Volume 78, Issue 4 | December 2017

Author Title
Gerard Passannante On Catastrophic Materialism  
Looking at a variety of cases from the early modern period—from debates around astrology to the essays of Michel de Montaigne to the poetry and prose of John Donne and the philosophical fictions of Margaret Cavendish—this essay explores the encounter with materialist thought as an experience of catastrophe. Against the explicit aims of materialist philosophers like Epicurus to encourage peace of mind, early modern authors discovered in materialism a style of thought that felt at once enticing and alarming, even disastrous. “Catastrophic materialism” helps us understand how a much-maligned philosophy captured the imagination, as well as the critical function it served.
Simon Park Diogo Bernardes’s Brandura  
Readers of Diogo Bernardes’s (ca. 1530–ca. 1595) poetry have long praised the brandura (gentleness) of his work. But what brandura meant and how favorably it was viewed depended on context. Brandura was associated with the middle style, with mastery of elocutio, and, by extension, with poetry’s ability to move those who listened to or read it. Therefore it could at one moment provoke moral anxiety and at another signal the height of poetic accomplishment. In quarrels over the relative merits of the European vernaculars, apologists for the Portuguese language invested in Bernardes’s reputation as brando (gentle), as he was said to demonstrate the brandura of their mother tongue. Yet later in the seventeenth century his fortunes sank. Though he is little esteemed today, his association with the multiple meanings of brando and brandura implicated him in important political, moral, and aesthetic disputes throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. By paying renewed attention to style and affect in the context of cultural history, this essay aims to revive interest in Bernardes’s work.
Laura R. Fisher Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Novel Aesthetics  
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novels and short stories are notably didactic, but they are not merely socioeconomic treatises in disguise. Her unabashedly mundane and pedantic literary style embodies a self-consciously modern aesthetics of didacticism that pervaded US literature in its years of transition between realism, naturalism, and modernism and that characterized the subgenre of sociological fiction. Gilman’s 1910 novel What Diantha Did models the social rigor that sociological novelists considered essential to the art of fiction. What Diantha Did tracks the creation of a system of kitchenless homes in California and the subsequent emancipation of women from forced domesticity. Gilman’s prose reflects on, and even formally replicates, the drudgery and repetition she associates with household labor. Gilman proposes an analogy between novels and kitchens as genres of modern social life: both must be collectivized and liberated from the archaic, the personal, and the masculine.
Melanie Micir The Impossible Miss Woolf: Kate Atkinson and the Feminist Modernist Historical Novel  
Reading Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life (2013) in the context of theories of the historical novel (Georg Lukács, Fredric Jameson) and counterfactual fiction (Catherine Gallagher, Andrew Miller, Paul Saint-Amour) sheds light on an overlooked genealogy of the feminist modernist historical novel. Atkinson’s novels are often cited as examples of postmodern metafiction, but in fact her work is more directly indebted to modernist experiments in counterfactual historical writing by figures like Virginia Woolf. Moreover, this inheritance, inasmuch as it informs Atkinson’s focus on the untold lives of ordinary women, is not only modernist but feminist.
Author Title
Norman Finkelstein William J. Kennedy, Petrarchism at Work: Contextual Economies in the Age of Shakespeare
Paul Giles Juliet Shields, Nation and Migration: The Making of British Atlantic Literature, 1765-1835
Alan Rudrum Katherine Eggert, Disknowledge: Literature, Alchemy, and the End of Humanism in Renaissance England
Michael North Peter J. Kalliney, Commonwealth of Letters: British Literary Culture and the Emergence of Postcolonial Aesthetics
Zachary Tavlin Nikki Skillman, The Lyric in the Age of the Brain

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