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.
God’s Mending: Formal and Spiritual Correction in George Herbert’s “Deniall” and Henry Vaughan’s “Disorder and frailty”
Jonathan Nauman, Connotations, Vol. 28: 113-28.
George Herbert’s choice to present his devotional lyrics under a regime of unprecedented and demanding arrangements of rhyme and meter did not elicit general approval from the literary arbiters of his day. However, the formal strategies used in The Temple are successfully deployed to achieve Herbert’s literary and spiritual goals, and they reflect Herbert’s accomplishments as a musician. A careful reading of Herbert’s rhyme-mending strategy in his much-noted lyric “Deniall” shows the poem to effectively communicate, through a difficult and nuanced formal performance, a religious experience of divine alienation followed by reconciliation with God. When one turns attention to Henry Vaughan, one of Herbert’s most talented followers, one finds a different angle of approach toward challenging formal performance. Vaughan retreated from his less difficult and more fashionable classicist versifying in favor of efforts to emulate Herbert’s artistic and devotional accomplishments; and his adoption of Herbert’s stanzaic forms included an emulation of the rhyme-mending scheme of “Deniall” in his own poem “Disorder and frailty.” A reading of Vaughan’s verse shows how Herbert’s and Vaughan’s performances within similarly demanding verse forms differ both in motive and in outcome. Herbert presents the demands and results of poetic form as part of his poetic depiction of human collaboration with the divine, while Vaughan adopts similar formal constraints as an exercise of imitatio, enabling a voice of visionary union between God and the poet.
William Harmon, Connotations, Vol. 28: 112.
Edward Lobb, Connotations, Vol. 28: 95-111.
John Gray (1866-1934) was a fin-de-siècle poet who moved briefly in the Wilde circle and was one of the models for Wilde’s Dorian Gray. Gray cut all ties with Wilde before the debacle and subsequently became a Catholic priest in Edinburgh. In the 1920s and 1930s he wrote poetry quite unlike his ’90s verse and published Park (1932), his only extended work of fiction. This oblique and playful novella is a fantasy in which Mungo Park—not the explorer, but a twentieth-century priest with the same name—wakes up in a future England governed by an aristocratic caste of black priests. The story is in part a coded expression of Gray’s sense of alienation and his views of class, race, and sexuality. Park’s outsider status and incidents in the novella reflect Gray’s various dislocations as someone who had left behind his working-class origins and his involvement in gay life through Wilde’s circle. The treatment of race in Park extends the analysis of class and sexuality and owes something to Gray’s own life; he had two half-African nephews. Elusive and strikingly modern, Park invites us to reconsider conventional ideas about identity and the boundaries between groups.
Heather Dubrow, Connotations, Vol. 28: 85-94.
Revisiting the Aesopic Race in the Late Twentieth Century: New Facets of Speed in Vikram Seth’s “The Hare and The Tortoise”
Bircan Nizamoğlu, Connotations, Vol. 28: 66-84.
Vikram Seth’s “The Hare and The Tortoise” (1991) is a comic rewriting of Aesop’s age-old fable. Seth answers the question of what the dynamics of the footrace would be if it were to be conducted in the late twentieth century, the era of acceleration characterized by fast technologies. In my paper, I claim that the socio-cultural significance of Seth’s “The Hare and The Tortoise” lies in the way it explores how these technologies alter the dynamics of the Aesopic race by offering new models of social relations, as well as a new time-space parameter, and an alternative perception of reality. The poem has a humorously critical tone. Seth juxtaposes two animal protagonists who develop different strategies to win the race, and thus makes the reader reflect upon his/her position vis-à-vis modern “races.” My argument is developed in three steps: first, I examine how Seth develops the Aesopic characters to reveal the modern individual’s relation to technology. Then, I discuss Seth’s take on the Aesopic footrace to analyze the shift from a corporeal to a technological understanding of speed, followed by an exploration of how, in the modern day, speed has the capacity of redefining reality through fast technologies.
Carolin Hahnemann, Connotations, Vol. 28: 43-65.
