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Communication, Images, and Identity in the Classical World
Though in many respects similar to us moderns, the Greeks and Romans often conceived things differently than we do. The cultural inheritance we have received from them can therefore open our eyes to many “manners of life” we might otherwise overlook. The ancients told fascinating—but different—stories; they elaborated profound—but different—symbols. Above all, they confronted many of the problems we still face today—memory and forgetfulness; identity and its strategies; absolutist moralism and behavioral relativity—only in profoundly different ways, since their own cultural forms and resources were different. In The Ears of Hermes: Communication, Images, and Identity in the Classical World, renowned scholar and author Maurizio Bettini explores these different cultural experiences, choosing paths through this territory that are diverse and sometimes unexpected: a little-known variant of a myth or legend, such as that of Brutus pretending, like Hamlet, to be a Fool; a proverb, like lupus in fabula (the wolf in the tale), that expresses the sense of foreboding aroused by the sudden arrival of someone who was just the subject of conversation; or great works, like Plautus’ Amphitruo and Vergil’s Aeneid, where we encounter the mysteries of the Doppelgänger and of “doubles” fabricated to ease the pain of nostalgia. Or the etymology of a word—its own “story”—leads us down some unforeseen avenue of discovery. While scholarly in presentation, this book, in an elegant English translation by William Michael Short, will appeal not only to classicists but also students, as well as to anthropologists and historians of art and literature beyond classics.
Essays on Desire and Dispossession in Nineteenth-Century British Culture
Economic Women: Essays on Desire and Dispossession in Nineteenth-Century British Culture, edited by Lana L. Dalley and Jill Rappoport, showcases the wide-ranging economic activities and relationships of real and fictional women in nineteenth-century British culture. This volume’s essays chronicle the triumphs and setbacks of women who developed, described, contested, and exploited new approaches to economic thought and action. In their various roles as domestic employees, activists fighting for free trade, theorists developing statistical models, and individuals considering the cost of marriage and its dissolution, the women discussed here were givers and takers, producers and consumers. Bringing together leading and emerging voices in the field, this collection builds on the wealth of interdisciplinary economic criticism published in the last twenty years, but it also challenges traditional understandings of economic subjectivity by emphasizing both private and public records and refusing to identify a single female corollary to Economic Man. The scholars presented here recover game-changing stories of women’s economic engagement from diaries, letters, ledgers, fiction, periodicals, and travel writing to reveal a nuanced portrait of Economic Women. Offering new readings of works by George Eliot, Bram Stoker, Willkie Collins, Charlotte Riddell, and Ellen Wood, and addressing political economy, consumerism, and business developments alongside family finances and the ethics of exchange, Economic Women tells a story of ambivalence as well as achievement, failure as well as forward motion.
Divine and Literary Judgment in Fourteenth-Century French Poetry
Eschatological Subjects: Divine and Literary Judgment in Fourteenth-Century French Poetry takes an innovative approach to medieval eschatology by examining how poets cast themselves in the scene of judgment as defendants summoned to answer to the Almighty for the sins of their writing. Since medieval Europeans lived in perpetual anxiety of divine judgment, constantly surrounded by reminders in art and literature, author J. M. Moreau shows that this is a natural extension of medieval life. But Eschatological Subjects goes even further to demonstrate the largely unrecognized duality of this judge figure: not just God, the judge is also the imperious and imperfect human reader. The simultaneous divine and human judgments in (and of) French poetry reveal much about the ethical stakes of writing vernacular poetry in the later Middle Ages and importantly about the relationships between authors and audiences. Focusing on Guillaume de Deguileville, Guillaume de Machaut, and Jean Froissart (each of whom composed scenes in which they appear on trial before God), Moreau contributes important new insights on the complex “trial process” of later medieval literature, in which poetic authority and fame depended on the poet’s ability to defend himself before a fearful court of reader opinion.
