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Penn State University Press
Vol. 36, no. 3 (1999); Vol. 37 (2000) through current issue
Comparative Literature Studies publishes comparative articles in literature and culture, critical theory, and cultural and literary relations within and beyond the Western tradition. It brings you the work of eminent critics, scholars, theorists, and literary historians, whose essays range across the rich traditions of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. One of its regular issues every two years concerns East-West literary and cultural relations and is edited in conjunction with members of the College of International Relations at Nihon University. Each issue includes reviews of significant books by prominent comparatists.
Volume 2: Bajazet
This is the second volume of a projected translation into English of all twelve of Jean Racine’s plays—only the third time such a project has been undertaken in the three hundred years since Racine’s death. For this new translation, Geoffrey Alan Argent has taken a fresh approach: he has rendered these plays in rhymed “heroic” couplets. While Argent’s translation is faithful to Racine’s text and tone, his overriding intent has been to translate a work of French literature into a work of English literature, substituting for Racine’s rhymed alexandrines (hexameters) the English mode of rhymed iambic pentameters, a verse form particularly well suited to the highly charged urgency of Racine’s drama and the coiled strength of his verse.
Complementing the translation are the illuminating Discussion, intended as much to provoke discussion as to provide it, and the extensive Notes and Commentary, which clarify obscure references, explicate the occasional gnarled conceit, and offer their own fresh and thought-provoking insights.
Bajazet, Racine’s seventh play, first given in 1672, is based on events that had taken place in the Sultan’s palace in Istanbul a mere thirty years earlier. But the twilit, twisting passageways of the Seraglio merely serve as a counterpart to the dim and errant moral sense of the play’s four protagonists: Bajazet, the Sultan’s brother; Atalide, Bajazet’s secret lover; Roxane, the Sultaness, who is madly in love with Bajazet and dangles over his head the death sentence the Sultan has ordered her to implement in his absence; and Akhmet, the wily, well-intentioned Vizier, who involves them all in an imbroglio in the Seraglio, with disastrous consequences. Unique among Racine’s plays, Bajazet provides no moral framework for either protagonists or audience. We watch as these benighted characters, cut adrift from any moral moorings, with no upright character at hand to serve as an ethical anchor and no religious or societal guidelines to serve as a lifeline, flail, flounder, and finally drag one another down. Here, Racine has presented us with his four most mercilessly observed, most subtly delineated, and most ambiguously fascinating characters. Indeed, Bajazet is certainly Racine’s most undeservedly neglected tragedy.
Volume 3: Iphigenia
This is the third volume of a projected translation into English of all twelve of Jean Racine’s plays—only the third time such a project has been undertaken. For this new translation, Geoffrey Alan Argent has rendered these plays in the verse form that Racine might well have used had he been English: namely, the “heroic” couplet. Argent has exploited the couplet’s compressed power and flexibility to produce a work of English literature, a verse drama as gripping in English as Racine’s is in French. Complementing the translation are the illuminating Discussion, intended as much to provoke discussion as to provide it, and the extensive Notes and Commentary, which offer their own fresh and thought-provoking insights. In Iphigenia, his ninth play, Racine returns to Greek myth for the first time since Andromache. To Euripides’s version of the tale he adds a love interest between Iphigenia and Achilles. And dissatisfied with the earlier resolutions of the Iphigenia myth (her actual death or her eleventh-hour rescue by a dea ex machina), Racine creates a wholly original character, Eriphyle, who, in addition to providing an intriguing new denouement, serves the dual dramatic purpose of triangulating the love interest and galvanizing the wholesome “family values” of this play by a jolt of supercharged passion.
