Volume 69, Issue 2 | June 2008

Author Title
Lee Morrissey Form and History: Reading as an Aesthetic Experience and Historical Act  
Although form and history are joined in reading, the profession of literary studies has regularly regarded formalism and historicism as opposites and even antagonists. When dichotomous terms face off without mediation, a phenomenological approach to getting beyond their stalemate is typically to reflect on how they interact in lived experience. Refocusing attention in this way, I offer five theses on how history and form are connected in the experience of reading: 1. Literary works are historical entities, but they are not reducible to their origins; 2. The historical meaning of a literary work includes the history of its reception; 3. Reading literature entails a response to value and form; 4. The form of a literary work is integral to its moral, social, and political meaning, and 5. Unmasking is not an end in itself but a means to various kinds of revelations. I develop these theses by engaging the arguments of some of the best formalist and historicist critics, focusing mainly on well-known examples from the New Critics and the New Historicists, and trying to bring out aspects of the reading experience that they ignore or insufficiently acknowledge. The goal is to recover the interaction of form and history by analyzing reading as an intersubjective experience in which literary works are preserved and passed on historically through our ever-changing engagement with their forms.
David Randall Ethos, Poetics, and the Literary Public Sphere  
In Habermasian theory, the bourgeois public sphere was preceded by a literary public sphere whose favored genres revealed the interiority of the individual self and emphasized an audience-oriented subjectivity. This essay argues that the association of this early modern literary discourse with the ancient public sphere proceeds from their common origin in the historically continuous intellectual tradition of European rhetoric. Ancient rhetoric, which also constituted the ancient public sphere, entered into ancient, medieval, and Renaissance rhetorical poetics; this last, transformed by the anonymizing effects of print culture and the philosophy of skepticism, and by the consequent development of the autonomous narrator, produced the discourse of the early modern literary public sphere. The emergence of this discourse derived particularly from transformations in the concepts of ethos and auctoritas. A prerequisite of this evolution was the shift in the presumed medium of European rhetorical poetics, from orality to writing to print. This argument has consequences for Habermas’ general account of communicative rationality, and is intended to suggest an alternate theoretical framework for Habermasian critical theory, where the European rhetorical tradition replaces communicative rationality.
Eric Byville "This More Delusive": Tantalus and Seneca in Paradise Lost   
Despite its immense scope, Milton scholarship has rarely considered the influence of Senecan tragedy on Paradise Lost. This essay offers such a consideration by arguing for a specifically Senecan allusion in Book 10, in which Milton describes “delusive” fruits that grow in Hell and that deceive the fallen angels by turning to ash in their mouths. This episode has been the object of much critical discussion, and although its identified sources include the Bible, Lucan, and Spenser, none of these provides a convincing model for Milton’s depiction of the tantalizing food. I propose that Milton imitates the Tantalus scene from Seneca’s Thyestes, and that his engagement with Seneca here constitutes what critics of intertextuality call a “systematic” or “critical” allusion. As such, it not only provides an inter-text for the controversial fruit episode of Book 10, but also reveals larger thematic parallels between Seneca’s tragedy and Milton’s epic. More than simply a story to which Milton alludes, Seneca’s version of the Tantalus myth offers a model for understanding the important role played by allusion in historically “belated” literature.
John Richardson Nicholas Rowe's Tamerlane and the Martial Ideal  
Rowe's Tamerlane of 1701 marks an important step in the development of literary representations of military heroes. Rowe draws upon and adapts seventeenth-century accounts of Timur and other soldiers in order to create a more virtuous and peace-loving conqueror than those of his predecessors. Yet by a kind of dramatic sleight his hero's pacific temper leads him inevitably to war, and becomes an argument for William III's contemporary war with France. In fashioning this warrior who both hates and wages war, Rowe anticipates a number of heroic figures of the eighteenth century. The play's lasting popularity suggests that he also provides the century with one of its most well-known and resonant versions of the martial ideal.
Author Title
Linda Woodbridge Back to Nature: The Green and the Real in the Late Renaissance by Robert N. Watson
James English Fabulous Orients: Fictions of the East in England, 1662-1785 by Ros Ballaster
Christopher Flint The Prose of Things: Transformations of Description in the Eighteenth Century by Cynthia Sundberg Wall
Paul H. Fry Borderlines: The Shiftings of Gender in British Romanticism by Susan J. Wolfson
Charles LaPorte Victorian Interpretation by Suzy Anger
William Egginton The Inordinate Eye: New World Baroque and Latin American Fiction by Lois Parkinson Zamora

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