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.
Fritz Kemmler, Connotations, Vol. 32: 39-67.
It is well known that many of the moral aspects, concepts, and themes that can be found in Jane Austen’s novels are based on the eighteenth-century tradition of moral instruction, which, in itself, is part of an older, and in many respects Christian, tradition of moral philosophy and spiritual guidance.
In this paper I wish to demonstrate by means of a computer-aided close reading of the novel, supplemented by a comparative approach as well as several interpretative hypotheses, to what extent Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice mirrors, in a secular context, important elements that are characteristic of the Christian tradition of moral instruction and spiritual guidance. It will be seen that the majority of these elements can be traced back to the mediaeval moral paradigm of the Seven Deadly Sins, with the sin of pride usually heading the list. The seven deadly sins—together with their “remedies,” the Seven Virtues—constitute the subject matter of numerous mediaeval handbooks of religious instruction written in Latin and the vernacular for both clerics and laymen. A word list of Jane Austen’s novel will help to identify lexical items that refer to moral concepts. Together with “pride” and “prejudice” these items clearly indicate that Pride and Prejudice is eminently suitable for a critical reading on the basis of the mediaeval moral paradigm of sin and virtue.
"The prismatic hues of memory" (DC 769): Visual Story-Telling and Chromatic Showmanship in Charles Dickens's David Copperfield
Georges Letissier, Connotations, Vol. 32: 17-38.
What if the memory of colour was an integral part of the act of story-telling? David Copperfield, Charles Dickens’s “favourite child,” illustrates the author’s will to hold his control over profuse, errant memories, in order to fashion his semi-fictitious autobiography. Yet what has not been analysed so far is the part played by colours in this mnemonic enterprise carried out through fiction. Indeed, chromatic dynamics partakes of memory work. David Copperfield can become the hero of his own life if, and only if, he succeeds in turning “the ghost of half-formed hopes, the broken shadows of disappointments dimly seen” (734) into a succession of bright, vivid memories, paving the way of his Künstlerroman towards both artistic success and domestic bliss. Even if direct references to colours may be few and far between, they nevertheless feature at crucial moments and are put to many different uses. They are of course given pride of place in David’s phenomenological recreation of his childhood. They are like beacons in his amorous journey, from Dora Spenlow, the “child wife,” with her invariable rose bud of a mouth and blue eyes, to Agnes, the “sister wife,” with her colour-shifting face. Red is polysemic, pointing in turn to Steerforth’s last feat of heroism when, aboard his sinking ship, he sports a singular red cap, to Uriah Heep’s ubiquitous red eyes. Colours accordingly would seem to both serve a contrapuntal function, bringing out the more dramatic episodes, and to propound a graphic analogue to what can hardly find any fitting verbal transcription, such as Heep’s egregious deviousness. In his retrospective novel Dickens uses colours sparingly to catalyse the act of remembering and detach his autodiegetic narrator’s consciousness from the blank of an indistinct past so as to attain the vivid colourfulness of fleeting epiphanic episodes illustrative of the temporary presentness of the past.
Paola Trimarco, Connotations, Vol. 32: 11-16.
This short essay offers a reflection on six-word stories. In response to David Fishelov’s “Parodies of Six-Word Stories: A Comic Literary Metagenre,” this paper aims to complement Fishelov’s study by recontextualizing two of his examples. This reframing of the stories into their original online contexts reveals that they are integral parts of larger discourses. In this light, these stories could be considered posts in a thread, or, in terms of discourse analysis, these are conversational turns. It is argued that as texts within larger texts these examples belong to a digital hybrid genre. By categorising these posts in this way, the analysis is better positioned to address the issue mentioned by Fishelov, namely that many of the six-word stories found in the original study contained some narrative elements but would not be considered stories by most readers.
The Increasing Distance between De Doctrina Christiana and Milton’s Poetry: An Answer to John K. Hale
David V. Urban, Connotations, Vol. 32: 1-10.
In this essay, David V. Urban challenges John K. Hale’s assertion that scholars of Milton ought to confidently address the relationship between De Doctrina Christiana and Milton’s poetry without being concerned by “lingering doubts” regarding Milton’s authorship of the theological treatise. The article also responds to Hale’s charge that Urban’s earlier suggestion that scholars feel free to investigate theological matters in Milton’s later poems without deferring to DDC is an “extreme” position. It recounts various statements by proponents of Milton’s authorship of DDC who are cautious regarding the relationship between the treatise and Milton’s later poetry and who advise against using the treatise as a theological gloss for that poetry, paying particular attention to the recent work of Jason Kerr. The essay also discusses recent challenges to Milton’s authorship of DDC, including stylometric challenges offered by James Clawson and Hugh Wilson, that, Urban contends, should both unsettle the dominant Milton scholarly industry’s comfortable acceptance of Miltonic provenance and also merit, and indeed demand, that industry’s response.
Anny Crunelle-Vanrigh, Connotations, Vol. 31: 160-188.
Critical literature has variously described The Duchess of Malfi as tragedy, tragicomedy, or anti-tragedy. The play actually features two interrelated journeys traceable to conflicting generic backgrounds carefully yoked together. One, shaped by Benjamin’s martyr drama, underlines the Duchess’s determination and resistance. The other is Bosola’s tragic journey as a figure divided between conflicting loyalties, who eventually recognizes the wrongness of his choice and undergoes a moral transformation together with a dramatic conversion from hitman to avenger. Envisaged historically, Webster’s counterpoint of tragedy and Trauerspiel is evidence at once of overall generic readjustments in the period, and of the specific crisis of revenge drama, as detected by Fredson Bowers. As an example of ongoing generic readjustments, Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi reflects the historical moment when drama addresses the social emergence of bourgeois figures and shifts from male, heroic subjects to increasingly female, domestic ones. Responding to the generic crisis of revenge drama, it challenges the system of norms which supports tragic discourse, inviting instead a recognition of the Duchess as the martyr, and her brothers as the tyrants of Trauerspiel.
