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.
Lena Linne, Connotations, Vol. 27 (ongoing): 21-52.
Alice Oswald’s Memorial (2011) is an adaptation of the Iliad that leaves out the narrative passages and the speeches made by the characters. What remains of Homer’s epic are merely two of its elements: the epic similes and the brief sketches or obituaries that Homer provides of the men fallen in battle. In giving us the Iliad without its plot, Oswald clearly imposes a limitation upon herself. However, she considers this limitation a liberation. She calls Memorial an “excavation” of the Iliad (as if Homer’s poem were buried under its plot); she also suggests that Memorial “will have its own coherence as a series of memories and similes laid side by side: an antiphonal account of man in his world.”
The new coherence suggested by Oswald relies on the recontextualisation of the similes, whose meaning is changed as they are removed from their original context, often that of a victorious soldier preparing for battle, and attached to an obituary, i.e. to a defeated victim. Homer’s similes easily adapt to such recontextualisations because of their elaborate structure; the new context means that a different aspect of this structure is emphasised. In a simile about a predator chasing its prey, for instance, the emphasis shifts from the former to the latter.
The new coherence of the similes is also informed by Oswald’s poetics, which can be inferred from her comments on Memorial but also from self-reflexive passages in the poem itself. These poetics are paratactic. Sentences or episodes are not tributary elements in a unified whole but juxtaposed in a non-hierarchical way. Likewise, similes are not subordinate to obituaries; they do not illustrate them but respond to them. The two elements are placed “side by side,” in a balanced, antiphonal manner. This means that, in Memorial, the analogies between a simile and its context are not signposted as they are in the Iliad; they are often opaque and hidden away in puns, posing a considerable challenge to the reader. Moreover, the analogies are frequently accompanied by striking contrasts. Death is counterbalanced with survival, the grim world of the battlefield with natural or domestic worlds in which life-sustaining routines prevail.
Matthias Bauer, Connotations, Vol. 27 (ongoing): 1-18.
From July 30 to August 3, 2017, the 14th International Connotations Symposium took place at Mülheim an der Ruhr in Germany. Its topic, “Self-Imposed Fetters: The Productivity of Formal and Thematic Restrictions,” will now become the theme of a special section in the journal. Beginning with this issue, a selection of essays based on the talks given at the conference, as well as responses and other contributions to the subject, will be published in our peer-reviewed, open-access format.
The theme is typical of the Connotations agenda in that it combines a specific theoretical or poetological concept with aspects of style and form. As distinct from a number of earlier topics, however, it focuses on the field of poetic production. In the following, I will explain what has given rise to discussing “Self-Imposed Fetters” by considering three sonnets that reflect on the restriction imposed by their own form. I will then distinguish three areas in which restrictions deliberately chosen by writers become productive, a process that will be explored in greater detail by the articles and responses to be published in this special section. As a last step, the most tentative of the three, I will consider what sort of literary production is paradoxically unleashed by the imposition of fetters and if there are any rules governing this process.
Carl Plasa, Connotations, Vol. 26: 163-203.
As its “Preface” states, David Dabydeen’s “Turner” (1994) takes its inspiration from Joseph Mallord William Turner’s Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying—Typhon Coming On (1840), more commonly known as The Slave Ship. Dabydeen’s reading of Turner’s celebrated painting (and of Ruskin’s famous commentary on it) has been widely debated by critics, but, as this essay demonstrates, “Turner” has an intertextual life that extends far beyond The Slave Ship and the Ruskinian response to it. The essay develops this argument, in the first instance, by showing how Ruskin’s influence on Dabydeen’s poem is traceable not only to his enraptured account of The Slave Ship but also other parts of the chapter, in Modern Painters, vol. 1 (1843), which that account rounds off. As the essay goes on to show, it is not just that these elements of Ruskin’s chapter have been all but overlooked by intertextual analyses of “Turner” but that two other works have been similarly neglected: Shakespeare’s Macbeth (1606) and Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987). These texts demand our attention as still more significant sources for Dabydeen’s poem and contribute much to a new understanding of its disturbing imaginative vision.
Jayne Thomas, Connotations, Vol. 26: 141-162.
This article reexamines Wordsworth’s influence in Tennyson’s 1860 dramatic monologue, “Tithonus.” Tennyson’s poem sounds with well-tracked Wordsworthian echoes and allusions, many of which allude directly to “Tintern Abbey” (1798); critics have pointed out, for instance, how “Tithonus” replicates “Tintern Abbey”’s narrative of returning, of the self reencountering itself in time. But the poem also resonates with inadvertent or unconscious “echoes” to Wordsworth, which rework the connection between memory and nature that underpins the narrative of return in “Tintern Abbey.” Using the term “echo” itself as its methodology, the article reveals how “Tithonus” contains more echoes to Wordsworth than previously recognised, echoes that enable Tennyson to revise, rather than simply to refashion, Wordsworth’s poetic trope. The article goes on to examine how the revisionary process at work in the poem is linked to the form of the monologue, which is already establishing a difference from Wordsworth in its rejection of Romantic universal subjectivity and its adoption of a fictional and performative persona; in reworking Wordsworth’s interaction between mind and nature, “Tithonus” is thus consolidating a new poetic alongside revising a somewhat anachronistic poetic trope. However, as the article will also show “Tithonus” comes to rely on the broken fragments of the same Wordsworthian narrative it has itself dismantled.
Stephen M. Fallon, Connotations, Vol. 26: 126-140.
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: 115-125.
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.
Robert Lance Snyder, Connotations, Vol. 26: 102-114.
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.”
Gary Totten, Connotations, Vol. 26: 91-101.
Edward Lobb, Connotations, Vol. 26: 86-90.
Ralph Grunewald, Connotations, Vol. 26: 54-85.
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.