Volume 62, Issue 4 | December 2001

Special Issue: Periodization: Cutting Up the Past

Author Title
Marshall Brown Periods and Resistances
Author Title
Murakishi Esei Politics: Divide and Rule
Jonathan M. Hess The Return of Anachronism
Margreta de Grazia Hamlet Before Its Time
Robert Griffin The Age of "The Age of" is Over: Johnson and New Versions of the Late Eighteenth Century
Anne K. Mellor Were Women Writers Romantics?  
Do literary periods as we have academically constructed them apply equally well to women writers? Taking the fields I know best, 18th- and 19th-century British literature, I argue that the canonical divisions between the Enlightenment / Neoclassicism, Romanticism, and Victorian literature are conceptually useless in describing the tradition of women's writing in this period. Women writers saw their female forebears, not as authorities to be challenged or overthrown, but rather as collaborators to be imitated and memorialized.
Michael North Virtual Histories: The Year as Literary Period  
Academic studies of particular years approach the problem of periodization from a particularly contemporary perspective. Despite the argument offered by the most self-conscious of such studies, James Chandler’s England in 1819, that contemporary historicism traces its existence to Romanticism, annual literary histories such as Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht’s in 1926 actually reflect much more recent realities. Unlike Chandler’s own account, works like Gumbrecht’s do not focus on the role of literature in the national self-reckoning of one country, but are instead international and inter-artistic. Instead of defining the “Spirit of the Age,” works like Gumbrecht’s use the arbitrariness of the calendar year to define a time that is unified not by spirit but rather by mechanical simultaneity. The temporal synchronicity of such accounts more nearly resembles the discourse networks of Friedrich Kittler, where connections are mechanical and involuntary. In some sense, all such accounts are versions of Y2K, the technological immediacy signified by that date read back into earlier years.
Timothy J. Reiss Perioddity: Considerations on the Geography of Histories  
Comparing questions raised in the physical sciences about the nature of time to similar questions raised in literary and cultural historiography about the idea of history and the nature of historical objectivity, this essay traces historically situated ways of knowing history (e.g., narrative, annals, calendars, etc) in order to explore now-habitual western periodizations. Focusing on early modern Europe, nineteenth- and twentieth-century Caribbean, colonial Mexico, and pre-independence India, the essay examines different modes of knowing historical events and conditions over time to suggest how people in different times and places establish their histories against various parameters of analysis such as place, moral experience, "myth," bodily rhythms, symbols, and catastrophes. These signal understandings and lived practices that are neither incommensurable nor directly commutable require careful understanding to get at what, for example, it means to speak of a primacy of moral experience over chronology, or of a place of memory over a time of memory. They require time and practice taken in how different cultures and groups compose their "times," in sensing plural gaps, overlaps, workings and reworkings.
Author Title
Barbara Fuchs Adulterous Alliances: Home, State, and History in Early Modern European Drama and Painting by Richard Helgerson
John McGowan Consequences of Enlightenment by Anthony Cascardi
Bradford Mudge The English Novel in History, 1700-1780 by John Richetti
Adam Potkay Cato's Tears and the Making of Anglo-American Emotion by Julie Ellison
Jessica Burstein Late Modernism: Politics, Fiction, and the Arts Between the World Wars by Tyrus Miller

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