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.
Daniel Thomières, Connotations, Vol. 29: 77-114.
This essay is an attempt at reconstructing the logic underlying The Confidence-Man by Herman Melville. Its main focus will be on the function of the Cosmopolitan who represents a key dimension which has sadly been very little studied. The novel will be seen as the locus of a philosophical experiment in which Melville tries to determine how far an individual can go in order to be fully free and fulfill his or her inner potential as much as possible. Among the numerous manners of approaching The Confidence-Man, the essay will choose an anti-idealistic tradition going from Heraclitus to Deleuze through Spinoza, Nietzsche and William James and stressing the radically immanent nature of the world in which we live and the problems raised when one wishes to invent a new conception of faith or confidence.
Annotation as an Embedded Textual Practice: Analysing Explanatory Notes in Three Editions of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Lena Linne and Burkhard Niederhoff, Connotations, Vol. 29: 48-76.
The present article has two parts. The first part (sections 2 to 5) compares and reviews the explanatory notes in three recent editions of R. L. Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The editors are Richard Dury (Edizioni C. I. Genova 1993), Katherine Linehan (Norton 2003), and Roger Luckhurst (OUP 2006). The three sets of notes differ considerably in number, length, choice of lemmata, and style. They also differ in the kinds of comment they offer. All three annotators provide problem-solving notes that paraphrase difficult words, trace quotations, or explain topical references. Luckhurst and Dury, however, also write interpretive notes that point out symbols and thematic patterns. While some of these interpretive notes are illuminating, others are distracting or misleading. Interpretive annotation is also questionable because it cannot be carried out in a consistent and exhaustive fashion.
The second part of the article (section 6) underpins our scepticism about interpretive annotation with a more general argument. This argument is based on a distinction between the critical essay on the one hand and annotation on the other. While the critical essay is a response to a literary text and is read independently, reading a note is an embedded activity, subordinate to the reading of the literary text. If reading a literary text may be compared to a journey, consulting a note is like a detour in that journey. Consequently, notes should be reader-oriented and self-effacing. They should provide the necessary information succinctly and clearly, making the reader’s detour in his or her textual journey as brief as possible. Annotators who take this approach will focus on the problem-solving notes and avoid free-wheeling and speculative interpretation.
Matthias Bauer and Angelika Zirker, Connotations, Vol. 29: 34-47.
This article introduces the special issue on “Understanding (Through) Annotations” and addresses the two topics that are fused into one by means of the brackets in its title, namely (1) the understanding of annotations, of what kind they are and how they are attached to texts, and (2) the understanding through or by means of annotations, their specific hermeneutic function. It assumes that the reflection on annotations furthers our insight into methods and functions of close reading, while, at the same time, also considering the functions of annotations in teaching. One of its major claims concerns the relevance of annotations to a text as a whole as well as the passage it immediately refers to. By positing a number of provocative examples and hypotheses it invites the critical debate on all matters related to annotations and their connotations.
Anita Gilman Sherman, Connotations, Vol. 29: 24-33.
What does the literary pilgrim seek when visiting Donne’s funeral monument in Saint Paul’s Cathedral? How do spatial practices affect the traveler’s experience of sites in Donnean memory? A poetics of place that accounts for the attraction of “truth-spots” must consider commercial and political interests as well as aesthetic and sensory factors.
Maria Kark and Dirk Vanderbeke, Connotations, Vol. 29: 1-23.
Empathy is generally understood to be a pro-social emotion and a significant aspect of social intelligence. It allows us to step into another person’s shoes and to share that person’s emotions and perspective; as such, it is closely related to sympathy and compassion. This ability should guide us in our recognition of pro-social, anti-social or even sociopathic behaviour and, as social beings, we should tend to feel drawn towards pro-sociality, altruism and reciprocity and averse to egotism, cruelty, atrocities and anti-sociality in general. This is not always the case. Not only does empathy show some weaknesses, being limited in its scope, endowed with only a short-term memory, and biased towards “us” rather than “them, ” it also has its dark sides and can easily be manipulated and employed for downright dangerous or evil purposes. Among the cognitive features that can be exploited for such ends is a kind of mental inertia, a.k.a. the confirmation bias or myside bias: once we have formed a positive—or negative—opinion about real or fictional persons we are likely to avoid any change of mind and tend to select and evaluate information accordingly. Faber’s science fiction novel Under the Skin is an extreme example of our willingness to ‘forgive and forget’ even the worst atrocities. Our paper explores the literary strategies that influence our responses to the monstrous behaviour of the novel’s extra-terrestrial protagonist, as well as the cognitive mechanisms that may be involved in our momentary acceptance of the inhuman non-human.
