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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.



Meta-Epic Reflection in Twenty-First-Century Rewritings of Homer, or: The Meta-Epic Novel

Lena Linne, Connotations, Vol. 31: 56-84.


The present article discusses meta-epic reflection in a selection of twenty-first-century novels based on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. It defines instances of “metagenre” and “metageneric texts” as texts which, explicitly or implicitly, reflect upon the nature of another genre or of their own genre; novels which comment on the features of the epic qualify as “meta-epic novels.”

In its main part, the article distinguishes between three modes of meta-epic reflection in the contemporary novel. It briefly discusses Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey: A Father, a Son and an Epic (2017) as an affirmative take on the ancient genre and Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad (2005) as a subversive one. Subsequently, it focusses on Natalie Haynes’s A Thousand Ships(2019) as an ambivalent approach to the epic. In this novel, meta-epic reflection takes centre stage through the character of Calliope, the ancient muse of epic poetry, who advocates a reform of her own genre: dissatisfied with its patriarchal traditions, Calliope calls for a new kind of epic which foregrounds the fates of the female characters. A Thousand Ships, which narrates the tragic stories of the women affected by the Trojan War, adheres to the rules of this new sort of epic. Adapting a term from Henry Fielding, the article reads A Thousand Ships as a “tragic epic poem in prose”–a prose epic for a twenty-first-century readership.


Parodies of Six-Word Stories: A Comic Literary Metagenre1)

David Fishelov, Connotations, Vol. 31: 33-55.


The article discusses parodies of six-word stories and locates them within the broader context of metagenre in general, and humorous metagenre in particular. Parodies of six-word stories offer a playful, ironic perspective on the genre’s form and its most famous example, the story (wrongly) attributed to Hemingway: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” The genre of six-word stories is a newcomer to the repertoire of narrative genres: it emerged in the 1990s and since then has become a fast-growing literary phenomenon with a great number of followers, both readers and writers. After describing the central characteristics of this peculiar mini-genre (e.g. the tip of the iceberg principle, the punch line structure, its poetic-like patterns), I focus on a detailed analysis of selected parodies of the form, and show how examples such as “For sale: this story format. Overused.”; “For sale. BMW. Blinkers never used.” and “Fr sal: Typwritr. In mint cnditin.” present a close imitation of conspicuous aspects of the generic model, in being embodied in its prototypical member, together with a comic, tongue-in-cheek, manipulation of that model. I conclude by arguing that parodies of six-word stories offer further indirect evidence of the diversity and productivity of this peculiar mini-genre.


An Introduction to Metagenre with a Postscript on the Journey from Comedy to Tragedy in E. M. Forster's Where Angels Fear to Tread

Burkhard Niederhoff, Connotations, Vol. 31: 1-32.


The article defines metagenre as a quality or dimension of a literary text: the way the text reflects on the genre it belongs to (which includes a consideration of adjacent or opposed genres). We may distinguish between explicit metagenre, which is relatively infrequent, and implicit metagenre. The latter can be further divided into three types: mise en abyme or genre within genre; transtextual references to prototypical examples of the genre (quotation, allusion, parody, etc.); and conspicuous deviations from or violations of genre conventions. The textual strategies associated with metafiction and other meta-terms are seen as self-undermining and self-repudiating by some theorists. This view, however, does not apply to metagenre, at least not to its most interesting cases, which can best be described as probing and dynamic self-definitions that rely both on affirmations and rejections.

A text of this kind is E. M. Forster’s first novel Where Angels Fear to Tread (which contains both explicit and implicit metagenre). The analysis of this novel is based on Forster’s statement that “the object of the book is the improvement of Philip,” its protagonist. This improvement follows Forster’s imperative to “connect,” which has a psychological and a social dimension. Connecting the fragments of one’s personality means connecting with other people and transcending cultural or political barriers in the process. Philip’s improvement is accompanied by a shift from comedy to tragedy, which echoes the history of the genre (while the novel defined itself in comic terms in the long eighteenth century, it increasingly turned to tragic models in the nineteenth). An interesting problem arises in the final chapters, in which Philip is pushed back into the role of an aesthetic observer, which, as part of his improvement, he has previously abandoned in favour of responsibility and involvement. This problem can be solved, however, if one takes the shift from comedy to tragedy into consideration. In the final chapters, Philip changes from a comic into a tragic observer, which means that he is more sympathetic and involved than he used to be.


