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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.
Modernist scholars have written a handful of comparative studies on Pater and Joyce. Frank Moliterno's The Dialectics of Sense and Spirit in Pater and Joyce is the first book-length exploration into the aesthetic development of these writers that underscores the importance of Pater in Joyce's works. Much of Pater's and Joyce's aesthetics evolves from the dialectical tension between the sensual and the spiritual. The Paterian-Joycean syntheses of basic antinomies--religion and sensuality, empiricism and idealism, Aristotelian mimesis and aestheticism--result in kindred theories of art. Moliterno's close analysis of how these syntheses emerge informs our reading of both writers in new ways. His highly readable account of the intellectual affinity between the two authors searches their relationship and Joyce's potential debt to Pater. In four main chapters Moliterno discusses the transition of Pater and Joyce from priests to artists and the parallel ways they portray this process in fiction; traces the Paterian elements of the aesthetics of Stephen Dedalus and of the mature Joyce; compares Pater's epiphanies with Joyce's to reveal how Pater helped shaped the Joycean epiphany; and analyzes the similar epistemologies behind the development of Pater's and Joyce's aesthetics.
In Dickens’s Hyperrealism, John R. Reed examines certain features of Dickens’s style to demonstrate that the Inimitable consciously resisted what came to be known as realism in the genre of the novel. Dickens used some techniques associated with realism, such as description and metonymy, to subvert the purposes usually associated with it. Reed argues that Dickens used such devices as personification and present-tense narration, which are anathema to the realist approach. He asserts that Dickens preferred a heightened reality, not realism. And, unlike the realism which seeks to mask authorial control of how readers read his novels, Dickens wanted to demonstrate, first openly, and later in his career more subtly, his command over his narratives. This book opens a new avenue for investigating Dickens’s mastery of his art and his awareness of its literary context. In addition, it reopens the whole issue of realism as a definition and examines the variety of genres that coexisted in the Victorian period.
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.
Intimacy, Eroticism, and Violence between Servants and Masters in Eighteenth-Century Britain
From Daniel Defoe’s Family Instructor to William Godwin’s political novel Caleb Williams, literature written for and about servants tells a hitherto untold story about the development of sexual and gender ideologies in the early modern period. This original study explores the complicated relationships between domestic servants and their masters through close readings of such literary and nonliterary eighteenth-century texts. The early modern family was not biologically defined. It included domestic servants who often had strong emotional and intimate ties to their masters and mistresses. Kristina Straub argues that many modern assumptions about sexuality and gender identity have their roots in these affective relationships of the eighteenth-century family. By analyzing a range of popular and literary works—from plays and novels to newspapers and conduct manuals—Straub uncovers the economic, social, and erotic dynamics that influenced the development of these modern identities and ideologies. Highlighting themes important in eighteenth-century studies—gender and sexuality; class, labor, and markets; family relationships; and violence—Straub explores how the common aspects of human experience often intersected within the domestic sphere of master and servant. In examining the interpersonal relationships between the different classes, she offers new ways in which to understand sexuality and gender in the eighteenth century.
Milton and the Perils of Creation
That the writings of John Milton continue to provoke study and analysis centuries after his lifetime speaks no doubt to his literary greatness but also to the many ways in which his art both engaged and transcended the political and theological tensions of his age. In Dominion Undeserved, Eric B. Song offers a brilliant reading of Milton's major writings, finding in them a fundamental impasse that explains their creative power.
According to Song, a divided view of creation governs Milton's related systems of cosmology, theology, art, and history. For Milton, any coherent entity-a nation, a poem, or even the new world-must be carved out of and guarded against an original unruliness. Despite being sanctioned by God, however, this agonistic mode of creation proves ineffective because it continues to manifest internal rifts that it can never fully overcome. This dilemma is especially pronounced in Milton's later writings, including Paradise Lost, where all forms of creativity must strive against the fact that chaos precedes order and that disruptive forces will continue to reemerge, seemingly without end.
Song explores the many ways in which Milton transforms an intractable problem into the grounds for incisive commentary and politically charged artistry. This argument brings into focus topics ranging from Milton's recurring allusions to the Eastern Tartars, the way Milton engages with country house poetry and colonialist discourses in Paradise Lost, and the lasting relevance of Anglo-Irish affairs for his late writings. Song concludes with a new reading of Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes in which he shows how Milton's integration of conflicting elements forms the heart of his literary archive and confers urgency upon his message even as it reaches its future readers.