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Shakespeare's England and the New Historical Fiction
Taking its title from Umberto Eco’s postscript to The Name of the Rose, the novel that inaugurated the New Historical Fiction in the early 1980s, Constructing the World provides a guide to the genre’s defining characteristics. It also serves as a lively account of the way Shakespeare, Marlowe, Raleigh, Queen Elizabeth I, and their contemporaries have been depicted by such writers as Anthony Burgess, George Garrett, Patricia Finney, Barry Unsworth, and Rosalind Miles. Innovative historical novels written during the past two or three decades have transformed the genre, producing some extraordinary bestsellers as well as less widely read serious fiction. Shakespearean scholar Martha Tuck Rozett engages in an ongoing conversation about the genre of historical fiction, drawing attention to the metacommentary contained in “Afterwords” or “Historical Notes”; the imaginative reconstruction of the diction and mentality of the past; the way Shakespearean phrases, names, and themes are appropriated; and the counterfactual scenarios writers invent as they reinvent the past.
The Culture of Collecting in Early Modern England
A craze for collecting swept England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Aristocrats and middling-sort men alike crammed their homes full of a bewildering variety of physical objects: antique coins, scientific instruments, minerals, mummified corpses, zoological specimens, plants, ethnographic objects from Asia and the Americas, statues, portraits. Why were these bizarre jumbles of artifacts so popular?
In Curiosities and Texts, Marjorie Swann demonstrates that collections of physical objects were central to early modern English literature and culture. Swann examines the famous collection of rarities assembled by the Tradescant family; the development of English natural history; narrative catalogs of English landscape features that began to appear in the Tudor and Stuart periods; the writings of Ben Jonson and Robert Herrick; and the foundation of the British Museum.
Through this wide-ranging series of case studies, Swann addresses two important questions: How was the collection, which was understood as a form of cultural capital, appropriated in early modern England to construct new social selves and modes of subjectivity? And how did literary texts—both as material objects and as vehicles of representation—participate in the process of negotiating the cultural significance of collectors and collecting? Crafting her unique argument with a balance of detail and insight, Swann sheds new light on material culture's relationship to literature, social authority, and personal identity.
Ballrooms, Ballets, and Mobility in Victorian Fiction and Culture
Conrad, Hemingway, and Lawrence
In Dangerous Masculinities, Thomas Strychacz has as his goal nothing less than to turn scholarship on gender and modernism on its head. He focuses on the way some early twentieth-century writers portray masculinity as theatrical performance, and examines why scholars have generally overlooked that fact.
Strychacz argues that writers such as Conrad, Hemingway, and Lawrence--often viewed as misogynist--actually represented masculinity in their works in terms of theatrical and rhetorical performances. They are theatrical in the sense that male characters keep staging themselves in competitive displays; rhetorical in the sense that these characters, and the very narrative form of the works in which they appear, render masculinity a kind of persuasive argument readers can and should debate.
Perhaps most interesting is Strychacz's contention that scholarship has obscured the fact that often these writers were quite critical of masculinity. Writing with a clarity and scope that allows him to both invoke the Schwarzeneggarian "girly man" and borrow from the theories of Judith Butler and Bertolt Brecht, he fashions a critical method with which to explore the ways in which scholars gender texts by the very act of reading.
Dark Victorians illuminates the cross-cultural influences between white Britons and black Americans during the Victorian age. In carefully analyzing literature and travel narratives by Ida B. Wells, Harriet Martineau, Charles Dickens, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Carlyle, W. E. B. Du Bois, and others, Vanessa D. Dickerson reveals the profound political, racial, and rhetorical exchanges between the groups. From the nineteenth-century black nationalist David Walker, who urged emigrating African Americans to turn to England, to the twentieth-century writer Maya Angelou, who recalls how those she knew in her childhood aspired to Victorian ideas of conduct, black Americans have consistently embraced Victorian England. At a time when scholars of black studies are exploring the relations between diasporic blacks, and postcolonialists are taking imperialism to task, Dickerson considers how Britons negotiated their support of African Americans with the controlling policies they used to govern a growing empire of often dark-skinned peoples, and how philanthropic and abolitionist Victorian discourses influenced black identity, prejudice, and racism in America.
Law, Government, and Religion
With this pioneering book, John T. Shawcross debunks a common assumption about what we see in Milton’s work: that Milton’s views remained unchanged over time. Shawcross systematically analyzes this belief in light of Milton’s vocation, social life, politics, and religion, and presents us with a Milton who, indeed, changes his mind.
