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humanities 197 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 of time and devotion required. This is probably the most interesting part of the book. The success of Nolen in getting her discovery, along with the dogged efforts of the portrait=s owner, Lloyd Sullivan, written up at such length, with the bolstering of a galaxy of experts, testifies more to the power and vitality of the Shakespeare industry than to the significance of the portrait in its own right. Nolen and Sullivan long so desperately for this to be the real Shakespeare that they are dismissive of experts mentioned who pronounce definitively negative views, surprisingly few, it seems. But in the end this book=s chief value will be as a footnote. (SANDRA CLARK) Margo Swiss and David A. Kent, editors. Speaking Grief in English Literary Culture: Shakespeare to Milton Duquesne University Press. 365. US $60.00 The title of this collection of twelve essays promises a topic with an exciting potential for enhancing our understanding of Renaissance literature. >To speak grief= tears through the ligatures binding subjectivity and society together. Its dangerous excesses dissolve social boundaries even as they necessitate the further entrenchment of power relations, gender divisions, and corporeal categories. A number of the contributions, particularly those of Michael McClintock, Paul Parrish, Donna Long, and Margo Swiss, tap into grief=s disturbing energy. But in our age of cultural studies the volume=s title promises more than it has to offer. The volume should have been entitled The Theme of Grief in English Literary Works from Shakespeare to Milton, since most of the essays make no attempt to trace out grief=s connections to the institutions, discourses, and practices of English literary culture. Although I appreciate some of its individual contributions, the overall collection does not advance our understanding of grief in the period. It fails to distinguish the unique conceptual space of grief from the well-worn topics of mourning, melancholy, and loss, adding nothing new to current discussions of these topics. Marjory Lange=s essay is an exception in elaborating a distinction between sorrow and melancholy, but she seems more preoccupied with religious melancholy in her study. Half the essays also overlap unproductively with elegy criticism almost two decades after G.W. Pigman III=s Grief and English Renaissance Elegy and Peter M. Sack=s The English Elegy. But early modern grief means much more than the disease >melancholy= and takes textual forms other than the predictable elegy. Sorrow is one of the concupiscible passions generated by the intellective appetite. Early modern anatomical treatises depict it moving between the body and the mind, ultimately troubling the soul: that is why the passions are called perturbations. In the period, Thomas Wright=s The Passions of the Minde in Generall reveals a culture=s awareness of manipulating emotions for powerful rhetorical effects, which are by no means confined to a single 198 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 genre. The reason that the volume fails to advance our knowledge of grief is that it lacks a coherent vision. It is uncertain of its critical praxis. Four of the essays amount to bloodless close readings/commentaries, stubbornly resistant to contemporary critical dialogue. These essays could have been written decades ago. In contrast, the remaining essays strive to offer something more than a traditional commentary on a theme in a literary work. Ranging impressively throughout Shakespeare=s plays, Fred Tromly argues that Shakespeare questions the hierarchical relationship implicit in conventional comfort-giving and provides in Cordelia and Lear=s shared grief a rare glimpse at >an ideal of mutuality in consolation.= Phillip McCaffrey=s essay, the volume=s only sustained theoretical analysis, works out a fine psychoanalytic reading, in which he articulates the complex yet fragile defences against grief in Marvell=s >The Nymph.= The introduction should have been the place to argue for the volume=s critical coherence, but it sorely lacks vision too, stumbling through a few examples of grief in Shakespeare and several disconnected commonplaces from literary criticism and social history. At one point, it intones statistics on deaths caused by plagues and wars...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 197-198
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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