In her response to Lena Linne and Burkhard Niederhoff’s article on Alice Oswald’s poem “Memorial,” Carolin Hahnemann addresses how a wider understanding of recontextualization in relation to the poem’s similes unlocks new interpretive paths.
Frederick Kiefer, Connotations, Vol. 28: 26-42.
Hamlet’s “What a piece of work is a man” speech has inspired disparate assessments. E. M. W. Tillyard and his followers saw it as a précis of Elizabethan attitudes. These days Shakespeareans see Hamlet’s words as a pose concocted to insulate the prince from those who would ferret out the secret of his transformation. Brian Vickers finds that the speech was not written to glorify anything. He calls it “the most misunderstood speech in Shakespeare.” I suggest that the distinctive style of Hamlet’s euphuistic speech is responsible for the varying responses to his remarks.
Chad Weidner, Rosi Braidotti and Goda Klumbyte, Connotations, Vol. 28: 1-25.
If the Environmental Humanities (EH) matter, an essential concern is whether we can speak of the possibility of a philosopher of literary and ecological identity. This paper discusses the intersection points of the Environmental Humanities to the wider scientific debate. It suggests that the EH are suited to help construct knowledge for sustainable futures. The arrival of the Anthropocene provides opportunities to cross disciplinary boundaries. Ecocriticism investigates the complex and contradictory relationship between humans and the environment in literature. Ideas of citizenship allow space for conversation about civic responsibility and stewardship. Animal studies intervenes deeply across the humanities, which acknowledges the interspecies imaginary. Future techno-scientific developments make us reconsider distinctions between humans, animals, and machines. The concept of the posthuman emphasizes how profound changes will be for all species. Serious questions might best be answered by environmental philosophy, which articulates the impact of the environment on humans. New Materialism explains why matter matters, and has clear implications for the study of the environment. Work in postcolonial and digital media provides a platform to challenge geographic borders as well as reconsider national contexts. Essentially, this paper asserts that the EH is building critical mass, and functions as a lightning rod between the arts and sciences. Such a development has profound consequences for the future of literary studies.
Theresa M. DiPasquale, Connotations, Vol. 27: 167-89.
How does close reading work within particular spaces and places? How does one carry out a close reading within particular historical, economic, and textual circumstances? John Donne’s Latin epitaph, engraved on a plaque above his effigy in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, poses particularly complex challenges. According to a landmark 2001 John Donne Journal article by Richard S. Peterson, the text inscribed on the current plaque—installed in the nineteenth-century—is an inaccurate facsimile of the original plaque installed in late 1632 or early 1633 and destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. Taking into account the epitaph as it appears in the twenty-first-century cathedral and as it appears in seventeenth-century illustrations of the original plaque, this essay explicates both texts in some detail while also confronting issues of material culture raised in the work of Walter Benjamin and borne out in the author’s experience of St. Paul’s. The essay concludes with a blend of close-reading and affective response to the epitaph, to the famous marble statue that stands beneath it, and to Donne’s monument as a whole within its current architectural context.
Judith H. Anderson, Connotations, Vol. 27: 155-66.
My title results from a common advertisement of jobs by literature departments in America, which bear on the validity, or not, of the practice of close reading Donne, surely the poster boy for close reading in past decades. The close reading of literature became ideologically distinguished from cultural studies toward the end of the last century, and as this distinction gained steam, a growing perception of literature identified it, if not simply as close reading, then at least as text-centered, and culture became its putative opposite. The ideological opposition of close reading to culture is puzzling, as is the larger opposition of literature to matter, or rather, to material culture’s conceptualization of itself. Language is the basic building block of human culture, whether as philosophy, as politics, as literature, or as something else, and it clearly has material dimensions, as sound, letter, speech act, social communication, and constructor of institutions. My immediate subject is Donne, or rather the close reading of Donne, a practice that I do not equate with readings isolated from history and culture. I also do not equate the close reading of Donne (or of any other writer) simply with what some call the Old New Criticism—the dominant practice of literary criticism around the middle of the twentieth century.