Access your Project MUSE content using one of the login options below Close(X)
Browse Results For:
Essays on Medieval Culture
This volume brings together Lee Patterson’s essays published in various venues over the past twenty-seven years. As he observes in his preface, “The one persistent recognition that emerged from writing these otherwise quite disparate essays is that whatever the text . . . and whoever the people . . ., the values at issue remain central to contemporary life.” Two dialectics are at work in this book: that between the past and the present and that between the individual and the social, and both have moral significance. The first two chapters are methodological; the first is on the historical understanding of medieval literature and the second on how to manage the inseparability of fact and value in the classroom. The next three chapters take up three “less-read” late medieval writers: Sir John Clanvowe, Thomas Hoccleve, and John Lydgate. Each is used to illuminate a social phenomenon: the nature of court culture, the experience of the city, and Henry V’s act of self-making. The following chapter explicitly links past and present by arguing that the bearing of the English aristocrat comes from a tradition beginning with Beowulf and later reinvoked in response to nineteenth-century imperialism. The next three chapters are the most literary, dealing with Chaucer and with literary conventions in relation to a number of texts. The final chapter is on the man Patterson considers one of the most important of our medieval ancestors, Francis of Assisi.
The Politics of Sacramental Marriage in Late Medieval English Literature
Affections of the Mind argues that a politicized negotiation of issues of authority in the institution of marriage can be found in late medieval England, where an emergent middle class of society used a sacramental model of marriage to exploit contradictions within medieval theology and social hierarchy. Emma Lipton traces the unprecedented popularity of marriage as a literary topic and the tensions between different models of marriage in the literature of the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries by analyzing such texts as Chaucer's Franklin's Tale, The Book of Margery Kempe, and the N-Town plays. Affections of the Mind focuses on marriage as a fluid and contested category rather than one with a fixed meaning, and argues that the late medieval literature of sacramental marriage subverted aristocratic and clerical traditions of love and marriage in order to promote the values of the lay middle strata of society. This book will be of value to a broad range of scholars in medieval studies.
The Afterlife of Character, 1726-1825 reconstructs how eighteenth-century British readers invented further adventures for beloved characters, including Gulliver, Falstaff, Pamela, and Tristram Shandy. Far from being close-ended and self-contained, the novels and plays in which these characters first appeared were treated by many as merely a starting point, a collective reference perpetually inviting augmentation through an astonishing wealth of unauthorized sequels. Characters became an inexhaustible form of common property, despite their patent authorship. Readers endowed them with value, knowing all the while that others were doing the same and so were collectively forging a new mode of virtual community.
By tracing these practices, David A. Brewer shows how the literary canon emerged as much "from below" as out of any of the institutions that have been credited with their invention. Indeed, he reveals the astonishing degree to which authors had to cajole readers into granting them authority over their own creations, authority that seems self-evident to a modern audience.
In its innovative methodology and its unprecedented attention to the productive interplay between the audience, the book as a material artifact, and the text as an immaterial entity, The Afterlife of Character, 1726-1825 offers a compelling new approach to eighteenth-century studies, the history of the book, and the very idea of character itself.
Deploying the Popess Legend in Early Modern England
Amid the religious tumult of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, English scholars, preachers, and dramatists examined, debated, and refashioned tales concerning Pope Joan, a ninth-century woman who, as legend has it, cross-dressed her way to the papacy only to have her imposture exposed when she gave birth during a solemn procession. The legend concerning a popess had first taken written form in the thirteenth century and for several hundred years was more or less accepted. The Reformation, however, polarized discussions of the legend, pitting Catholics, who denied the story’s veracity, against Protestants, who suspected a cover-up and instantly cited Joan as evidence of papal depravity. In this heated environment, writers reimagined Joan variously as a sorceress, a hermaphrodite, and even a noteworthy author. The Afterlife of Pope Joan examines sixteenth- and seventeenth-century debates concerning the popess’s existence, uncovering the disputants’ historiographic methods, rules of evidence, rhetorical devices, and assumptions concerning what is probable and possible for women and transvestites. Author Craig Rustici then investigates the cultural significance of a series of notions advanced in those debates: the claim that Queen Elizabeth I was a popess in her own right, the charge that Joan penned a book of sorcery, and the curious hypothesis that the popess was not a disguised woman at all but rather a man who experienced a sort of spontaneous sex change. The Afterlife of Pope Joan draws upon the discourses of religion, politics, natural philosophy, and imaginative literature, demonstrating how the popess functioned as a powerful rhetorical instrument and revealing anxieties and ambivalences about gender roles that persist even today. Craig M. Rustici is Associate Professor of English at Hofstra University.
Regional Identity and Cheshire Writing, 1195-1656
Against All England examines a diverse set of poems, plays, and chronicles produced in Cheshire and its vicinity from the 1190s to the 1650s that collectively argue for the localization of British literary history. These works, including very early monastic writing emanating from St. Werburgh’s Abbey, the Chester Whitsun plays, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, seventeenth-century ceremonials, and various Stanley romances, share in the creation and revision of England’s cultural tradition, demonstrating a vested interest in the intersection of landscape, language, and politics. Barrett’s book grounds itself in Cestrian evidence in order to offer scholars a new, dynamic model of cultural topography, one that acknowledges the complex interlacing of regional and national identities within the longue durée extending from the post-Conquest period to the Restoration. Covering nearly five centuries of literary production within a single geographical location, the book challenges still dominant chronologies of literary history that emphasize cultural rupture and view the “Renaissance” as a sharp break from England’s medieval past.