"That we shall die we know": Historical Fetters and Creative Liberation in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar2)
Angelika Zirker and Susanne Riecker, Connotations, Vol. 31: 133-159.
In his tragedy Julius Caesar, Shakespeare builds largely on the 1579 translation of Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, usually referred to as Parallel Lives. Shakespeare’s rendering of the events around the assassination, however, diverges substantially from his source material. Nor does his tragedy end with the death of Caesar: it is located right in the middle of the play, and more than half of the action follows afterwards, with a focus on Brutus and his suicide. The very fact that the eponymous hero dies halfway through the performance and the focus shifts to one of his murderers, Brutus, suggests that this play has two heroes rather than one. In our paper, we take these reconfigurations as a starting point to reflect on the tension that arises from the collation of historical matter on the one hand and generic restraints of tragedy on the other. The tragedy is a double one, and the double constraint thus reveals itself to be a creative liberation from the fetters presented by history and the main source text: where in the Parallel Lives, Plutarch sets up Julius Caesar in comparison the Alexander the Great, and Brutus in comparison to Dion, we find Julius Caesar and Brutus in the play posited as foils to one another and thus presenting another set of “parallel lives.” In Shakespeare’s play both characters are marked by fatal self-deception, which is underscored by structural parallels throughout the play. By showing the parallel moments of personal choice that lead to historical events, Shakespeare triggers a reflection on historical thruth as well as tragic recognition.
Shelby Judge, Connotations, Vol. 31: 126-132.
This response to the article “Meta-Epic Reflection in Twenty-First-Century Rewritings of Homer, or: The Meta-Epic Novel” takes as its starting point the author’s metageneric interpretation of twenty-first century myth writing, and her use of Fielding in exploring the tragic and heroic motifs in the texts. It goes on to focus primarily on Linne’s interpretation of Haynes’s A Thousand Ships. I gesture towards another route research in this field may take: the adaptation of ancient tragedy, and analysis of multiple feminist responses to a single mythical figure. This response summarises some of the issues that arise in adapting Helen. Helen’s contentious blame and divisive agency have been inextricable parts of her myth since its conception, and it is within this tradition that contemporary adaptations of Helen necessarily operate.
Shenyou Mei, Connotations, Vol. 31: 112-125.
E. M. Forster’s “The Road from Colonus” is a tale about the loss of inspiration. Its allusions to Sophocles’ “Oedipus at Colonus” and, more recently, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” have been well recognized. But no attention has been paid to the relationship between the tale and the author’s life. This essay first studies the extraordinary affinity Forster had for Coleridge because of the former’s belief in the centrality of inspiration, then takes a biographical approach to investigate how the tale is derived from Forster’s personal experiences, particularly his troubled relationship with his mother, who Forster feared would interrupt his writing in the same way the epiphany in his story is interrupted by the protagonist’s youngest daughter.
Francesca Pierini, Connotations, Vol. 31: 100-111.
This short essay constiutes a reflection on meta-generic strategies and practises employed by authors of romance fiction. Conceived as a response to Burkhard Niederhoff’s article published in Connotations, it aims at making literary criticism and romance fiction dialogue with one another by discussing several of the same texts analysed by Niederhoff from the perspective of Romance Studies.
More specifically, this contribution to the debate on metagenre aims at making available some of the concepts developed by scholars of the romance novel to literary scholars. Adopting Pamela Regis’s definition of the happy ending as “betrothal,” the essay sketches a short progression of this trope as heading towards increasingly visible self-reflexive “metageneric” solutions. The outline begins with a discussion of E. M. Forster’s Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905) as a “failed romance” which aims at complementing Niederhoff’s reflections on the novel’s ending in connection to its protagonist’s inner development and maturation. It continues with an examination of E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View (1908) which focuses on “the bitter notes” hidden within its apparently uncontentious happy ending, and it ends by analysing some of the explicit metageneric devices employed in John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969).
Alan Rudrum and Julia Schatz, Connotations, Vol. 31: 85-99.
Jesus’ writing in John 8:2-12 is a silence that has raised scholarly discussion from the very beginnings of the Early Church. Jesus has just forgiven the sins of an adulteress, and wittily dispersed her prosecutors. Then, he “stoop[s] down, and [writes] on the ground” (John 8:8). What did Jesus put down, and to what end? Why is there a double emphasis on the scholarly act, while no other passage in the New Testament even mentions that Jesus is able to write? We propose that the striking gesture serves both the characterisation and authorisation of Jesus. Considering his writing in the light of (1) historical criticism (i.e. Roman criminal law) and (2) theological criticism (i.e. as a demonstration of Jesus’ messianic claim), it will be shown that the act of writing reinforces John’s High Christology: it expresses Jesus’ divine nature, connecting his own literary undertaking to other instances of writing in the Old and New Testament that carry the same connotations of creative power and authority. Without Jesus’ writing, the pericope would be out of place in the chapter; including the mysterious action, however, it prepares readers for the theoretical superstructure that follows immediately after: “For I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me” (John 8:16).