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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 as though sorrow in English literary culture could be grasped numerically. The editors would have been wiser to cut their ties with a traditional literary criticism that treats grief as a perfunctory theme or an empirical object and to organize the volume around gender. Half of the essays in the volume may be said to approach grief through a keen sensitivity to gendered representations. Nowhere does the volume=s lack of coherent vision seem more pronounced than in the afterword by Ralph Houlbrooke. As one might expect, he performs his task of tying up the many loose ends with learning, grace, and ingenuity. However, I find it bizarre that an early modern historian should be given the final word in a volume with a third of its essays demonstrating no regard for interdisciplinary approaches to literature. Houlbrooke registers this concern, when he makes >a plea for closer cooperation between literary scholars and historians.= I wish too that this volume in conceptualizing, reading, and organizing the texture of early modern grief had demonstrated a closer co-operation between its editors and its contributors. (GRANT WILLIAMS) John Donne. Essays in Divinity: Being Several Disquisitions Interwoven with Meditations and Prayers. Edited by Anthony Raspa McGill-Queen=s University Press 2001. lxxx, 210. $75.00 John Donne=s Essays in Divinity is not one of his more widely read works. Prior=s to Anthony Raspa=s edition, the work was published by John Donne the Younger in 1651, edited by Augustus Jessopp and published in 1855, and re-edited by Evelyn M. Simpson and republished in 1952. A generous selection of the work appears in Herschel Baker=s The Later Renaissance in humanities 199 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 England (1975) B an edition unmentioned by Raspa B and a substantial chapter (thirty pages, but mostly quotation and paraphrase) is devoted to the work by Simpson in her survey of Donne=s Prose (1924). Jointly, the two confer canonical status on the work. To Baker it is >a sort of theological compendium or resevoir of the doctrines, themes, and motifs that Donne embellished in his later work.= The Essays were evidently composed as an exercise in theological speculation, >the voluntary sacrifices of severall hours,= prior to Donne=s ordination the following year, as a means of selftesting , of assuring himself of his own orthodoxy and his vocation, and, as well, his theological competence as one who had taken no formal academic degree: >whether he were worthy, and competently learned to enter into Holy Orders,= as the publisher=s address >To the Reader= puts it. There are editorial problems in Essays, but they are not textual; and there are bibliographical problems inherent in the complicated survival of copies of the original. But these Raspa convincingly disposes of: there is but one edition and but one issue that is authoritative. One printing in 1651 appeared both as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 198-200
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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