A Sentimental Journey: Lost in Translation

Mark Loveridge, Connotations, Vol. 30: 140-172.


This essay argues that Sterne’s pervasive interests in different forms of translation in A Sentimental Journey (1768) result in a text in which fuzzy, occult, and elusive language, calqued translation, wordplay, and suggestion are not merely forms of wit but fundamental to the project. The different resonances that are lent to Sterne’s keywords (sentimental, sensibility, soul, conscience, delicacy, grace, translation itself, and others) allow the dramatization of the curious relationships between the three worlds of humanity: spiritual, linguistic, and physical or material. To John Wesley’s English ear in 1772, the word sentimental is “not English. He may as well say Continental. It is not sense.” Frénais, translating the Journey in 1769, would agree: he says that he has only kept the word because there is no viable alternative. The text is constructed around the most elusive of words. In practice, translation is often occult to the point of perversity. In Calais, having eaten and drunk well, Parson Yorick tipsily rebuts the materialist philosophy of a “physical precieuse,” an imagined French bluestocking, by saying that he is confident that he could “overset her creed.” Creed descends from Latin, through the Italian credenza, to the French crédence: a sideboard. Immaterialism, spirituality, is translated to materials, through translation of a different kind which is endemic in the Journey.


"New Alchimie": Reading John Donne's "Nocturnall" Through Poems by Kimberly Johnson and Alice Fulton

Theresa M. DiPasquale, Connotations, Vol. 30: 113-139.


The study of pre-Enlightenment literature is too often separated from the study of contemporary literature; literary scholars are too often out of touch with their colleagues in creative writing; and mutual disdain divides literary folk from STEM folk. Who better to bridge such gaps than John Donne and those twenty-first-century poets who are, like Donne, inspired by both the humanities and the sciences, analytic dissection and linguistic play? In “A Nocturnall Upon S. Lucies Day,” Donne blends alchemical terms and liturgical language, moving readers but also puzzling them. Those most fruitfully puzzled and moved by Donne’s “Nocturnall” are poets who have taken it as a point of departure for new poems of their own. Kimberly Johnson’s “A Nocturnall Upon Saint Chuck Yeager’s Day” and Alice Fulton’s “A Lightenment On New Year’s Eve” are startlingly original poems and, at the same time, scholarly interpretations of Donne’s piece. In selecting Donne’s “A Nocturnall Upon S. Lucies Day” as the prima materia for their creations, Kimberly Johnson and Alice Fulton reveal the radical ductility of Donne’s poem, its openness to the diverse needs, desires, traumas, and dreams of twenty-first-century readers.


C. S. Lewis’s Complex Relationship with Queer Milton Studies: Indirect Inspiration, Hegemonic Antagonist, and Erased Inconvenient Forerunner2)

David V. Urban, Connotations, Vol. 30: 99-112.


This essay discusses queer Milton scholarship’s various responses to C. S. Lewis’s A Preface to Paradise Lost, beginning with Gregory Bredbeck’s groundbreaking 1991 PMLA article through the 2018 volume Queer Milton and beyond. Although most of these responses portray Lewis as one whose explicit denial of queer angelic behavior in Paradise Lost has served to prevent queer readings of Milton, Lewis can also been seen as one who, by this explicit denial, indirectly brought about queer Milton studies. Attention will be paid to Drew Daniel’s unexpected 2014 portrayal of Lewis’s offering an especially daring queer vision of Paradise Lost, a portrayal that is erased when Daniel’s 2014 essay is revised for the 2018 Queer Milton.


C. S. Lewis and His Later Respondents: Letting in Fresh Air, Preventing Questions, and Reimagining A Preface to Paradise Lost3)

David V. Urban, Connotations, Vol. 30: 67-98.


