Volume 81, Issue 1 | March 2020

Author Title
Danila Sokolov Mary Wroth, Ovid, and the Metamorphosis of Petrarch  
The language of arboreal metamorphosis in Mary Wroth’s pastoral song “The Spring now come at last” from Pamphilia to Amphilanthus (1621) may invoke the myth of Apollo and Daphne. However, the Ovidian narrative so central to Petrarchan poetics celebrates the male poet through erasure of the female voice. This essay instead explores parallels between Wroth’s poem and the metamorphosis of the Heliades, who turn into poplars while mourning their brother Phaeton, from Book 2 of the Metamorphoses. Their transformation is predicated on an act of female speech, however precarious and evanescent. This alternative Ovidian scenario offers a model of lyric that capitalizes on the brief resonance that the female voice acquires at the point of vanishing. By deploying it in her song Wroth not only rewrites Petrarch through Ovid in order to articulate a gendered lyric voice, but shows herself a poet attuned to the crucial developments in English lyric of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in particular the complex relationship between the Petrarchan and the Ovidian legacies.
Jeffrey Wilson Why Shakespeare? Irony and Liberalism in Canonization  
Why Shakespeare? It sounds like a question that would have been asked and answered numerous times in Shakespeare studies since the turn to reputation by scholars such as Gary Taylor, Michael Dobson, and Marjorie Garber. When they consider Shakespeare's rise and lasting popularity in modern culture, however, scholars usually end up telling us how Shakespeare came to assume his position at the front of the canon, but not really why. They tend not to answer the difficult question of what about Shakespeare's art led to his selection above all other writers, what about modernity led it to select Shakespeare above all others, and what the special relationship between Shakespeare and modernity is. This essay contends Shakespeare’s elevation in the early nineteenth century was the result of a confluence between his strategy as an author and the political commitments of his canonizers. Specifically, Shakespeare’s ironic mode made his drama uniquely appealing to the political liberals at the forefront of English culture in the early nineteenth century. Shakespeare’s irony is presented with some close readings of Shakespearean texts (such as Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet) alongside their sources. The Romantic reading of Shakespeare’s irony from Hazlitt and Keats comes in the context of their political liberalism. In each their own way, both Shakespeare and his canonizers were anti-authoritarian: the literary version of anti-authoritarianism in Shakespeare’s drama (the irony granting audiences freedom of interpretation) was a perfect match for those who subscribed to the political version of anti-authoritarianism (namely liberalism) advocated by the likes of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill. If so, it becomes possible to speak of bardolatry as an allegorical intertext for liberal politics.
Michael Skansgaard The Virtuosity of Langston Hughes: Persona, Rhetoric, and Iconography in The Weary Blues  
Previous historical studies of The Weary Blues have focused on the racial symbolism of Langston Hughes’s technique, which (as the consensus goes) authenticates the voice of the persona through its deliberate simplicity. This orthodox view is wrong-headed from the outset. I use a new system of rhetorically-driven scansion to identify elaborate rhetorical symmetries and polyrhythms shape the cognition of Hughes’s persona and the recognition of Hughes’s readers in ways that prose language cannot. Hughes employs rhetoric and iconography as alternative modes of historical narration. This recuperation of Hughes’s persona intervenes into an ongoing dispute in the field of historical poetics about the value of formalism and cognitivism. I aim to show that the concept of thinking in verse is perhaps most valuable where it has been least applied: in reclaiming the value of traditionally marginalized literatures such as those of the African-American vernacular tradition.
Review essay
Author Title
Katherine Bode Why you can’t model away bias
Author Title
Stephen Rupp Miguel Martínez, Front Lines: Soldiers’ Writing in the Early Modern Hispanic World
Klaus Stierstorfer Trevor Ross, Writing in Public: Literature and the Liberty of the Press in Eighteenth-Century England
Nancy Yousef Jonathan Kramnick, Paper Minds: Literature and the Ecology of Consciousness
Robert L. Caserio Michaela Bronstein, Out of Context: The Uses of Modernist Fiction

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