This essay, as its title “The Uses of the Philosophy of G. E. Moore in the Works of E. M. Forster” indicates, examines the ways in which Moore’s philosophical thought, particularly the ethical theory that was formulated at Cambridge during Forster’s student years and published as Principia Ethica in 1903, influenced the writings of E. M. Forster. Specifically, aspects of both the persona and philosophy of Moore are examined in three of Forster’s novels. In The Longest Journey of 1907, the doctrines of moral and metaphysical realism that Moore taught to Forster at Cambridge emerge as the major theme of engagement and contention among the characters of the novel. In Howards End of 1910, Forster symbolically projected the promise of “Moorism” (the term used by Moore’s advocates in Bloomsbury) as a moral philosophy for the reform of English public life and for the resolution of the challenges of industrialization and urbanization that confronted Edwardian England. In A Passage to India of 1924, Forster used the character of Mrs. Moore to demonstrate that Moore’s “method” of philosophical dialectic could be directed to rectify an injustice of imperial rule and to clarify personal relationships. Forster’s continued support for Moore’s approach in the domain of personal relations even as he recognized its limitations as a public philosophy in postwar society is set in this essay against John Maynard Keynes’s criticism of the Bloomsbury commitment to Moore’s thought as sketched in Keynes’s memoir “My Early Beliefs.” Aspects of Moore’s thought reverberated in Forster’s essays which marked his emergence as a major public advocate of anti-Nazism and liberal democracy in the 1930s and 1940s, characteristically expressed in such moderate and ironic tones of “Two Cheers for Democracy.” Finally, this essay probes a fundamental dilemma in the interpretation of Forster’s oeuvre. On the one hand, Forster was a lifelong advocate of the Moorian ideal of truth in personal relations, and this advocacy was realized through his vocation as an author whose novels provided a continuing quest myth in which each of the main protagonists is in pursuit of this ideal. On the other hand, Forster argues for an interpretation of himself as a modernist writer who is free of any authorial advocacy in his commitment to the ideal of art for art’s sake.
Walter Map’s De nugis curialium stakes a radical claim for authorship and writing within twelfth-century European literary culture. Map imagines a form of authorship based on his ambivalence toward his immediate court context and the alterity of his being a subordinate, belated writer. He privileges materials from the margins of established literary discourse, and he fashions reading not just as the application of fit moral lessons but as an active, potentially unstable site of intellectual labor and textual meaning. In key episodes of his book, Map goes beyond self-reflexive commentary to test the limits of his precepts and the artistic freedom they allow.
The paper raises the issue of inadequacy of the current narratological vocabulary when it comes to the question of who is speaking in traditional (oral and orally derived) narratives. Drawing on the concepts of “emergence” and “distributed representation” from the sciences of complexity, I attempt to provide an account of traditional narratives as self-organizing adaptive systems, the stories that “tell themselves.” Rather than being products of a single mind, traditional narratives evolve over extensive periods of time and arise from networks of interrelated individuals: epic singers, storytellers/writers/scribes, audience members. Each of these individuals (network nodes) makes a local (if creative, or even unique) contribution, but none in particular is responsible for the character/identity of the whole text. This creativity relates irreducibly to the levels of organization beyond the individual, and is to be credited to the evolutionary dynamics of the narrative production itself, here termed the distributed author. The paper focuses on the sagas of Icelanders and Serbian epic poetry as they, due to the strong prevalence of decentralizing social factors in the milieus in which they evolved, represent exemplary products of distributed authorship.
This essay proposes a way of incorporating contextual perspectives, such as have dominated interpretation in the last quarter century, into the formal analysis of lyric poems of the English Renaissance. Following Kenneth Burke’s formulation, that poems adopt “various strategies for the encompassing of situations,” the discussion centers on George Gascoigne’s “Gascoigne’s Woodmanship” and Andrew Marvell’s “An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland.” While a reasonably complete interpretation of each poem is offered, the emphasis is equally on the ways in which Burke’s ideas are productive for understanding the rhetoric of these and other Renaissance lyrics.
This essay explores the connection between Walt Whitman and the rhetorical uses of “representative literariness,” as part of a “post-Kantian” symbolic repertoire of intellectual self-legitimation. My focus lies on American literary studies, where representative literariness emerges as an important critical concept during the construction of an iconic Walt Whitman, beginning in the 1870s, and culminating in the 1940s, when both Whitman and his “age” were refigured in terms of aesthetic modernism and became central to the idea of an American Renaissance. While the American-Renaissance concept lost its critical appeal during the 1970s, its underlying notion of representative literariness has retained some of its cultural centrality.
This paper argues that the idea of the sublime lies at the heart of Auerbach’s notion of realism as developed in Mimesis. Through a close examination of Auerbach’s approach to literary history, I show that his concept of realistic representation, far from being relativistic and radically contingent as Auerbach himself asserts, is actually structural and implicitly theoretical. Auerbach’s well-known notion of the mixture of styles is not a mixture or fusion of stylistic levels, but a dialectic of the human drama: a dynamic synthesis between sublimitas and humilitas, the high and the low, which created a new conception of the human being as a self-transcending entity that can be the subject of history. Thus Auerbach can be interpreted as proffering a notion of the sublime that is not merely stylistic, but sociological and humanistic.
One might feel tempted to advance the argument that Roland Barthes can be regarded as an almost ideal member of a Rortyan literary or poeticized culture, that is, as a strong poet shaping, in a truly idiosyncratic, innovative, and creative manner, a postmetaphysical culture. Concentrating on the late Barthes, this article seeks to elucidate his development from postmetaphysical forms of redescription and self-creation to what could be termed an existential understanding of the practice of writing. In his lecture on Proust at the Collège de France in 1978, it becomes obvious that it is no longer possible to count Barthes among the proponents of a radically antifoundationalist and antiessentialist thinking.
With a plan to trace the relationship between a purely formal history of writing and the deeper levels of history, Barthes’s project in Le degré zéro de l’écriture seems to have failed because it remains unclear what degré zéro historically represents. Drawing on Le degré zéro de l’écriture, as well as Barthes’s later texts on film and photography, this essay examines the historical and the political aspects of the theory of “exhausted art” that Barthes developed as an expansion of his notion of degré zéro. As I demonstrate, Barthes’s theory suggests that exhausted art is politically committed. By remaining semantically and historically ambiguous, this art not only proposes a new aesthetic paradigm, but, as Barthes believed, also represents a socially reflective type of art—it poses an alternative to the novel and its depiction of the subject as separated from others.