This essay chronicles significant responses to C. S. Lewis’s A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942) that occurred from the 1960s into the twenty-first century. Important responses include those of William Empson, Stanley Fish, Stuart Curran, John Rumrich, Peter C. Herman, Michael Bryson, and Joseph Wittreich. All of these scholars challenged Lewis on various pointsmost commonly concerning matters of Lewis’s analysis of Milton’s Satan, his alleged oversimplification of Milton’s theologically complex epic, the supposed similarities between A Preface and Fish’s Surprised by Sin, and his assumed hegemonic prevention of new avenues of critical inquiry into Milton’s epic. This essay contends that certain of these critics have misread or misinterpreted Lewis, and it suggests that such portrayals of A Preface obfuscate the insights that it continues to offer readers of Paradise Lost.


The Faerie Queene as Satirical Intertext for The Alchemist

Jennifer C. Vaught, Connotations, Vol. 30: 48-66.


Building on Rachel Hile’s important study Spenserian Satire: A Tradition of Indirection, which largely focuses on Spenser’s shorter poems in The Complaints, this essay calls attention to the satirical dimension of his longest poem The Faerie Queene. Intertextual connections between The Faerie Queene and The Alchemist reveal how Jonson read Spenser as inspiration for satire, parody, and comedy. In The Alchemist Jonson appropriates Spenser’s Gloriana, the Faerie Queene; the Wandering Wood in Book I; and Braggadocchio, Mammon, and the Castle of Alma in Book II of The Faerie Queene for satirical ends. In his city comedy Jonson borrows these figures and episodes from The Faerie Queene to satirize the aristocracy, greed for wealth, hedonism, environmental pollution, social mobility, and the misuse of language. Jonson’s extensive annotations in his copy of the 1617 Folio of The Faerie Queene and Complaints, which denote how he responded to Spenser around 1617 and afterwards, further illuminate how he imitated him in writing by 1610 when The Alchemist was first performed. Like Jonson, Spenser’s early readers through to 1660 appropriated The Faerie Queene to satirize political leaders and existing religious institutions in late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Reader reception of Spenser’s works in the Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline eras contributes to his afterlife as biting satirist not only for Mother Hubberds Tale in The Complaints but also for The Faerie Queene.


“There’s Something Wrong Somewhere”: Disenfranchisement and Diegesis in David Goodis’s Down There

Robert Lance Snyder, Connotations, Vol. 30: 37-47.


Described by critics as a “poet of the losers” who masterfully portrayed the “economic struggles, in a truly Kafkaesque sense, of the underbelly of America during his time,” noir novelist David Goodis often used postwar Philadelphia as a microcosm of urban blight and disenfranchisement. At the same time his down-and-outers are typically unable to account for their predicaments. A brother of protagonist Eddie Lynn in Down There (1956) voices this bafflement when he says that “there’s something wrong somewhere.” A strong sense of the American Dream’s bankruptcy in the 1950s, coupled with the inability of Goodis’s characters to analyze it, lies behind his reliance on the narratological devices of internal dialogue, silent conversations, and indirect discourse to project the solipsistic repercussions of withdrawal from an alienating, ultimately hostile environment. Though defeated in the end, Goodis’s inner-city denizens are valorized by an attempt to escape from the prison-house of self and act on behalf of another person. Diegesis is central to this author’s exploration of the pervasive sense in Down There that “the sum of everything was a circle […] labeled Zero.” 


The Authorship of De Doctrina Christiana: A Response to David V. Urban4)

John K. Hale, Connotations, Vol. 30: 24-36.


Urban proposes that the doubts about Milton’s authorship of De Doctrina Christiana make it acceptable to ignore the work when one writes about the theology in Milton’s late biblical poems. I reply that: (1) The doubts are being exaggerated. Copious and many-sided evidence supports the attribution to Milton. Stylometry is inconclusive. (2) The work’s style and argumentation show clear continuity from DDC into his other prose works, both Latin and English, and also some poems.(3) Continuities extend, though in more complex ways, even to the late poems. These ways show Milton’s theological thought changing and developing: the relationship depends on topic and interest, as recent research is demonstrating. (4) Thus to forswear the knowledge and use of De Doctrina would not be enabling to Milton studies but impoverishing.