Prizewinning African American Novels, 1977-1993
After World War II and well beyond the Black Arts Movement, African American novelists struggled with white literary expectations imposed upon them. Aesthetics as varied as New Criticism and Deconstruction fueled these struggles, and black writers—facing these struggles— experienced an ethical crisis. Analyzing prizewinning, creative fellowship, and artistic style, this book considers what factors ended that crisis. The Ethics of Swagger explores how novelists who won major prizes between 1977 and 1993 helped move authors of black fiction through insecurity toward autonomy. Identifying these prizewinners—David Bradley, Ernest Gaines, Charles Johnson, Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, Alice Walker, and John Edgar Wideman—as a literary class, this book focuses on how they achieved imaginative freedom, recovered black literary traditions, and advanced the academic study of African American writing. The post–Civil Rights era produced the most accomplished group of novelists in black literary history. As these authors worked in an integrating society, they subjected white narrative techniques to the golden mean of black cultural mores. This exposure compelled the mainstream to acknowledge fresh talent and prodded American society to honor its democratic convictions. Shaping national dialogues about merit, award-winning novelists from 1977 to 1993, the Black Archivists, used swagger to alter the options for black art and citizenship.
Hannah Arendt and Edward W. Said in Counterpoint
Exiles in the City: Hannah Arendt and Edward W. Said in Counterpoint, by William V. Spanos, explores the affiliative relationship between Arendt’s and Said’s thought, not simply their mutual emphasis on the importance of the exilic consciousness in an age characterized by the decline of the nation-state and the rise of globalization, but also on the oppositional politics that a displaced consciousness enables. The pairing of these two extraordinary intellectuals is unusual and controversial because of their ethnic identities. In radically secularizing their comportment towards being, their exilic condition enabled them to undertake inaugural critiques of the culture of the nation-state system of Western modernity. As variations on the theme of exile, the five chapters of this book constitute reflections on what is foundational and abiding in both Arendt’s and Said’s work. They not only document the heretofore unnoticed affiliation between the two thinkers. They also shed light on Arendt’s and Said’s proleptic activist explorations of the urgent “question of Palestine,” especially on the fraught present situation, which bears increasing witness to the irony that the Israeli nation-state’s “solution” has, from the beginning, systematically repeated the degradations the Jewish people suffered at the hands of German nationalism.
Ralph W. Rader, along with Sheldon Sacks and Wayne Booth, was one of the three leading figures of the second generation of neo-Aristotelian critics. During his long career in the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley, Rader published scores of essays. Fact, Fiction, and Form: Selected Essays, edited by James Phelan and David H. Richter, collects the most important of these essays, all of them written between the late 1960s and the late 1990s. These critical inquiries, which engage with a remarkable range of literary texts—Moll Flanders, Pamela, Tristram Shandy, “Tintern Abbey,” “My Last Duchess,” Barchester Towers, Lord Jim, Ulysses, and more—are a rich resource for anyone interested in criticism’s ongoing conversations about the following major issues: the concept of form, the genres of the lyric and the novel, the literary dimensions of literary history, the distinction between fiction and nonfiction, the evaluation of literary quality, and the testing of theories and of interpretations. Moreover, the essays collectively develop a distinctive, coherent, and compelling vision of literary form, purpose, and value. Rader’s vision is distinctive and coherent because it is based not on an underlying theory of language, power, history, or culture but rather on the idea that form is the means by which humans respond to fundamental aspects and conditions of their existence in the world. His vision is compelling because it includes a rigorous set of standards for adequate interpretation against which he invites his audience to measure his own readings.
Fair Copy, byRebecca Hazelton, is a meditation on the difficulties of distinguishing the real from the false, the copy from the original. It is in part an exploration of the disparity between our conception of love as either true or false and the messy reality that it can sometimes be both. If “true” love is not to be found, is an approximation a “fair” substitute? These poems repeatedly question the veracity of memory—sometimes toying with the seductiveness of nostalgia while at other times pleading for the real story. Here, the fairy tale and the everyday nervously coexist, the bride is an uneasy molecule, and happiness comes in the form of a pill. Composed of acrostics from lines by Emily Dickinson, the collection retains a direct and recurrent tie to Dickinson’s work, even while Hazelton deftly branches off into new sonic, rhythmic, and conceptual territories.
