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 Ghost Story in Spenser’s Daphnaïda

Kreg Segall, Connotations, Vol. 33: 98-120.


This study of Spenser’s Daphnaïda responds to David Lee Miller’s contentions that (1) this elegy is a purposely bad poem; (2) that Daphnaïda is more suitable to historical consideration than formal analysis; and (3) that the reader is meant to see Alcyon, the mourner in the poem, as primarily a figure for mockery. This essay complicates the work of mourning in the poem by considering its subtle tonal shifts and changes of register throughout Alcyon’s lament and offers a formal reading of the poem that considers the effect of the poet-narrator’s introduction on our subsequent evaluation of Alcyon and the poem as a whole.


Anthologizing Shakespeare's Sonnets

Thomas Kullmann, Connotations, Vol. 33: 63-97.


Since antiquity, schools, universities, and other institutions have canonized literary texts, that is, made choices as to what students should read and study. The present article intends to explore on which grounds these choices are made, using Shakespeare’s sonnets as a test case. Altogether, 38 collections of sonnets, published from 1783 to 2023, were examined. From Palgrave’s Golden Treasury (1861) onwards, a canon of sonnets emerges which were reprinted again and again, including sonnets 18, 73, and 116. The article suggests that the preference given to certain sonnets may be due to the modes of communication they use. While sonnet 2 (a seventeenth- and eighteenth-century favourite), in which second-person messages and the “conative” function (according to Jakobson’s communicative model of language) are predominant, has gone out of fashion, sonnets containing first-person, or “emotive,” messages (like sonnet 30), non-personal, or “referential,” messages (like sonnet 116), and self-referential, or “metalingual,” messages (like sonnet 18) have been the staple of anthologies ever since Palgrave. This choice of sonnets was obviously influenced by literary tastes informed by Romanticism and the nineteenth-century veneration of the wisdom of poets.

These preferences are all the more remarkable as they do not correspond to Shakespeare’s own: only 26 of the 154 sonnets can be classified as predominantly emotive, 22 as referential, nine as conative/referential, and fourteen as self-referential, as opposed to 33 which privilege conative statements, and 50 which [→ 64] mingle emotive and conative functions in a singular way, unique to Shakespeare (like sonnet 61). These I-and-thou sonnets, like the second-person sonnets, have clearly been neglected by nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century anthologists. We may conclude that existing anthologies often provide a biased picture of Shakespeare the poet, and that texts discarded and forgotten might be more representative of their author and period than canonized works.


From Rivers to Fountains: Henry Vaughan’s Secular and Sacred Inaugurations

Jonathan Nauman, Connotations, Vol. 33: 48-62.


Henry Vaughan began his poetic career in emulation of the occasional verse of the Jonsonian coteries; and the pastoral title poem “To the River Isca,” which opens his Olor Iscanus collection, evokes an explicit classicist pedigree of canonical river poets that Vaughan effectively sought to join. This self-canonizing effort was effectively revised and transfigured in Vaughan’s conversion to sacred verse, with the introductory lyric to Silex Scintillans, “Regeneration,” advancing a visionary pastoral sequence merging Vaughan’s new devotional work with the sacred-canonical Song of Songs.


Literary Anthologies: A Case Study for Metacognitively Approaching Canonicity1

William E. Engel, Connotations, Vol. 33: 18-47.


Anthologies promote and perpetuate what amounts to a canon. The roots run deep in the Western tradition, with the Anthologia Graeca, a collection of Classical and Byzantine Greek literature modelled on Meleager of Gadara (first century BCE), using the term “flower-gathering” (ἀνθολογία) to describe this literary exercise. Mixing his own works with those of forty-six others, Meleager arranged “a garland” that ended up establishing a paradigm for the ages. The trope reached a kind of apogee in Tudor England, buttressed with criteria for critical assessment and instructions for the proper way to enjoy, for example, Isabella Whitney’s A Sweet nosgay, or pleasant posye contayning a hundred and ten phylosophicall flowers. The “anthology,” as such, raises important questions about the curation, preservation, and even the prefigured afterlife of literary works notwithstanding shifts in aesthetic sensibilities and once-novel stylistic inventions. The decisions underlying the culling and arrangement of material for anthologies—most notably those produced and disseminated by corporate titans who impose their imprimatur on a wide range of “anthologies” and thus set standards for a generation at least—warrants closer scrutiny. As editors of two such anthologies (The Memory Arts in Renaissance England and The Death Arts in Renaissance England, both with Cambridge University Press), our team experienced periodic crises of conscience when

confronting the reality that our determinations implicitly were setting the canon for a period-specific collection of literary excerpts. We therefore sought intentionally to foreground our deliberations concerning canon formation and to articulate our principles for proceeding, resulting in a metacognitive approach to producing—as duly is reflected in the subtitle: “A Critical Anthology.”


The Yellow Leaf: Age and the Gothic in Dickens

Franziska Quabeck, Connotations, Vol. 33: 1-17.


Dickens was a fashionable writer, and from what we know he was also a very fashionable person, but the use of the colour yellow in his works differs surprisingly from the fashion of his times. He hardly uses canary yellow for his materials, and he abstains from the use of yellow as an indication of brightness and symbol of optimism and hope, too. Yellow in Dickens is not a gay or illuminating colour, and it seems that Dickens creates his own logic of colours, in which he uses yellow predominantly not as a primary colour but as a tinge, a discolouring of that which was formerly white, or conceived of as white. This does not mean, however, that the use of the colour in his works is not heavily invested with symbolism—quite the opposite. Dickens uses his own colour code, and yellow signifies both the literal and metaphorical imprisonment in and of old age.


