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73 Introduction Cather in e M a x w ell • It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Margot Louis, who passed away on 28 August 2007. I had been approached earlier in the year to guest-edit a collection of essays for Victorian Review to honour Margot’s brave battle against ovarian cancer, a task I was more than happy to undertake, for, although I never met Margot in person, I admired her work and had had the good fortune to correspond with her at regular intervals over the last few years. Margot was delighted that this collection would be published in her name, and although she did not live to see it for herself, she would, I think, be pleased with a memorial that signally celebrates her principal interests: namely, the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909), mentioned in many of the essays in this issue; the interconnected topics of literary influence and the literary tradition; and the more general topic of classical myth andVictorian literature. Anyone who works on Swinburne will be indebted to her Swinburne and His Gods:The Roots and Growth of an Agnostic Poetry (1990), a remarkable study of how the radical form and force of the poet’s innovative verse depends on a pervasive and transgressive recasting of Christian language, ideas, and imagery. Moreover, her invaluable annual summations of the year’s work in Swinburne studies for Victorian Poetry consistently provided lucid, judicious assessments of scholarly work in the field, demonstrating both her intimate and wideranging knowledge of Swinburne’s considerable oeuvre and her enthusiastic and generous reception of new critical research and interpretation. She also co-edited with G. Kim Blank Influence and Resistance in Nineteenth-Century English Poetry (1993), an important collection of essays that bears witness to her fascination with literary traditions—a fascination also present in her most recent work on classical mythology,Victorian mythography, and literature, which concentrates on the myth of Persephone, the maiden snatched from the earth by the god of the underworld and mourned and sought after by her mother, the goddess Demeter. There is a poignant irony in the fact that Margot Louis’s final project centred on Persephone, a woman prematurely gathered to the underworld. Persephone does, however, make her return in the cycle of the year, and, while we no longer have the consolation of Margot’s presence, we know, as Swinburne victorian review • Volume 34 Number 2 74 did, that books can be “living things” (Poems 1. xxi) and are able to share in the legacy of her words, which live on to inspire new generations of scholars . From her recent research on myth, Margot Louis had already published two fine articles—these forming part of her larger monograph, Persephone Rises: Mythography,Gender,and the Creation of a New Spirituality 1860–1927, complete at the time of her death and scheduled for publication by Ashgate in 2009. One of these articles, which doubles as the introduction to her book, provides a brilliant overview of the developments in nineteenth-century mythography and the allied treatment of myth by the poets.A major emphasis of this introductory essay is the shift away from the Olympian deities, described by the eminent classicist Jane Harrison as “definite, distinct” or “clear-cut and departmental” (cited in Louis,“Gods” 353) and seen as removed from or indifferent to human concerns and feelings, with that shift being“toward the chthonic deities and the gods of the Mysteries,” complex, dynamic, ever-evolving gods such as Dionysus and Persephone, whose rites“are increasingly seen as expressions of human anguish, hunger or desire— revelations of the sacral within the swift, bloody, and beautiful cycles of natural life” (Louis,“Gods” 341, 354). Margot would, I think, have been intrigued by the fact that the essays published in this memorial collection predominantly examine authors and artists who use myth to explore the complexities of human desire, and that in terms of its own discursive chronology, which features a period ranging from the 1860s to 1897, the collection itself concludes with essays that feature Dionysus and Persephone. Along with Margot’s book on Persephone, this collection will, we hope, help...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 73-82
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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