What does it mean to “know” what a work of fiction tells us? In Vergil’s Aeneid, the promise and uncertainty of fama convey this challenge. Expansive and flexible, the Latin word fama can mean “fame,” long-lasting “tradition,” and useful “news,” but also ephemeral “rumor” and disruptive “scandal.” Fama is personified as a horrifying winged goddess who reports the truth while keeping an equally tight grip on what’s distorted or made up. Fama reflects the ways talk—or epic song—may merge past and present, human and divine, things remembered and things imagined. Most importantly, fama marks the epic’s power to bring its story world into our own. The cognitive dynamics of metaphor share in this power, blending the Aeneid’s poetic authority with the imagined force of the gods. Characters and readers are encouraged—even impelled—to seek divine order amidst unsettling words and visions by linking new experiences with existing knowledge. Transformative moments of recognition set the perceptual stage both for the gods’ commands and for the epic’s persuasive efficacy, for pietas (remembrance of ritual and social obligations) and furor (madness). Antonia Syson’s sensitive close readings offer fresh insights into questions of fictive knowledge and collective memory in the Aeneid. These perspectives invite readers to reconsider some of the epistemological premises underlying inquiry into ancient cultures. Drawing comparisons with the nineteenth-century English novel, Syson highlights continuities between two narrative genres whose cultural contributions and rhetorical claims have often seemed sharply opposed.
Eighteenth-Century British Actresses and Strategies for Image Making
This volume takes a new approach to the study of late eighteenth-century British actresses by examining the significance of leading actresses’ autobiographical memoirs, portraits, and theatrical roles together as significant strategies for shaping their careers. In an era when acting was considered a suspicious profession for women, eighteenth-century actresses were “celebrities” in a society obsessed with fashion, gossip, and intrigue. Fashioning Celebrity: Eighteenth-Century British Actresses and Strategies for Image Making, by Laura Engel, considers the lives and careers of four actresses: Sarah Siddons, Mary Robinson, Mary Wells, and Fanny Kemble. Using conventions of the era’s portraiture, fashion, literature, and the theater in order to create their personas on and off stage, these actresses provided a series of techniques for fashioning celebrity that still survive today. By emphasizing the importance of reading narratives through visual and theatrical frameworks and visual and theatrical representations through narrative models, Engel demonstrates the ways in which actresses’ identities were imagined through a variety of discourses that worked dialectically to construct their complex self-representations.
The Trope of Clothing in High- and Late-Medieval England
Medieval European culture was obsessed with clothing. In Fashioning Change: The Trope of Clothing in High-and Late-Medieval England, Andrea Denny-Brown explores the central impact of clothing in medieval ideas about impermanence and the ethical stakes of human transience. Studies of dress frequently contend with a prevailing cultural belief that bodily adornment speaks to interests that are frivolous, superficial, and cursory. Taking up the vexed topic of clothing’s inherent changeability, Denny-Brown uncovers an important new genealogy of clothing as a representational device, one imbued with a surprising philosophical pedigree and a long history of analytical weightiness. Considering writers as diverse as Boethius, Alain de Lille, William Durand, Chaucer, and Lydgate, among others, Denny-Brown tracks the development of a literary and cultural trope that begins in the sixth century and finds its highest expression in the vernacular poetry of fifteenth-century England. Among the topics covered are Boethian discourses on the care of the self, the changing garments of Lady Fortune, novelty in ecclesiastical fashions, the sartorial legacy of Chaucer’s Griselda, and the emergence of the English gallant. These literary treatments of vestimentary variation—which develop an aesthetics of change itself—enhance our understanding of clothing as a phenomenological and philosophical category in medieval Europe and illustrate the centrality of the Middle Ages to theories of aesthetics, of materiality, and of cultural change.