Volume 69, Issue 3 | September 2008

Author Title
Michelle Dowd The Witch from Colchis: Corneille's Médée, Chimène's Le Cid, and the Invention of Classical Genius  
This essay explores the origins of the modern French paradigm of literary genius in the dramatic works of Pierre Corneille. Guided by a critical suggestion inscribed in an oft-noted allusion to Corneille's first tragedy, Médée, near the end of Racine's Phèdre, the essay argues that the key to the Cornelian model of literary greatness is the degree to which Corneille identifies his own poetic inspiration with his tragic protagonists, and capitally with the first of them, the eponymous heroine of Médée itself. When set in dialogue with the ventriloquistic absence of the poet mandated by the classical era's perfection of the specifically theatrical mode of representation, Corneille's identification with his tragic divas constitutes genius as the radical Other of the classical cultural order his subsequent canonical status as "le grand Corneille" portrays him as personifying. In addition to generating revisionist readings of both Médée and the later Le Cid, the essay thus invites students of French literature to rethink the grounds of French literary culture as a whole.
Katherine Ibbett Heroes and History's Remainders: The Restes of Pierre Corneille  
This essay examines the figure of the reste—the things or people left behind—in the tragedies of Pierre Corneille, in particular though not only in the late plays, themselves a body of work left behind by the canon. It proposes that these remainders provide a new perspective on Corneille’s treatment of heroic action and its place in history, and argues that the remainder becomes, in Corneille’s work, something capable of redemption and new life. The argument is focused on three tragedies: Médée (1634), Sertorius (1662), and Tite et Bérénice (1671).
Petra Dierkes-Thrun "The Brutal Music and the Delicate Text"? Wilde's Symbolist-Decadent Aesthetic and Richard Strauss's Modernism in Salome Reconsidered  
The familiar scholarly view of Richard Strauss’s modernist opera Salome is that it disregards and completely overhauls its libretto source, Oscar Wilde’s 1891 symbolist-decadent drama. A close reconsideration of the relationship between what Hutcheon and Hutcheon have called “the brutal music and the delicate text,” however, shows that despite seemingly divergent styles the two works actually share major formal and thematic characteristics. Responding in tandem to the metaphysical crisis of modernity, both aimed to systematically replace metaphysical purpose and sublime religious experience with physical sensation and secular ecstasy, strongly corporealize affect, and glorify amoral modern individualism as embodied by the perverse Salome. Some important yet little analyzed contemporary reviews of the play and the opera in Germany and Austria from 1905 to 1907 (some of which I translate here for the first time) already noted such correspondences and consistently interpreted Strauss’s choices as direct aesthetic corollaries to Wilde’s, illustrating that contemporary audiences understood Wilde’s and Strauss’s projects as compatible and complementary rather than divergent, as later scholars have argued. At a time when the relationship between the symbolist, decadent, and modernist aesthetic was still very much in flux, Wilde’s and Strauss’s ultimate goal turned out to be the same in Salome: to manufacture secular sublimity by modern aesthetic means.
Brian McHale 1966 Nervous Breakdown, or, When Did Postmodernism Begin?  
In or about 1966, modernity changed. In the spirit of recent reflections on “the year as period” (notably by Michael North in MLQ 62:3 [December 2001]), the present article undertakes a thought-experiment: What if we were to date the beginning of postmodernism to 1966, instead of, say, 1972-73, the onset-date preferred (for different reasons) by Charles Jencks, Fredric Jameson, and Andreas Killen, among others? What might such a thought-experiment tell us about postmodernism, and about periodization in general? Like 1973, but even more decisively, culture in 1966 is characterized by a series of striking “breakdowns”—of developments that get ahead of themselves, that stall out and recoil upon themselves. Traceable across a variety of cultural practices, this pattern is especially evident in rock music, which achieves aesthetic “escape velocity” in 1966 in such works as The Beatles’ Revolver and Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, but then stalls out. The pattern of stall and recoil is only one of a number of other “topological transformations” of cultural practices and products also datable to 1966, among them the (re)invention of meta (self-reflection, recursiveness, strange loops) and the opening of paraworld spaces. These topological transformations constitute the building-blocks of a postmodernist poetics.
Author Title
Richard Halpern Hamlet's Heirs: Shakespeare and the Politics of a New Millennium by Linda Charnes
Julia Reinhard Lupton Hamlet without Hamlet by Margreta de Grazia
Patricia Meyer Spacks A Literary History of Women's Writing in Britain, 1660-1789 by Susan Staves
Jan Sjåvik Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism: Art, Theater, Philosophy by Toril Moi
Richard T. Gray On Creaturely Life: Rilke, Benjamin, Sebald by Eric L. Santner

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