Volume 4: Athaliah
As Voltaire famously opined, Athaliah, Racine’s last play, is “perhaps the greatest masterwork of the human spirit.” Its formidable antagonists, Athaliah, queen of Judah, and Jehoiada, high priest of the temple of Jerusalem, are engaged in a deadly struggle for dominion: she, fiercely determined to maintain her throne and exterminate the detested race of David; he, no less fiercely determined to overthrow this heathen queen and enthrone the orphan Joash, the scion of the house of David, whom Athaliah believes she slew as an infant ten years earlier. This boy represents the sole hope for the survival of the royal race from which is to spring the Christ. But in this play, even God is more about hate and retribution than about love and mercy. This is the fourth volume of a projected translation into English of all twelve of Jean Racine’s plays—only the third time such a project has been undertaken. For this new translation, Geoffrey Alan Argent has rendered these plays in the verse form that Racine might well have used had he been English: namely, the “heroic” couplet. Argent has exploited the couplet’s compressed power and flexibility to produce a work of English literature, a verse drama as gripping in English as Racine’s is in French. Complementing the translation are the illuminating Discussion, intended as much to provoke discussion as to provide it, and the extensive Notes and Commentary, which offer their own fresh and thought-provoking insights.
Volume 5: Britannicus
This is the fifth volume of a projected translation into English of all twelve of Jean Racine’s plays. Geoffrey Alan Argent’s translations faithfully convey all the urgency and keen psychological insight of Racine’s dramas, and the coiled strength of his verse, while breathing new vigor into the time-honored form of the “heroic” couplet. Complementing this translation are the Discussion and the Notes and Commentary—particularly detailed and extensive for this volume, Britannicus being by far Racine’s most historically informed play. Also noteworthy is Argent’s reinstatement of an eighty-two-line scene, originally intended to open Act III, that has never before appeared in an English translation of this play. Racine’s Britannicus dramatizes a day in the life of Emperor Nero that would eventually change the course of Roman history. Agrippina, the widow of the recently deceased emperor Claudius, has manipulated subsequent events so that her son, Nero, would succeed to the throne ahead of his stepbrother, and Rome’s true heir, Britannicus. In Nero, Racine has created a character who embodies, but also engenders, the infamous qualities of the Roman Empire: its cruelty, its depravity, its refined barbarity. Overcoming his mother, his wife, Octavia, his tutors, and his vaunted “three virtuous years,” Nero makes his move to demonstrate his omnipotence, destroying his innocent stepbrother.
Writings on the United States
Condorcet (1743–1794) was the last of the great eighteenth-century French philosophes and one of the most fervent américanistes of his time. A friend of Franklin, Jefferson, and Paine and a member of the American Philosophical Society, he was well informed and enthusiastic about the American Revolution. Condorcet’s writings on the American Revolution, the Federal Constitution, and the new political culture emerging in the United States constitute milestones in the history of French political thought and of French attitudes toward the United States. These remarkable texts, however, have not been available in modern editions or translations. This book presents first or new translations of all of Condorcet’s major writings on the United States, including an essay on the impact of the American Revolution on Europe; a commentary on the Federal Constitution, the first such commentary to be published in the Old World; and his Eulogy of Franklin, in which Condorcet paints a vivid picture of his recently deceased friend as the archetype of the new American man: self-made, practical, talented but modest, tolerant and free of prejudice—the embodiment of reason, common sense, and the liberal values of the Enlightenment.
From Bonaventure to MacIntyre
Conscience, once a core concept for ethics, has mostly disappeared from modern moral theory. In this book Douglas Langston traces its intellectual history to account for its neglect while arguing for its still vital importance, if correctly understood. In medieval times, Langston shows in Part I, the notions of "conscientia" and "synderesis" from which our contemporary concept of conscience derives were closely connected to Greek ideas about the virtues and practical reason, although in Christianized form. As modified by Luther, Butler, and Kant, however, conscience later came to be regarded as a faculty like will and intellect, and when faculty psychology fell into disrepute, so did the role of conscience in moral philosophy. A view of mature conscience that sees it as relational, with cognitive, emotional, and conative dimensions, can survive the criticisms of conscience as faculty. In Part II, through discussions of Freud, Ryle, and other modern thinkers, Langston proceeds to reconstruct conscience as a viable philosophical concept. Finally, in Part III, this better grounded concept is connected with the modern revival of virtue ethics, and Langston shows how crucial conscience is to a theory of virtue because it is fundamental to the training of any morally good person.