The one constant in Milton’s writing and thought is that of faith in God, but the theology that underlies this unchanging faith—such as his views on the Trinity and God’s providence—develops through reflection and adverse experience, often yielding more defined ideas. Shawcross also traces the development of Milton’s concepts about political thought, attitudes toward the church, financial matters, the “people,” and gender, some of which result in complicated (and often unresolved) issues.
Shawcross’s presentation of a Milton whose thought does indeed develop and change—albeit with an unbending belief that faith and God supervene—is an essential contribution to Milton scholarship.
Narratives of Ownership in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland
Do indigenous peoples have an unassailable right to the land they have worked and lived on, or are those rights conferred and protected only when a powerful political authority exists? In the tradition of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, who vigorously debated the thorny concept of property rights, Sara L. Maurer here looks at the question as it applied to British ideas about Irish nationalism in the nineteenth century. This book connects the Victorian novel’s preoccupation with the landed estate to nineteenth-century debates about property, specifically as it played out in the English occupation of Ireland. Victorian writers were interested in the question of whether the Irish had rights to their land that could neither be bestowed nor taken away by England. In analyzing how these ideas were represented through a century of British and Irish fiction, journalism, and political theory, Maurer recovers the broad influence of Irish culture on the rest of the British isles. By focusing on the ownership of land, The Dispossessed State challenges current scholarly tendencies to talk about Victorian property solely as a commodity. Maurer brings together canonical British novelists—Maria Edgeworth, Anthony Trollope, George Moore, and George Meredith—with the writings of major British political theorists—John Stuart Mill, Henry Sumner Maine, and William Gladstone—to illustrate Ireland’s central role in the literary imagination of Britain in the nineteenth century. The book addresses three key questions in Victorian studies—property, the state, and national identity—and will interest scholars of the period as well as those in Irish studies, postcolonial theory, and gender studies.
Rereading The Nun's Priest's Tale
Chaucer’s The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is one of the most popular of The Canterbury Tales. It is only 646 lines long, yet it contains elements of a beast fable, an exemplum, a satire, and other genres. There have been countless attempts to articulate the “real” meaning of the tale, but it has confounded the critics. Peter W. Travis contends that part of the fun and part of the frustration of trying to interpret the tale has to do with Chaucer’s use of the tale to demonstrate the resistance of all literature to traditional critical practices. But the world of The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is so creative and so quintessentially Chaucerian that critics persist in writing about it. No one has followed the critical fortunes of Chauntecleer and his companions more closely over time than Peter Travis. One of the most important contributions of this book is his assessment of the tale’s reception. Travis also provides an admirable discussion of genre: his analysis of parody and Menippean satire clarify how to approach works such as this tale that take pleasure in resisting traditional generic classifications. Travis also demonstrates that the tale deliberately invoked its readers’ memories of specific grammar school literary assignments, and the tale thus becomes a miniaturized synopticon of western learning. Building on these analyses and insights, Travis’s final argument is that The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is Chaucer’s premier work of self-parody, an ironic apologia pro sua arte. The most profound matters foregrounded in the tale are not advertisements of the poet’s achievements. Rather, they are poetic problems that Chaucer wrestled with from the beginning of his career and, at the end of that career, wanted to address in a concentrated, experimental, and parapoetic way.
The Rhetoric of sacramental Devotion in Early Modern England
Combining theoretically engaged analyses with historically contextualized close readings, Divine Subjection posits new ways of understanding the relations between devotional literature and early English culture. Shifting the critical discussion from a “poetics” to a “rhetoric” of devotion, Kuchar considers how a broad range of devotional and metadevotional texts in Catholic and mainstream Protestant traditions register and seek to mitigate processes of desacralization—the loss of legible commerce between heavenly and earthly orders. This shift in critical focus makes clear the extent to which early modern devotional writing engages with some of the period’s most decisive theological conflicts and metaphysical crises. Kuchar places devotional writing alongside psychoanalytical and phenomenological theories and analyzes how religious and conceptual conflicts are registered in and accommodated by the predication of sacramental conceptions of the self. Through a devotional rhetoric based on context-specific uses of linguistic excessiveness, early modern devotional writers reimagined a form of sacramental identity that was triggered by, and structured in relation to, a divine Other whose desire preceded and exceeded one’s own. Through readings of works by Robert Southwell, Richard Crashaw, John Donne, Thomas Traherne and other lesser known authors, Divine Subjection explores how writers reimagined the sacramental continuity between divine and human orders amid a range of theological and philosophical conflicts. Kuchar thus examines how rhetoric of sacramental devotion works to construct ideal religious subjects within and against the broader experience of desacralization.