Latest Additions

These are the articles recently published. Original replies, which can start off a debate, are listed with their abstracts. Please note that responding articles do not have separate abstracts.



The Equanimity of Influence: Milton and Wordsworth

Stephen M. Fallon, Connotations, Vol. 26 (ongoing): 126-138.


By characterizing the relation of Wordsworth to Milton as one of “equanimity of influence,” this essay suggests that in The Prelude Wordsworth is in a dialogue with Milton’s Paradise Lost that is both profound and notably free of anxiety. Wordsworth has here, that is to say, left behind much of the anxiety that marks the Prospectus to the 1814 edition The Recluse, a poem dating from the turn of the nineteenth century. There Wordsworth both boasts that The Recluse, by plumbing the depths of the “Mind of Man,” will have more profound effects of awe and fear than Milton’s poem, which navigates “Chaos” and “The darkest pit of lowest Erebus,” and worries that in describing the “lowly matter” of “the Mind and Man / Contemplating” he might be seen as engaging in “labour useless.” The dialogue with Milton here is uneasy and defensive. Milton’s influence on Wordsworth’s poetic project in The Prelude, on the other hand, was no longer marked by defensiveness, despite the fact that Wordsworth was still in competition with Milton. The astonishing equanimity in the face of sorrows and adversity achieved by the narrator of Paradise Lost is the deepest legacy Milton left to his successor. What Wordsworth gains from Milton in much of his best poetry a deep balance of joy and sorrow, a mental poise Wordsworth himself describes in same Prospectus as “feelings of delight … with no unpleasing sadness mixed.” The essay follows Milton’s presence in the 1805 Prelude in three increasingly significant steps, 1) as the source of frequent allusion, 2) as a model of epic ambition, and 3) as one who has achieved and modeled the equable mind that is one of the central achievements of the Prelude.


“When Contemplation like the Night-Calm Felt”: Religious Considerations in Poetic Texts by Shakespeare, Milton, and Wordsworth

Henry Weinfield, Connotations, Vol. 26 (ongoing): 114-125.


This essay discusses the influence of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 15 (“When I consider everything that grows”) on Milton’s Sonnet 19 (“When I consider how my light is spent”), and the way in which both poems enter into the philosophical opening to Book 5 of Wordsworth’s Prelude (“When Contemplation, like the night-calm felt”). The essay uncovers the presence of Ecclesiastes in Shakespeare’s sonnet, arguing that if there is a God in Shakespeare’s vision he is a hidden and impersonal deity. The religious landscape of Milton’s sonnet is, on the surface, diametrically opposed to Shakespeare’s because Milton God is a personalized deity with whom the poet enters into dialectical relations. I argue, however, that the repetition of Shakespeare’s opening phrase in Milton’s sonnet suggests that Milton is seeking to evade Shakespeare’s vision. In considering Wordsworth’s text, the essay seeks to triangulate (and therefore complicate) what begins as a binary analysis. In Wordsworth’s pantheistic perspective, the mediating presence of Shakespeare and Milton is explicit, and though Wordsworth is writing in blank verse he retains the when / then structure that Shakespeare adopts and Milton subtly evades. All three poetic texts contemplate the future—of man and of his works—from different but related religious perspectives, and the essay concludes by seeking to offer a succinct articulation of those differences.


“An Unparalleled Plethora of Idiocy”: Len Deighton’s Political Skepticism in The Ipcress File

Robert Lance Snyder, Connotations, Vol. 26 (ongoing): 101-113.


As an espionage thriller The Ipcress File (1962) conveys a profound skepticism about all political ideologies regnant during the Cold War. Len Deighton exposes not only the inanity of Western capitalistic materialism, linked primarily with America’s flourishing postwar economy, but also the vacuous rhetoric of communist socialism. Bedeviled by the machinations of his employer Dalby and an international opportunist named Jay, the anonymous protagonist eventually discovers that both men are complicit traders in classified information as a marketable commodity. The misdirections en route to his discovery of their collaboration generate the novel’s suspense, which along the way addresses the then topical issue of brainwashing, but The Ipcress File’s resolution makes clear that, in the arena of contemporary geopolitics, ideologies and their grand narratives often serve as convenient cover stories for hidden agendas involving nothing more exalted than self-advancement. Deighton’s best-selling first novel thus reflects a growing sense during the fifties that “political ideas,” as Daniel Bell’s influential 1960 book The End of Ideology was subtitled, had reached a point of “exhaustion.”


Edith Wharton’s Geographical Imagination: A Response to Judith P. Saunders

Gary Totten, Connotations, Vol. 26 (ongoing): 90-100.


Overwhelming Questions: An Answer to Chris Ackerley

Edward Lobb, Connotations, Vol. 26 (ongoing): 85-89.


Poetics of Injustice: The Case of Two Mockingbirds

Ralph Grunewald, Connotations, Vol. 26 (ongoing): 54-84.


This article is based on the understanding that in law questions of guilt are often reduced and simplified, whereas literary texts can provide a more encompassing picture of a person’s blameworthiness. That leads to two overlapping but also different understandings of justice—poetic and procedural. In this paper, I will contrast these two types of justice and argue that within the legal, mainly procedural, framework questions of the poetic construction of a narrative are often disregarded, although they play a significant role in many stages of a criminal case. Literary texts, on the other hand, show less awareness of the relevance of procedure and the kind of justice it produces. While the tension between these types of justice cannot be fully resolved—they are specific to their respective genres—it will be stressed that law and literature as disciplines can learn from each other. A judge with a heightened awareness of how narratives are constructed poetically will be better equipped to safeguard against wrongful convictions and gain a better understanding of a case in general. And, literary critics who acknowledge that procedure has an intrinsic value in law will expand their understating of a text that touches on such questions.

My argument will be developed in three steps. First, poetic and legal concepts of justice will be contrasted. Then, core differences between the legal and literary discourse will be analyzed in more detail, which is followed by a discussion of how poetic and procedural elements affect two exemplary wrongful conviction cases: the one of Jeffrey Deskovic and the one portrayed in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.


Is Timon Mad? An Answer to Beatrix Hesse

Thomas Kullmann, Connotations, Vol. 26 (ongoing): 47-53.


Black Ekphrasis? A Response to Carl Plasa

Jane Hedley, Connotations, Vol. 26 (ongoing): 40-46.


A Course in Ghost Writing: Philip Roth, Authorship, and Death1)

David Hadar, Connotations, Vol. 26 (ongoing): 15-39.


This paper argues that, for American novelist Philip Roth, the death of an author does not necessarily mean a loss of power and authority. Instead, what is crucial for literary authority is a delicate interplay of life and death. The paper works out this view mainly through a reading of the short novel The Ghost Writer (1979). There, a young writer, Nathan Zuckerman, learns the benefits of being perceived as dead and alive at the same time. He goes on to write a story about Anne Frank who in the fictional world decides to remain in hiding rather than hurt her reputation as author; I use this narrative to show Zuckerman has learned this lesson. The paper also shows how death’s power has been used by Roth not only in fiction but also in shaping his own public persona.


The Mysterious Genesis of Paradise Lost

Donald Cheney, Connotations, Vol. 9: 57-70.