura) to be centered not in Paris but in Moscow. This aim was most actively pursued between the wars when large numbers of writers were implicated in its international network. This moment in literary history provides a missing link in the progression from the more elitist world literature as conceived by Goethe and others in the early nineteenth century and world literature in our post-colonialist present and era of globalization. Clark’s article outlines the networks that sought to foster such a “world literature” and the main aesthetic controversies within the movement. In particular, she looks at the extent to which the literary international followed the precepts of socialist realism and the efforts of such official spokesmen as Andrei Zhdanov, Karl Radek and Georg Lukács to proscribe “bourgeois” modernism and how effective they were. She takes members of the British Writers’ International and their associated journals Left Review and New Writing as case studies in the interplay between Moscow as putative “metropole” and the “periphery.”

Harris Feinsod World Poetry: Commonplaces of an Idea

This essay offers a philological career of the term world poetry as poets and scholars employed it and close cognates across the twentieth century (the century in which it first appears to come into use). This career emphasizes trajectories in three of the West’s imperial language formations: poésie mondiale in French, poesia mundial in Spanish, and world poetry in English, but also highlights kindred trajectories in non-Western languages, such as she‘r-e jah?n in Persian and shi‘r fi al-‘alam in Arabic. Corroborating Édouard Glissant’s claim that “The amassing of commonplaces is, perhaps, the right approach to my real subject—the entanglements of worldwide relation” (Glissant 1997: 31), the essay argues for an understanding of world poetry as the accumulated philological history of poetic folkways, habits of use, sociological institutions, formations, and conjunctures that group around the term itself.

Marijeta Bozovic The Voices of Keti Chukhrov: Radical Poetics after the Soviet Union

This article analyzes the work of the Georgian-born Russian-language poet Keti Chukhrov as a representative of Russia’s post-Soviet avant-garde. I argue that the newest Russian avant-garde stands in stark opposition to the mainstream phenomena of Soviet nostalgia: the highly aware appropriations and remediations I study better understood as a reaction to official nostalgia for the imperial and militant aestheticized politics of the Soviet Union. Efforts to think leftwards beyond the state socialist past to a global egalitarian future challenge both Russian and “Western” narratives in our increasingly interconnected world. Chukhrov in particular demonstrates the ability to theorize powerlessness in ways both deeply local and globally familiar. Despite the many voices rumbling through her work, Chukhrov’s theses are consistent: art must be communist; all desire, even faked, is political eros; and the post-Soviet subject is not even dead. Chukhrov embeds her politics in institutional critique, lends her labor to collectives and collaborations, and refracts her poetic voice into multitudes.

Eric Hayot Literary History after Literary Dominance

The various pronouncements of the nation’s dissolution seem to have been premature. Literary history is still very much within the nation, especially if one considers the realm of the middle- and lowbrow, or indeed the vast swaths of genre fiction. What has changed in literary history is the position of literature itself. The discipline of literary study (whether one thinks of it as literary history or literary criticism) institutionalized itself during a period of literary dominance. Now that that dominance is over—now that the field of narrative aesthetic culture includes television, film, and video games, and now that those genres dominate not only markets but the forms of representativity that used to belong almost exclusively to literature—what is the future for literary studies, either as a scholarly discipline or as an institutional field?

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