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Literature, Culture, and Ideology in Late Medieval England
In The Claims of Poverty, Kate Crassons explores a widespread ideological crisis concerning poverty that emerged in the aftermath of the plague in late medieval England. She identifies poverty as a central preoccupation in texts ranging from Piers Plowman and Wycliffite writings to The Book of Margery Kempe and the York cycle plays. Crassons shows that these and other works form a complex body of writing in which poets, dramatists, and preachers anxiously wrestled with the status of poverty as a force that is at once a sacred imitation of Christ and a social stigma; a voluntary form of life and an unwelcome hardship; an economic reality and a spiritual disposition. Crassons argues that literary texts significantly influenced the cultural conversation about poverty, deepening our understanding of its urgency as a social, economic, and religious issue. These texts not only record debates about the nature of poverty as a form of either vice or virtue, but explore epistemological and ethical aspects of the debates. When faced with a claim of poverty, people effectively become readers interpreting the signs of need in the body and speech of their fellow human beings. The literary and dramatic texts of late medieval England embodied the complexity of such interaction with particular acuteness, revealing the ethical stakes of interpretation as an act with direct material consequences. As The Claims of Poverty demonstrates, medieval literature shaped perceptions about who is defined as "poor," and in so doing it emerged as a powerful cultural force that promoted competing models of community, sanctity, and justice.
Botany and Romantic Culture
Romanticism was a cultural and intellectual movement characterized by discovery, revolution, and the poetic as well as by the philosophical relationship between people and nature. Botany sits at the intersection where romantic scientific and literary discourses meet. Clandestine Marriage explores the meaning and methods of how plants were represented and reproduced in scientific, literary, artistic, and material cultures of the period. Theresa M. Kelley synthesizes romantic debates about taxonomy and morphology, the contemporary interest in books and magazines devoted to plant study and images, and writings by such authors as Mary Wollstonecraft and Anna Letitia Barbauld. Color illustrations of flower paintings from the time bring her argument and the romantics' passion for plants to life. In addition to exploring botanic thought and practice in the context of British romanticism, Kelley also looks to the German philosophical traditions of Kant, Hegel, and Goethe and to Charles Darwin’s reflections on orchids and plant pollination. Her interdisciplinary approach allows a deeper understanding of a time when exploration of the natural world was a culture-wide enchantment.
Joyce in Dialogue
In this collection, Joyce experts from around the world have collaborated with one another to produce a set of essays that stage or result from dialogue between different points of view. The result is a sequence of lively discussions about Joyce’s most accessible and widely read set of vignettes about Dublin life at the turn of the century.
One of the most popular poets of her time, Charlotte Smith revived the sonnet form in England, influencing Wordsworth and Keats. Equally popular as a novelist, she experimented with many genres, and even her children's books were highly regarded by her contemporaries. Charlotte Smith's letters enlarge our understanding of her literary achievement, for they show the private world of spirit, determination, anger, and sorrow in which she wrote.
Despite her family's diligence in destroying her papers, almost 500 of Smith's letters survived in 22 libraries, archives, and private collections. The present edition makes available most of these never-before-published letters to publishers, patrons, solicitors, relatives, and friends. As this volume was going to press, the Petworth House archives turned up 56 additional lost letters not seen in at least 100 years. Most are from Smith's early career, along with two letters to her troublesome husband, Benjamin. The archives also preserved 50 letters by Benjamin, the only ones by him known to have survived. Two letters from Benjamin to Charlotte are reprinted in full, and generous excerpts from the rest are included in footnotes, bringing a shadowy figure to life.
The Story of Henry and Emily Folger
In Collecting Shakespeare, Stephen H. Grant recounts the American success story of Henry and Emily Folger of Brooklyn, a couple who were devoted to each other, in love with Shakespeare, and bitten by the collecting bug. Shortly after marrying in 1885, the Folgers started buying, cataloging, and storing all manner of items about Shakespeare and his era. Emily earned a master's degree in Shakespeare studies. The frugal couple worked passionately as a tight-knit team during the Gilded Age, financing their hobby with the fortune Henry earned as president of Standard Oil Company of New York, where he was a trusted associate of John D. Rockefeller Sr. While a number of American universities offered to house the collection, the Folgers wanted to give it to the American people. Afraid the price of antiquarian books would soar if their names were revealed, they secretly acquired prime real estate on Capitol Hill near the Library of Congress. They commissioned the design and construction of an elegant building with a reading room, public exhibition hall, and the Elizabethan Theatre. The Folger Shakespeare Library was dedicated on the Bard's birthday, April 23, 1932. The library houses 82 First Folios, 275,000 books, and 60,000 manuscripts. It welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year and provides professors, scholars, graduate students, and researchers from around the world with access to the collections. It is also a vibrant center in Washington, D.C., for cultural programs, including theater, concerts, lectures, and poetry readings. The library provided Grant with unprecedented access to the primary sources within the Folger vault. He draws on interviews with surviving Folger relatives and visits to 35 related archives in the United States and in Britain to create a portrait of the remarkable couple who ensured that Shakespeare would have a beautiful home in America.
The Tropics in British Arts and Letters, 1760-1820
With its control of sugar plantations in the Caribbean and tea, cotton, and indigo production in India, Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries dominated the global economy of tropical agriculture. In Colonizing Nature, Beth Fowkes Tobin shows how dominion over "the tropics" as both a region and an idea became central to the way in which Britons imagined their role in the world.
