Volume 82, Issue 1 | March 2021

Author Title
David Scott Wilson-Okamura Spencer's Youth  
Epics modeled on the Odyssey typically include a version of Homer’s Circe episode. Edmund Spenser’s variant, the Bower of Bliss, is unusual for ending in physical violence so pronounced that many readers have taken against its putative hero, Sir Guyon. This essay reviews the role of magic in similar episodes to show the enormity of Spenser’s seemingly conservative storytelling. It also defends Spenser’s hero from charges of intemperance and immaturity. The question of intemperance stems from misunderstanding Aristotle. That of immaturity is more complicated. In the economy of justice, youth counteracts complacency. One of Guyon’s prototypes, the biblical king Josiah, is an example. Spenser pictures all his heroes as young, and growing up is part of his design for the epic as a whole. His attitude, though, is not condescending. The danger of sexual indulgence, which Guyon’s critics sometimes dismiss, is one that the epic tradition took seriously and that Spenser himself connected with the recent downfall of public figures.
James Kuzner George Herbert’s “The Flower” and the Problem of Praise  
This essay dwells on George Herbert’s “The Flower” and on how its speaker can love and praise God. Writing of praise and doubt, Stanley Cavell remarks that the problem of skepticism is partly a problem of finding an object that one can praise, a search that certainly occurs in “The Flower.” While Herbert’s speaker seeks God as that object, his own memory impedes him, making him question God’s goodness and forcing him not only to abandon forms of remembering that Herbert’s sources—from psalmists to theologians—employ so as to rise to praise, but also to use form in order to forget. The essay’s conclusion compares Herbert’s poem with another strange praise poem, Paul Celan’s “Psalm.” The essay claims that if Cavell sees praise as signaling a triumph over doubt, “The Flower” shows, as only verse can, how praise and doubt accompany each other, using doubt to keep praise at a distance from both psalmic theology and skeptical philosophy.
Andrew Mattison Cowley’s Dream of a Shadow: Imitation against Experience  
This essay describes Abraham Cowley’s tendency, apparent throughout his work but particularly in his collected editions of 1656 and 1668, to embrace the imitation of literary models to an extent that, as he admits, can be disconcerting for readers and interfere with the literary representation of history and his own experience. Cowley’s poetic rethinking of the legacies of Homer, Pindar, the Anacreontea, Vergil, and Claudian parallels his resistance to mimetic treatment of his life and passions. This orientation toward literary history at the expense of representation, the essay argues, is rooted in a distinctive and compelling theory of interpretation, whose significance beyond Cowley’s work is revealed by the struggles of critics from the eighteenth century to the present to make sense of the relationship between life and art in his verse. These critics unwittingly demonstrate the prescience of Cowley’s depiction of reading and interpretation as potentially alienating ruptures of the connections between poems and their subject matter.
Anthony J. Cuda Reinventing Modernism: Randall Jarrell’s Unwritten Essay on T. S. Eliot  
Despite a wealth of new primary-source publications and archival discoveries, many scholars persist in the belief that midcentury poets like Randall Jarrell rejected their modernist predecessors in a quest for originality and novelty. This article demonstrates, on the contrary, Jarrell’s underestimated and enduring creative debt to T. S. Eliot by reconstructing, for the first time, a book-length essay that he planned to write about Eliot but abandoned. The article shows that Jarrell regarded Eliot’s work as the result of a psychological struggle with “obsessional neurosis,” and it reveals the logic and evidence that Jarrell planned to use to argue this claim. It concludes by showing that Jarrell himself adapted aspects of Eliot’s obsessional style in his poetry and hoped to follow them to a different end.
Author Title
Jonathan Culler Anthony Ossa-Richardson, A History of Ambiguity
Jesse Oak Taylor Ian Duncan, Human Forms: The Novel in the Age of Evolution
René Johannes Kooiker Christopher Taylor, Empire of Neglect: The West Indies in the Wake of British Liberalism
Christopher L. Hill Justin Jesty, Art and Engagement in Early Postwar Japan
David Simpson Ed. Colin MacCabe and Holly Yanacek, Keywords for Today: A Twenty-First-Century Vocabulary; The Keywords Project

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