In The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution, Angelica Duran reveals the way in which Milton’s works interacted with the revolutionary work of his contemporaries in science to participate in the dynamic “advancement of learning” of the time period. Bringing together primary materials by early modern scientists, including Robert Boyle, William Gilbert, William Harvey, Isaac Newton, John Ray, and John Wilkins as well as educational reformers such as Samuel Hartlib and Henry Oldenburg, The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution positions Milton’s literature as a coequal partner with the new cosmological theories, mathematical developments, telescopes, and scientific tracts that so thoroughly affected every aspect of recorded life in seventeenth century England. Duran shows, for example, how new developments in ornithology worked to shape the Lady’s power in the young Milton’s celebratory A Mask, how mathematics informed the sexual relationship of Adam and Eve in his mature epic Paradise Lost, and how developments in optics transformed the blinded hero of the blind author’s moving tragedy Samson Agonistes. While this study is indebted to the work of historians of science—from C. P. Snow and Thomas Kuhn to Stephen Shapin and Stephen Jay Gould—it is not a history of science per se, but rather a cultural study that appreciates poetry as a unique lens through which early modern England’s large-scale developments in education and science are clarified and reflected. What emerges is an intimate sense of how the enormous changes of the English Scientific Revolution affected individual lives and found their ways into Milton’s enduring poetry and prose.
Philanthropy and Gender in Nineteenth-Century England
In The Angel out of the House, Dorice Williams Elliott examines the ways in which novels and other texts that portrayed women performing charitable acts helped to make the inclusion of philanthropic work in the domestic sphere seem natural and obvious. And although many scholars have dismissed women’s volunteer endeavors as merely patriarchal collusion, Elliott argues that the conjunction of novelistic and philanthropic discourse in the works of women writers—among them George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell, Hannah More and Anna Jameson—was crucial to the redefinition of gender roles and class relations.
Nonhuman Beings in Early Modern Literature
During the Renaissance, horses—long considered the privileged, even sentient companions of knights-errant—gradually lost their special place on the field of battle and, with it, their distinctive status in the world of chivalric heroism. Parrots, once the miraculous, articulate companions of popes and emperors, declined into figures of mindless mimicry. Cats, which were tortured by Catholics in the Middle Ages, were tortured in the Reformation as part of the Protestant attack on Catholicism. And sheep, the model for Agnus Dei imagery, underwent transformations at once legal, material, and spiritual as a result of their changing role in Europe's growing manufacturing and trade economies. While in the Middle Ages these nonhumans were endowed with privileged social associations, personal agency, even the ability to reason and speak, in the early modern period they lost these qualities at the very same time that a new emphasis on, and understanding of, human character was developing in European literature.
In Animal Characters Bruce Thomas Boehrer follows five species—the horse, the parrot, the cat, the turkey, and the sheep—through their appearances in an eclectic mix of texts, from romances and poetry to cookbooks and natural histories. He shows how dramatic changes in animal character types between 1400 and 1700 relate to the emerging economy and culture of the European Renaissance. In early modern European culture, animals not only served humans as sources of labor, companionship, clothing, and food; these nonhuman creatures helped to form an understanding of personhood. Incorporating readings of Shakespeare's plays, Milton's Paradise Lost, Margaret Cavendish's Blazing World, and other works, Boehrer's series of animal character studies illuminates a fascinating period of change in interspecies relationships.
In this first critical study of Anna Letitia Barbauld’s major work, Daniel P. Watkins reveals the singular purpose of Barbauld’s visionary poems: to recreate the world based on the values of liberty and justice. Watkins examines in close detail both the form and content of Barbauld’s Poems, originally published in 1773 and revised and reissued in 1792. Along with providing careful readings of the poems, readings that situate the works in their broader political, historical, and philosophical contexts, Watkins explores the relevance of the introductory epigraphs and the importance of the poems’ placement throughout the volume. At the center of Watkins’s study is Barbauld’s effort to develop a visionary poetic stance. He argues that the deliberate arrangement of the poems creates a coherent portrayal of Barbauld’s poetic, political, and social vision, a vision born of her deep belief that the principles of love, sympathy, liberty, and pacifism are necessary for a secure and meaningful human reality. In tracing the contours of this effort, Watkins examines, in particular, the tension in Barbauld’s poetry between her desire to engage directly with the political realities of the world and her equally strong longing for a pastoral world of peace and prosperity. Scholars of British literature and women writers will welcome this important study of one of the eighteenth century’s foremost writers.
Anna Seward and her career defy easy placement into the traditional periods of British literature. Raised to emulate the great poets John Milton and Alexander Pope, maturing in the Age of Sensibility, and publishing during the early Romantic era, Seward exemplifies the eighteenth-century transition from classical to Romantic. Claudia Thomas Kairoff’s excellent critical study offers fresh readings of Anna Seward’s most important writings and firmly establishes the poet as a pivotal figure among late-century British writers. Reading Seward’s writing alongside recent scholarship on gendered conceptions of the poetic career, patriotism, provincial culture, sensibility, and the sonnet revival, Kairoff carefully reconsiders Seward’s poetry and critical prose. Written as it was in the last decades of the eighteenth century, Seward’s work does not comfortably fit into the dominant models of Enlightenment-era verse or the tropes that characterize Romantic poetry. Rather than seeing this as an obstacle for understanding Seward’s writing within a particular literary style, Kairoff argues that this allows readers to see in Seward’s works the eighteenth-century roots of Romantic-era poetry. Arguably the most prominent woman poet of her lifetime, Seward’s writings disappeared from popular and scholarly view shortly after her death. After nearly two hundred years of critical neglect, Seward is attracting renewed attention, and with this book Kairoff makes a strong and convincing case for including Anna Seward's remarkable literary achievements among the most important of the late eighteenth century.