Tobin examines georgic poetry, landscape portraiture, natural history writing, and botanical prints produced by Britons in the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and India to uncover how each played a crucial role in developing the belief that the tropics were simultaneously paradisiacal and in need of British intervention and management. Her study examines how slave garden portraits denied the horticultural expertise of the slaves, how the East India Company hired such artists as William Hodges to paint and thereby Anglicize the landscape and gardens of British-controlled India, and how writers from Captain James Cook to Sir James E. Smith depicted tropical lands and plants.
Just as mastery of tropical nature, and especially its potential for agricultural productivity, became key concepts in the formation of British imperial identity, Colonizing Nature suggests that intellectual and visual mastery of the tropics—through the creation of art and literature—accompanied material appropriations of land, labor, and natural resources. Tobin convincingly argues that the depictions of tropical plants, gardens, and landscapes that circulated in the British imagination provide a key to understanding the forces that shaped the British Empire.
A milestone in literary scholarship, the publication of the Johns Hopkins edition of The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley makes available for the first time critically edited clear texts of all poems and translations that Shelley published or circulated among friends, as well as diplomatic texts of his significant incomplete poetic drafts and fragments. Edited upon historical principles by Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat, the multi volume edition will offer more poems and fragments than any previous collective edition, arranged in the order of their first circulation. These texts are followed by the most extensive collations hitherto available and detailed commentaries that describe their contextual origins and subsequent reception. Rejected passages of released poems appear as supplements to those poems, while other poetic drafts that Shelley rejected or left incomplete at his death will be grouped according to either their publication histories or the notebooks in which they survive. Volume One includes Shelley's first four works containing poetry (all prepared for publication before his expulsion from Oxford), as well as "The Devil's Walk" (circulated in August 1812), and a series of short poems that he sent to friends between 1809 and 1814, including a bawdy satire on his parents and "Oh wretched mortal," a poem never before published. An appendix discusses poems lost or erroneously attributed to the young Shelley. "These early poems are important not only biographically but also aesthetically, for they provide detailed evidence of how Shelley went about learning his craft as a poet, and the differences between their tone and that of his mature short poetry index a radical change in his self-image . . . The poems in Volume I, then, demonstrate Shelley's capacity to write verse in a range of stylistic registers. This early verse, even in its most abandoned forays into Sensibility, the Gothic, political satire, and vulgarity—perhaps especially in these most apparently idiosyncratic gestures—provides telling access to its own cultural moment, as well as to Shelley's art and thought in general."—from the Editorial Overview
Categories of Difference in Eighteenth-Century British Culture
In the 1723 Journal of a Voyage up the Gambia, an English narrator describes the native translators vital to the expedition's success as being "Black as Coal." Such a description of dark skin color was not unusual for eighteenth-century Britons—but neither was the statement that followed: "here, thro' Custom, (being Christians) they account themselves White Men." The Complexion of Race asks how such categories would have been possible, when and how such statements came to seem illogical, and how our understanding of the eighteenth century has been distorted by the imposition of nineteenth and twentieth century notions of race on an earlier period.
Wheeler traces the emergence of skin color as a predominant marker of identity in British thought and juxtaposes the Enlightenment's scientific speculation on the biology of race with accounts in travel literature, fiction, and other documents that remain grounded in different models of human variety. As a consequence of a burgeoning empire in the second half of the eighteenth century, English writers were increasingly preoccupied with differentiating the British nation from its imperial outposts by naming traits that set off the rulers from the ruled; although race was one of these traits, it was by no means the distinguishing one. In the fiction of the time, non-European characters could still be "redeemed" by baptism or conversion and the British nation could embrace its mixed-race progeny. In Wheeler's eighteenth century we see the coexistence of two systems of racialization and to detect a moment when an older order, based on the division between Christian and heathen, gives way to a new one based on the assertion of difference between black and white.
That the poet John Gower was a major literary figure in England at the close of the fourteenth century is no longer in question. Scholarly attention paid to him and to his work over the past twenty- five years has redeemed him from an undeserved obscurity imposed by the preceding two hundred. The facts of his life and career are now documented, and recent critical assessment has placed his achievement most accurately alongside Chaucer's, Langland's, and the Gawain- poet's.
Unique among his contemporaries, all of whom undoubtedly read and used French in some measure, Gower alone has left us a significant body of verse and prose in Anglo-Norman; chiefly, the twelve-stanza poem Mirour de l-Omme, the Cinkante Balades, and the Traitié pour les amantz marietz. We are offered in this concordance of his Anglo- Norman work a unique opportunity to view a poetic language as it was written and read in England until Gower's death in 1408 and beyond.
As seventeenth-century England wrestled with the aftereffects of the Reformation, the personal frequently conflicted with the political. In speeches, political pamphlets, and other works of religious controversy, writers from the reign of James I to that of James II unexpectedly erupt into autobiography. John Milton famously interrupts his arguments against episcopacy with autobiographical accounts of his poetic hopes and dreams, while John Donne's attempts to describe his conversion from Catholicism wind up obscuring rather than explaining. Similar moments appear in the works of Thomas Browne, John Bunyan, and the two King Jameses themselves. These autobiographies are familiar enough that their peculiarities have frequently been overlooked in scholarship, but as Brooke Conti notes, they sit uneasily within their surrounding material as well as within the conventions of confessional literature that preceded them.
Confessions of Faith in Early Modern England positions works such as Milton's political tracts, Donne's polemical and devotional prose, Browne's Religio Medici, and Bunyan's Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners as products of the era's tense political climate, illuminating how the pressures of public self-declaration and allegiance led to autobiographical writings that often concealed more than they revealed. For these authors, autobiography was less a genre than a device to negotiate competing political, personal, and psychological demands. The complex works Conti explores provide a privileged window into the pressures placed on early modern religious identity, underscoring that it was no simple matter for these authors to tell the truth of their interior life—even to themselves.