Volume 66, Issue 1 | March 2005

Author Title
Daniel Javitch The Poetics of Variatio in Orlando Furioso   
Ariosto's ability to discover means of varying the repeated actions or events of chivalric romance may well have been the hallmark of his artistry for his early readers, trained as they were themselves to practice and appreciate techniques of variatio. Chivalric romance was a genre that provided Ariosto with numerous occasions for variation, but it is the opportunities that he created as distinct from the ones he inherited that receive attention here, e.g. his imitation of prior texts; his retelling of known stories; his recurring treatment of certain themes; and the replication of his own narrative.Ariosto wants readers to appreciate the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of his variations and also the way his modifications make for a better contextual fit, and, while these changes generate new meanings, readers are not being asked to focus primarily on the different meanings, a misdirected tendency of modern interpreters. Moreover, while Ariosto may want us to admire his artistic virtuosity when he displays an almost endless capacity to rewrite or to improve upon the already told, the improvement is never meant to be final. The poetics of variatio is predicated on the belief that there can be no superior or definitive version of any subject or story.
Julia Reinhard Lupton Rights, Commandments, and the Literature of Citizenship  
At stake in the relation between rights and commandments are a number of linked logics that gather up the cruxes of modernity itself: the relations between revelation and reason, positive law and natural law, heteronomy and autonomy, vertical axes of subjection and horizontal networks of citizenship. This essay uncovers the romance of covenant in the architecture of the Decalogue and its exegesis, with special attention to the commandment to honor one's father and mother. It then turns to John Locke as a powerful exegete of the paradoxes of consent embodied in this commandment. The essay ends by attending to the genesis of the Bill of Rights and the social poetics of the First Amendment. The essay uses the discourse of rights to counter the disciplinary and hierarchical functionalization of commandments, and deploys the discourse of commandments against the possessive individualism of rights.
Wolfram Schmidgen Re-embodying the Aesthetic  
In this essay, I contend that the current return of the aesthetic is in serious danger of replicating historically outmoded ways of thinking. Broadly associated with German idealism and the notion of the aesthetic as a disembodied sphere of otherworldly pleasure, these ways of thinking are even distorting the renewed attention Adorno has received by critics such as Fredric Jameson and Robert Kaufman. Resisting Kaufman's subjectivist perspective, I recover the contributions Adorno made to a materialist aesthetics and locate them in a flexibly conceived history of objectification. Unlike the traumatic and irrecoverable split between persons and things, use value and exchange value, that has shaped so many Marxist accounts of modernization, this flexible history stresses shifting communities of persons and things and recognizes the limits of Adorno's theorizing in its preoccupation with a disembodied aesthetic subject. It is this larger and more richly textured history of objectification that the essay identifies as the only arena in which a return of the aesthetic can make sense. Such a return, I conclude by revisiting Edmund Burke's and Karl Marx's sensualist aesthetics, must grasp the relationship between beauty, the senses, and objectification as a single history.
Ella Zohar Ophir The Laura Riding Question: Modernism, Poetry, and Truth  
Laura Riding's work has been making some significant reappearances; the prospects for her integration into the history and study of modernism remain nonetheless somewhat uncertain. This essay reviews recent efforts to identify Riding's place in twentieth-century poetics, and argues that the impulse to dissociate her from notions of poetic autonomy is misguided. Riding's apparently eccentric preoccupation with truth in fact issued from the same crisis of cultural authority that was responsible for the other aesthetic singularities of her age. She forged a conception of poetic autonomy intended to hold poetry and the poet beyond the epistemological dominion of science; she imagined poetry almost as an alternative reality, a final condition of truth towards which the poet could hope to slowly bring the world. This process issued in the austerity and analytic intellection for which her work has been justly recognized, and was the impetus for her influential developments of the reforms of poetic language that began with Pound. Riding's teleological faith, however, results in the aspect of her poetry likely to remain a liability: not difficulty or abstraction, but the conceptual restrictions and peremptory conclusions by which some of the poems are consequently marked.
Author Title
Patricia Clare Ingham Alliterative Revivals by Christine Chism
Bruce Holsinger Sovereign Fantasies: Arthurian Romance and the Making of Britain by Patricia Clare Ingham
William Clamurro Passing for Spain: Cervantes and the Fictions of Identity by Barbara Fuchs
Peter Stallybrass The Author's Due: Printing and the Prehistory of Copyright by Joseph Loewenstein
Vivian Pollak Poets in the Public Sphere: The Emancipatory Project of American Women's Poetry, 1800-1900 by Paula Bernat Bennett
Henry Schwarz In Another Country: Colonialism, Culture, and the English Novel in India by Priya Joshi
Joycelyn K. Moody Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies by Elizabeth McHenry
Tom Carmichael Sublime Desire: History and Post-1960s Fiction by Amy J. Elias

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