Volume 74, Issue 4 | December 2013

Author Title
J. L. Simmons Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Familial Blessings: Historical Abruptions  
Epigraphs from William Roper’s “Life of Sir Thomas More” represent rituals of familial blessing in transition from the feudal to the early modern. They exemplify Shakespeare’s complex employment of the ritual in Hamlet and throughout his plays from the farcical to the serene. The “double blessing” that Polonius gives Laertes shows this ritual, as do those of earlier sons Launce and Launcelot in The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Merchant of Venice; All’s Well That Ends Well renders it confusingly in feudal transition into a new age. King Lear offers it in the peaceful reconciliation of father and daughter, as, tragically, does the final action between Gertrude and Hamlet when she wipes his forehead, fulfilling his promise that “when you are desirous to be blessed, / I’ll blessing beg of you.” The blessing of marriage between Hamlet and Ophelia exposes another abruption between the historical conception of political marriage argued by Polonius and Laertes and marriages of mutuality aborted by the adulterous and murderous one of Gertrude and Claudius. Hamlet is structured on the Danish history of Old Hamlet/Old Fortinbras abrupted by that of Young Hamlet/Young Fortinbras—with Hamlet blessed neither to leave home nor to marry.
James Kuzner Metaphysical Freedom  
This essay explores metaphysical poetry’s strange meditations on freedom. As Alain Badiou suggests and Hannah Arendt famously claims, this poetry demonstrates that freedom is best understood not as sovereignty but as natality, liberation from life’s automatic routines and a partaking, in a sense, of a second birth. Subjects of metaphysical freedom are drawn, overwhelmed, and transformed from without, all to enter a strange condition of rest to which they contribute virtually nothing and that is paradoxically so intense as to be hardly recognizable as human. John Donne, George Herbert, and Henry Vaughan engage concepts of liberty predictably, given their contexts and ours, but also in ways that are unpredictable and occasionally even startling.
David L. Sedley A Mathematical Key to La Princesse de Clèves  
This article interprets Madame de Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves as a response to Blaise Pascal’s arithmetic triangle. Pascal used the numbers of the triangle to determine how to divide fairly the stakes of an interrupted game of chance. He called his method “the geometry of chance,” and he touted it as an expansion of “the empire of reason” into formerly ungovernable territory. However, Pascal never applied the arithmetic triangle to games with more than two players, and the love triangle among the central characters in Lafayette’s novel implicitly ridicules this constraint. The frame around the present argument extends its significance beyond La Princesse de Clèves to the modern literary mechanisms whose origins critics have identified with it.
Jasper Bernes John Ashbery’s Free Indirect Labor  
The early poems of John Ashbery must be read, in part, as a meditation on the plight of labor, particularly white-collar labor, in the postwar United States. Beginning with “The Instruction Manual” (1956) and its exploration of the ambiguous class position of white-collar workers, the essay tracks themes and formalizations of both labor and management as they continue in Ashbery’s highly experimental second book, The Tennis Court Oath (1962). In this book the standpoint of the earlier poem gives way to an explosion of shifting voices as Ashbery’s distinctive use of free indirect discourse and other techniques of point of view registers the contemporary breakdown in labor relations and the crisis for established modes of management. In Ashbery’s mature style of the 1970s, this chaotic play of voices yields to a comparatively measured technology of point of view, which resembles the new modes of management that followed the crises of the 1960s and 1970s.
Author Title
Nico Slate Srinivas Aravamudan, Enlightenment Orientalism: Resisting the Rise of the Novel
Lynn Festa Madeleine Dobie, Trading Places: Colonization and Slavery in Eighteenth-Century French Culture
John Plotz Helmut Müller-Sievers, The Cylinder: Kinematics of the Nineteenth Century
Juliet Shields Paul Giles, The Global Remapping of American Literature
Azade Seyhan Nergis Ertürk, Grammatology and Literary Modernity in Turkey
Françoise Lionnet Susan Z. Andrade, The Nation Writ Small: African Fictions and Feminisms, 19581988
Michael Davidson Brian M. Reed, Phenomenal Reading: Essays on Modern and Contemporary Poetics
Habiba Ibrahim Michele Elam, The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millennium

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