- In Memoriam: Jackson I. Cope
As this issue goes to press, we mourn the death last August in Castel Franco, Italy, of Jackson Cope, a former editor and long-time contributor to M L N. Since 1996 he had been settled in Venice, where he was pursuing studies both various and local: Goldoni’s comic theater, the attachment of Hemingway and his circle to Harry’s Bar, and contemporary Venetian canti. He was also an indefatigable and inventive host to visiting American scholars and writers.
Born in Muncie, Indiana, in 1925, he was raised in Chicago, where he made an early career as a Golden Gloves boxer. Although he was to become a heavyweight Renaissance scholar, through a lifetime of roadwork Jack tried to stay close to his original boxing weight and, in his criticism, retained something of Willie Pep’s speed and pugnacity. During World War II he served as a second lieutenant in the Army Air Forces, returning to complete his undergraduate education at the University of Illinois. His graduate studies under Don Cameron Allen—with a dissertation on Joseph Glanvill in 1952—were at the Johns Hopkins of the heroic era, where he was also a Bissing Fellow and a familiar figure working out in the gym or lapping the track.
At the beginning of his academic career he held faculty appointments at Ohio State University (1952–54) and Washington University (1954–58), moving to Rice University where he taught as associate professor and professor (1958–61). He then made his nostos to Hopkins, where he served as an editor of E L H and briefly on the editorial board of M L N. In 1972 he journeyed west to become the Leo S. Bing Professor of English at the University of Southern California, retiring from this post in 1987. He subsequently returned again to Baltimore, where he did some occasional teaching and lecturing, notably on Italian drama. In 1996 he made his final sentimental return—to Goldoni’s Venice—living first out in the Sant’ Elena and finally in an apartment with a veranda looking down on the Rialto.
His earliest publications reflected his engagement with the literature, institutions, and personalities of the English seventeenth century: Joseph Glanvill, Anglican Apologist (1956) and a facsimile edition of Thomas Sprat’s 1667 edition of The History of the Royal Society (1958). He published his benchmark study of Milton in 1964: The Metaphoric Structure of Paradise Lost. This was a book that opened new directions in the reading not only of Milton but of other seventeenth-century authors as well. The Theater and the Dream: [End Page 1122] From Metaphor to Form in Renaissance Drama, which appeared in 1973, was the first of a series of volumes dedicated to the dialectical, “antigeneric” dramaturgy of English and Italian comedy of the Renaissance. The book moves broadly and learnedly from the Plautine tradition to its Renaissance revisions, from the philosophic “structural metaphors” of Cusa to those of Ficino, from the theater of Chapman, Shakespeare, Ford, Heywood, and Jonson to that of the Florentine commediografi. (The final chapter, “Platonic Perspectives Dissolved,” which originally appeared in this journal, was devoted to Calderón’s La vida es sueño.)
In 1981 Cope’s work took a turn toward fiction and the high-modernist canon of the twentieth century. Joyce’s Cities: The Archaeologies of the Soul, a panoramic view of the author’s literary progress in the light of mythic and Kabbalistic speculations as well as the impact of late Victorian archaeological discoveries, revealed a continuity in the work that was more “radically traditional” than had been generally acknowledged. Addressing the book’s persistent theme that at every point in his career Joyce was alert to then contemporary literary and archaeological events, Hugh Kenner observed that the “pertinence of [this] lore has been noted before, but never in such detail” or with such gratifyingly “hard information.” In the same year, Cope explored post-modern narrative developments in a volume edited with Geoffrey Green, Novel vs. Fiction: The Contemporary Reformation.
Three years later Cope returned to the comic stage, publishing Dramaturgy of the Daemonic: Studies in Antigeneric Theater from Ruzante to Grimaldi...