"I Wish I Were a Tree": George Herbert and the Metamorphoses of Devotion

Debra K. Rienstra, Connotations, Vol. 32: 145-164.


This article considers Herbert’s engagement with Ovid’s Metamorphoses in order to explain the speaker’s wish to turn into a tree in “Affliction (I)” and “Employment (II)”. I argue that, though Ovid’s presence in “The Church” is muted, it does irrupt especially at key moments of devotional crisis. Herbert “resorts” to Ovidian strategies as a subtle form of protest when the God of his poems seems most to resemble the gods in Metamorphoses. Further, viewing these moments through an Ovidian lens helps reveal an underlying aesthetic of transformation in the sequence and an emphasis on figuration as a devotional tool. From this point of view, the sequence as a whole becomes a kind of slow-motion metamorphosis in which the speaker—not unlike in Ovidian myth—undergoes a transformative fragmentation. For Herbert, paradoxically, this fragmentation, in which human subjectivity appears momentarily lost, enables the speaker to reach a deeper state of communion with God.


A Particular Trust: George Herbert and Epicureanism

Katherine Calloway, Connotations, Vol. 32: 114-144.


This article explores George Herbert’s engagement with Epicureanism, and Lucretius in particular, with Donne and Bacon serving as important intermediaries. While differing on questions about divine care for the world and eternal resurrection, Lucretius and Herbert both use poetry to shape readers’ views about these metaphysical questions. In his Latin and English poetry, Herbert challenges Epicurean ideas about death and securitas, but he also begins to develop a Christian theology of nature that can accommodate Epicurean atomism, which sets him apart from an Aristotelian mainstream and makes way for the physico-theology of later decades.


Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and the (Re-)Invention of Tragedy: A Response to Angelika Zirker and Susanne Riecker

Thomas Kullmann, Connotations, Vol. 32: 100-113.


In their contribution, Zirker and Riecker provide a comprehensive survey of how Shakespeare used his sources, especially Plutarch’s Life of Caesar and Life of Brutus, when writing Julius Caesar. Their claim that Shakespeare had to overcome the historical “fetters” of Plutarch and the generic fetters of tragedy, however, can be questioned. Shakespeare was not in any way fettered by his sources but in a position to pick and choose from the rich “banquet” of historical and literary material on offer in the Renaissance.

The same applies to the genre of tragedy, which was a rather loose concept and did not fetter Elizabethan dramatists in any way. Julius Caesar can even be considered to mark a new departure, in that Shakespeare invents, or re-invents, a tragic pattern which he would repeat in Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth. It involves a central hero who makes a mistake which causes enormous suffering and will result in the hero’s self-recognition and death. This pattern, of course, resembles that of classical Greek tragedy, as summarized by Aristotle. While Elizabethan scholars did not usually have direct access to the Greek tragedians, Plutarch’s Life of Brutus may be considered the “missing link” between Greek an Shakespearen tragedy, as it contains all the features of tragedy mentioned.


Historical Fetters and Creative Liberation in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: A Response to Angelika Zirker and Susanne Riecker

John D. Cox, Connotations, Vol. 32: 95-99.


The authors describe Shakespeare’s double tragedy of Julius Caesar and of Brutus as a creative liberation from the constraints imposed by a historical source. They note that Shakespeare christianizes Calpurnia’s nightmare about her husband’s assassination, and he invents parallels between Caesar and Brutus and their wives. But what makes Julius Caesar a tragedy? The Folio sometimes calls it a “tragedy” and sometimes “The Life and death of Julius Caesar.” In fact, a good case can be made that Julius Caesar is a Roman history play. Shakespeare came to it fresh from writing nine plays about English history, and generically Julius Caesar resembles a history play more closely than a tragedy. It consists of a struggle for power. It is open-ended, like all Shakespeare’s history plays, starting in the midst of unexplained action and ending inconclusively. This is the form for secular history that Shakespeare invented in the 1590s.


Auden’s “This Lunar Beauty”: Keats’s Urn and Hardy’s Tess

Clay Daniel, Connotations, Vol. 32: 80-94.


W. H. Auden’s “This Lunar Beauty” (1930) appears as homage to a pure “lunar beauty” that is defined by its sexual innocence and remoteness from the changes wrought by painful mundane experience. However, Auden, even at this time, argued the necessity of vital experience, even if painful and wrong, and often contemptuously dismissed innocence, especially sexual innocence. Auden’s poem can be more readily aligned with these arguments when we recognize its links with John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. According to Auden (“Robert Frost”), Keats, who was an important early influence on Auden, vigorously interrogates the urn’s insistence on an immaculate beauty that excludes the suffering and misery of human experience. In “This Lunar Beauty,” Auden, appearing to praise immaculate and timeless beauty, actually warns us against such fashionings. This critique, I will argue in the last third of the essay, is enabled by his distancing of himself from his speaker, as Keats (Auden believed) had distanced himself from the urn (and, though to a lesser extent, from his speaker). Auden’s speaker thickly echoes Hardy’s Angel Clare, in his fatal and extremely un-Audenesque constructions of pure beauty, pure woman, Tess of the D’Urbervilles.