Volume 64, Issue 4 | December 2003

Author Title
Heather James Royal Jokes and Sovereign Mystery in Castiglione and Marguerite de Navarre  
Focusing on tales in Castiglione's Courtier and de Navarre's Heptameron, this essay examines the rhetorical and social functions of jokes performed by early modern kings in response to betrayal by intimate servants of their households. Alarmed less by the local acts of betrayal than by the theoretical implications of crime attempted on the king's person and property, Alfonso I of Aragon and François I forego the resources of law and instead play games that open up, explore, and attempt to repair problems in the theory of sovereignty itself. After examining the jests in detail, the essay pays close attention to the historical occasions and political motivations for the texts' internal narrators to resist the kings' charismatic bid for autocratic rule. Rather than lend full support to the monarchs' long-range goals, the essay demonstrates, the texts of Castiglione and de Navarre open up political dialogue on the ideal form of governance.
Julie Kane The Myth of the Fixed-Form Villanelle  
This essay examines the various accounts in literary reference sources as to how and when the villanelle's poetic form came to be fixed; it then subjects each claim to the test of research. Despite the prevailing belief that a "fixed-form villanelle tradition" existed as of the sixteenth century or even earlier in France, research results demonstrate that only one poem in the "A1bA2 abA1 abA2 abA1 abA2 abA1A2" form was written prior to the mid nineteenth century. Moreover, the actions of two less-than-accurate, if not deliberately dishonest, French scholars-one in the eighteenth century and one in the nineteenth-created the myth of a longstanding fixed-form tradition for the villanelle. Ironically, however, a genuine fixed-form villanelle tradition has arisen since the 1870s, brought into being by modern poets who believed that they were perpetuating a form of medieval or Renaissance heritage. Had Pierre-Charles Berthelin in the eighteenth century and Théodore de Banville in the nineteenth century been more scrupulous in their scholarship, English-language poetry would almost certainly never have gained such poems as Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night," the untitled villanelle in James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art," or Theodore Roethke's "The Waking."
Hal Gladfelder The Hard Work of Doing Nothing: Richard Savage's Parallel Lives  
While alive, the eighteenth-century poet Richard Savage was known less for his poetry than for his trial and conviction for murder and his lifelong campaign to be acknowledged as the bastard son of two aristocrats. After his death, he became famous as the subject of Samuel Johnson's first biography, the 1744 Life of Savage. This essay focuses on Savage's construction of a public persona in order to examine the emergence of a modern practice of authorship in the early eighteenth century. In response to the changing conditions of publication during this period, many authors self-consciously presented themselves to the public through their own and other writers' texts, so that authorship began to be conceived of as a form of celebrity: both as a strategy of self-advertisement and as a means of moral compensation for the author's increasing sense of alienation and commodification. This public fashioning of the authorial persona through published texts involves a modeling of oneself in imitation of preexisting narrative genres and readymade life stories-in Savage's case those of hack author, condemned criminal, and disinherited aristocrat. Savage's preferred narrative of aristocratic dispossession was largely elaborated through texts by other writers (including Johnson and Eliza Haywood) and aimed to set him above the money-grubbing careerism of the literary marketplace; but his relentless self-promotion in fact contributed to the historical process of commodification of authorship rather than counteracting it.
David Rosen T. S. Eliot and the Lost Youth of Modern Poetry  
To make himself Modern, W.B. Yeats shed the youthful voice of his first three decades, and took on the persona of an angry and decrepit old man. While still in his twenties, T.S. Eliot was already writing poems about aging esthetes and faded ladies. W.H. Auden and his generation were jaundiced before they entered college. That all of these authors should have felt it necessary to assume such a voice suggests a deeper problem in the psychology of modern lyric. This essay teases out the consequences for poetic form and ideology by focusing on the early work of T.S. Eliot: from long-suppressed poems of his Harvard years (brought out in 1996 as Inventions of the March Hare) to The Waste Land. Following the collapse of the 19th century imaginative (visionary) tradition, Eliot sought a comparable authority for poetry in the workings of mere consciousness. This shift brought about many of the formal/technical, as well as tonal developments most associated with modern poetry. In addition to Eliot, this essay considers Yeats, who aimed to preserve an oracular authority for his work, and contemporary fiction writers, who understood consciousness primarily as an extension of mimesis.
Author Title
Richard Helgerson Staging Domesticity: Household Work and English Identity in Early Modern Drama by Wendy Wall
Trevor Ross Poetry and the Making of the English Literary Past, 1660-1781 by Richard Terry
Blakey Vermeule Fables of Modernity: Literature and Culture in the English Eighteenth Century by Laura Brown
Susan Manning The Modern Poet: Poetry, Academia, and Knowledge since the 1750s by Robert Crawford
Roberto Cantú Rewriting North American Borders in Chicano and Chicana Narrative by Monika Kaup
John Burt Foster, Jr. The Future of Nostalgia by Svetlana Boym

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