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Historical Thinker, Historical Writer
This volume provides a new and nuanced appreciation of David Hume, the historian. Gone for good are the days when one can off-handedly assert, as R. G. Collingwood once did, that Hume “deserted philosophical studies in favour of historical” ones. History and philosophy are commensurate in Hume’s thought and works from the beginning to the end. Only by recognizing this can we begin to make sense of Hume’s canon as a whole. Only then are we able to see clearly his many contributions to fields we now recognize as the distinct disciplines of history, philosophy, political science, economics, literature, religious studies and much else besides. Casting their individual beams of light on various nooks and crannies of Hume’s historical thought and writing, the book’s contributors illuminate the whole in a way that would not be possible from the perspective of a single-authored study. Aside from the editor, the contributors are David Allan, M. A. Box, Timothy M. Costelloe, Roger L. Emerson, Jennifer Herdt, Philip Hicks, Douglas Long, Claudia M. Schmidt, Michael Silverthorne, Jeffrey M. Suderman, Mark R. M. Towsey, and F. L. Van Holthoon.
Two Victorian Sensations
In July 1861 London newspapers excitedly reported two violent crimes, both the stuff of sensational fiction. One involved a retired army major, his beautiful mistress and her illegitimate child, blackmail and murder. In the other, a French nobleman was accused of trying to kill his son in order to claim the young man's inheritance. The press covered both cases with thoroughness and enthusiasm, narrating events in a style worthy of a popular novelist, and including lengthy passages of testimony. Not only did they report rumor as well as what seemed to be fact, they speculated about the credibility of witnesses, assessed character, and decided guilt. The public was enthralled.
Richard D. Altick demonstrates that these two cases, as they were presented in the British press, set the tone for the Victorian "age of sensation." The fascination with crime, passion, and suspense has a long history, but it was in the 1860s that this fascination became the vogue in England. Altick shows that these crimes provided literary prototypes and authenticated extraordinary passion and incident in fiction with the "shock of actuality." While most sensational melodramas and novels were by lesser writers, authors of the stature of Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot, Trollope, Hardy, and Wilkie Collins were also influenced by the spirit of the age and incorporated sensational elements in their work.
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.