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.
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.
Richard O' Brien, Connotations, Vol. 27: 120-54.
When I started writing plays in iambic pentameter, my self-interrogations inevitably returned to questions of politics, ethics and power. There has undeniably been a historical association between verse drama and elitism. Anthony Easthope sees iambic pentameter as the voice of ‘solid institutional continuity’ — a ‘hegemonic form’ implicitly confirming cultural norms. In Sara Ahmed’s terms, a contemporary verse play by a white, male, middle-class subject risks being solely ‘citational-relational’ to other such plays and subjects. What, then, is my own complicity in choosing these particular formal restrictions? In what ways can my chosen way of writing — structured, metred verse — engage with power without merely endorsing or replicating it?
In this paper, I will argue for how the pentameter form can allow for and facilitate a challenge to such positions. The inherent polyphony of a playscript challenges the singular: although in metrical terms, everyone is speaking the same language, the creation of a shared baseline permits individuality and resistance to stand out more starkly in variation. As such, shared-metre verse worlds have served me as an appropriate canvas to explore shifting tensions between the community and the individual, who might appear as a rebel against unquestioned institutional norms or as a threatening outsider to a self-sustaining system. I argue that by writing characters who follow or subvert metre — who are in or out of line — or who steal lines from others, I can stage conflicts over authority, control, freedom and restraint at the microcosmic level of the line.
Arthur Kinney, Connotations, Vol. 27: 106-19.
Faulkner’s decision to follow the advice of Sherwood Anderson and write about his homeland necessitated examining, recording and preserving the American South with Mississippi, where he was born and bred, as representative. The first work, Flags in the Dust, depicted his own great-grandfather’s family. Race was incidental and superficial in the scene comparing black men to mules, though inferior in temperament, and in the sketchy portrait of Elnora, barely suggestive and never interpreted. This example is extended in The Sound and the Fury where Dilsey seems to play a salvational role but, closely examined, is little more than a stereotype of the beloved mammy. Joe Christmas in Light in August is enigmatic; yet he does not ever know his true bloodline.
Faulkner’s inescapable need to get past white stereotypes is recorded in Quentin Compson’s final self-confrontation. A year later Elwood Higginbottom was the victim of the last ritual lynching in Mississippi–Faulkner did not see it on the outskirts of Oxford in the black section of Four Corners but his nephew did. Forced in his complete picture of Yoknapatawpha-Lafayette counties, Faulkner necessarily kept returning to the portrayal of blacks. It was, in the end, his direct confrontation and inclusion of the Elwood Higganbottom’s lynching that he entered not only the circumstances but the minds of black life. When returning to it in Go Down, Moses he rearranged chronology to make it more distant but not less powerful. This displays most effectively the integrity of his life-long project and prepares for the later and last writings concentrated on civil rights and social justice.
Filippo Falcone, Connotations, Vol. 27: 78-105.
The vast majority of Milton scholars today holds to Milton’s authorship of the seventeenth-century Latin treatise of divinity known as De Doctrina Christiana. This conviction has hardly been shaken since the publication of Campbell, Corns, Hale and Tweedie’s Milton and the Manuscript of De Doctrina Christiana (2007). Campbell, Corns, Hale, and Tweedie’s work can be seen as the climax of a debate on the authorship of the treatise that was first stirred by William B. Hunter’s “The Provenance of the Christian Doctrine” in 1992. The present article identifies elements of discontinuity between Milton’s undisputed corpus and De Doctrina Christiana that raise considerable doubt as to the attribution of the treatise to Milton or its place in Milton’s production and consequent bearing on Milton’s major poems. Such elements are either pointed out here for the first time or presented for the first time in an orderly fashion so as to dispute the majority view.
Daniel Avitzour, Connotations, Vol. 27: 48-77.
The ending of Hemingway’s 1927 story, “Hills Like White Elephants” was interpreted for decades in one way: the female protagonist surrenders to her partner’s wishes that she undergo abortion. Around 1980, new readings of the story’s ending story began to appear. This article proposes a system for classifying the professional readings.
In addition, two groups of ordinary readers were asked to express their opinions. One group of participants was exposed to the professionals’ interpretations and the other was not.
An explanation of these surveys’ results seems to require three subjective criteria for evaluating a reading: simplicity, plausibility and morality. Simplicity concerns the relationship between the text and the fictional world created by the reader. Plausibility has to do with the verisimilitude of the fictional world created by the reader, as judged by the reader’s extra-textual knowledge. Morality is the extent to which the reading renders the story compatible with the reader’s values.