Volume 76, Issue 1 | March 2015

Author Title
Philip Mirabelli Shakespeare and Sexual Re-formation  
Reacting against a repressive turn in the libidinal system, Shakespeare’s middle-period plays, this essay argues, defend the traditional relationship code and its largely tolerant mores, question the fusion of passion and marriage that the playwright developed in earlier plays, and explore more pragmatic options. At the beginning of the seventeenth century cultural momentum turned away from an imprecise system of relationships and toward a monolithic and homogenizing institution of marriage and strict distinctions, which began to exclude homoeroticism. This sexual re-formation is critiqued in Shakespeare’s extensive middle-period treatments of sexual relationships, even dramatized by the indeterminacy of Claudio and Juliet’s union in Measure for Measure; it would be largely dismantled by the sexual re-structuring that began in the 1960s. In each transitional era there was a shift in relationship and courtship codes, a reconfiguration of the boundaries between the acceptable and the illicit, a reorientation of normative content that (re)produces ideals governing identity, and a refashioning of the means of desiring-production. Stressing structural shifts in practices and discourses of kinship formation, this approach supplements other theorizations of the sex/gender/relationship system and calls for studying the varieties of heteroeroticism, including those that accept the homoeroticism in all sexuality.
John Plotz Speculative Naturalism and the Problem of Scale: Richard Jefferies’s After London, after Darwin  
Although naturalism shares some features with realism and others with modernism, it also has properties that contrast with the realist and modernist prioritization of felt individual experience as the evidentiary matrix on which their accounts of the world are based. Naturalist fiction is committed to microscopic description, below the level of experiential subjectivity, and to macroscopic abstraction. Some of the odder fictional experiments of the era are best understood with reference to the morphology of naturalism &mdash including what might be called the speculative naturalism of Jefferies, Mark Twain, and others. Richard Jefferies’s 1885 After London, an early and critically neglected work of British speculative fiction, is a useful bellwether of the widely distributed naturalist impulses among novelists responding to the era of scientific naturalism most prominently marked by the appearance of Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859) and Descent of Man (1871).
Taylor Schey Empiricist Political Theory and the Modern Novel: The Social Contract and H. G. Wells  
Modernity is often described as a break with Empiricist and Enlightenment theories. It is also sometimes seen as a polymath period of fragmented disciplinary engagements. Both of these attitudes inform approaches to H. G. Wells, a prolifically interdisciplinary writer. Yet Wells’s diverse works of literature and political theory make him a test-case figure for lines of intersection between modernity and the Enlightenment, a period concerned with the relations between the two genres. Traditionally, studies of Wells only go as far back as Victorianism; conversely, literary studies rarely consider Empiricist political theory in contexts later than Victorian realism. Wells’s works challenge these conventions by self-consciously reflecting on the writings of Adam Smith and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Wells questions the social contract hypothesis that individual interests contribute to broader social wellbeing and demonstrates the centrality of Empiricist political theory for the modernist novel. Through close readings of The Invisible Man and Love and Mr. Lewisham, and broader discussion of Wells’s varied oeuvre, his engagement with Empiricist values, conflicts and literary forms emerges.
Gerald L. Bruns The Impossible Experience of Words: Blanchot, Beckett, and The Materiality of Language  
This essay attempts to situate Samuel Beckett’s fiction within the Parisian intellectual and literary milieu of Maurice Blanchot (1907-2003), particularly with respect to the experience of the materiality of language and the double bind of writing in which, as Blanchot wrote in 1943, “The writer finds himself in the increasingly ludicrous condition of having nothing to write, of having no means with which to write it, and of being constrained by the utter necessity of always writing it.” One way of coping with this impasse was to take recourse to the fragment in which words are not composed but juxtaposed, as in Blanchot’s L’attente, l’oubli (1962) and Beckett’s Worstward Ho (1983).
Author Title
Elena Russo Nicholas D. Paige, Before Fiction: The Ancien Régime of the Novel
David Simpson Steven Goldsmith, Blake's Agitation: Criticism and the Emotions
Eduardo González Monika Kaup, Neobaroque in the Americas: Alternative Modernities in Literature, Visual Art, and Film
Angela Sorby Catherine Robson, Heart Beats: Everyday Life and the Memorized Poem
Rachel Blau DuPlessis Brian M. Reed, Nobody's Business: Twenty-First Century Avant-Garde Poetics

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