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Acting in the Night Cover

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Acting in the Night

Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War

Alexander Nemerov

What can the performance of a single play on one specific night tell us about the world this event inhabited so briefly? Alexander Nemerov takes a performance of Macbeth in Washington, DC on October 17, 1863—with Abraham Lincoln in attendance—to explore this question and illuminate American art, politics, technology, and life as it was being lived. Nemerov’s inspiration is Wallace Stevens and his poem "Anecdote of the Jar," in which a single object organizes the wilderness around it in the consciousness of the poet. For Nemerov, that evening’s performance of Macbeth reached across the tragedy of civil war to acknowledge the horrors and emptiness of a world it tried and ultimately failed to change.

Acts of Recognition Cover

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Acts of Recognition

Essays on Medieval Culture

Lee Patterson

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 Aesthetics of Antichrist Cover

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The Aesthetics of Antichrist

From Christian Drama to Christopher Marlowe

In Dr. Faustus, Christopher Marlowe wrote a profoundly religious drama despite the theater's newfound secularism and his own reputation for anti-Christian irreverence. The Aesthetics of Antichrist explores this apparent paradox by suggesting that, long before Marlowe, Christian drama and ritual performance had reveled in staging the collapse of Christianity into its historical opponents-paganism, Judaism, worldliness, heresy. By embracing this tradition, Marlowe's work would at once demonstrate the theatricality inhering in Christian worship and, unexpectedly, resacralize the commercial theater.

The Antichrist myth in particular tells of an impostor turned prophet: performing Christ's life, he reduces the godhead to a special effect yet in so doing foretells the real second coming. Medieval audiences, as well as Marlowe's, could evidently enjoy the constant confusion between true Christianity and its empty look-alikes for that very reason: mimetic degradation anticipated some final, as yet deferred revelation. Mere theater was a necessary prelude to redemption. The versions of the myth we find in Marlowe and earlier drama actually approximate, John Parker argues, a premodern theory of the redemptive effect of dramatic representation itself. Crossing the divide between medieval and Renaissance theater while drawing heavily on New Testament scholarship, Patristics, and research into the apocrypha, The Aesthetics of Antichrist proposes a wholesale rereading of pre-Shakespearean drama.

Affections of the Mind Cover

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Affections of the Mind

The Politics of Sacramental Marriage in Late Medieval English Literature

Emma Lipton

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 Cover

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The Afterlife of Character, 1726-1825

By David A. Brewer

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.

The Afterlife of Pope Joan Cover

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The Afterlife of Pope Joan

Deploying the Popess Legend in Early Modern England

Craig M. Rustici

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.

Against All England Cover

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Against All England

Regional Identity and Cheshire Writing, 1195-1656

Robert W. Barrett, Jr.

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.

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The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

By Angelica Duran

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.

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Alter-Nations

Nationalisms, Terror, and the State in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland

Alter-Nations: Nationalisms, Terror, and the State in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland investigates how Victorian cultural production on both sides of the Irish Sea grappled with the complex relationship between British imperial nationalism and Irish anticolonial nationalism. In the process, this study reconceptualizes the history of modern nationhood in Britain and Ireland. Taking as its archive political theory, polemical prose, novels, political cartoons, memoir, and newspaper writings, Amy E. Martin’s Alter-Nations examines the central place of Irish anticolonial nationalism in Victorian culture and provides a new genealogy of categories such as “nationalism” “terror,” and “the state.” In texts from Britain and Ireland, we can trace the emergence of new narratives of Irish immigration, racial difference, and Irish violence as central to capitalist national crisis in nineteenth-century Britain. In visual culture and newspaper writing of the 1860s, the modern idea of “terrorism” as irrational and racialized anticolonial violence first comes into being. This new ideology of terrorism finds its counterpart in Victorian theorizations of the modern hegemonic state form, which justify the state’s monopoly of violence by imagining its apparatuses as specifically anti-terrorist. At the same time, Irish Fenian writings articulate anticolonial critique that anticipates the problematics of postcolonial studies and attempts to reimagine in generative and radical ways anticolonialism’s relation to modernity and the state form. By so doing, Alter-Nations argues for the centrality of Irish studies to postcolonial and Victorian studies, and reconceptualizes the boundaries and concerns of those fields.

The Angel out of the House Cover

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The Angel out of the House

Philanthropy and Gender in Nineteenth-Century England

Dorice Williams Elliott

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.

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