Brian Bates, Connotations, Vol. 28: 235-49.
Brian Bates’s response to Stephen Fallon’s and Henry Weinfield’s debate on authorial influence from Shakespeare to Milton and on to Wordsworth (published in Connotations 26) “builds on their respective arguments about the beginning of Book I (Fallon) and Book V (Weinfield) of The Prelude (c. 1804-1805) and involves a form not discussed in their articles: Wordsworth’s blank verse sonnets. [Bates aims] to spotlight how central blank verse sonnet making was for Wordsworth’s thinking and development as an epic poet.”
David V. Urban, Connotations, Vol. 28: 192-234.
This essay discusses C. S. Lewis’s influential and controversial chapter, within A Preface to “Paradise Lost” (1942), on Milton’s Satan. Lewis’s chapter presents itself as a response to what Lewis sees as the dominant Romantic understanding of Milton’s Satan, but Lewis oversimplifies the critical landscape both by misrepresenting Shelley’s discussion of Satan and by failing to acknowledge various post-Shelley challenges to Milton’s Satan that had appeared before Lewis’s book. Lewis’s chapter elicited various sustained critical responses in the ensuing decade. This essay analyzes those responses—most of which seek to refute Lewis’s presentation of Satan by reasserting a Romantic understanding of Satan, although one Lewis sympathizer actually sees similarities between Lewis and Shelley. Various critics object to Lewis’s mockery of Satan, which is perceived as unfair or even unchristian. The essay addresses Lewis’s neglect of Coleridge’s criticism of Satan, which resembles Lewis’s own, as well as the environment in which A Preface was written.
Frank J. Kearful, Connotations, Vol. 28: 163-91.
The article analyzes four villanelles from what has been called the Golden Age of the villanelle during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s: Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night,” Theodore Roethke’s “The Waking,” James Merrill’s “The World and the Child,” and Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.” Their “self-imposed fetters” they owe to themselves but also the 2017 Connotations symposium on self-imposed fetters in literary texts. The article highlights how the four villanelles use their set form to address fears through their uses of antithesis, paradox, prosody, syntax, and a pivotal turn in the quatrain. The form itself is viewed in literary historical and cultural historical contexts. What one might call a “silver age” of the villanelle, in which we are still living, often ironically exploits the comic and parodic possibilities of the form. By way of an example, the article closes with “One Fart” by Anita Gallers.
Venus Bargouth, Connotations, Vol. 28: 141-62.
This essay offers a historicized reading of William Wordsworth’s “The Baker’s Cart,” a fragment written between late 1796 and early 1797 at a time of rising bread prices but never titled or published by the poet himself. Pointing out the connections of this poem with Wordsworth’s earlier and later works, especially Salisbury Plain and The Ruined Cottage, I argue that the socio-economic plight of the unnamed protagonist reflects the predicament of the rural poor in late eighteenth-century England. This essay shows that “The Baker’s Cart” combines the poet’s early interest in social and political protest with his concern for human experience. In its rendering of suffering, the poem foreshadows Wordsworth’s preoccupation with the physical and the psychological aspects of the struggles of the poor that would characterize his works. Although “The Baker’s Cart” manifests some of the characteristics of contemporary protest poetry, its turn inward to discover the disintegration of the human mind caused by unrelieved suffering signals a departure from this genre. Wordsworth’s psychological analysis of the anonymous woman’s mental disposition captures an instance of mental disorder in a way that complements scientific psychiatry. As her mental disturbance results from social injustice, its representation is aligned with Wordsworth’s social criticism. This essay also examines the influence of the concept of sympathy on the composition of “The Baker’s Cart,” which exhibits the sentimental humanitarianism of the popular poetry of the 1790s. After the poet’s disappointment with Godwinian rationalism, he returns to the valorisation of emotions and incorporates sympathy into his aesthetic and ethical theories. In “The Baker’s Cart,” he induces his readers to sympathize with the protagonist and hence act on behalf of people like her.
Jason A. Kerr, Connotations, Vol. 28: 128-40.
In his reply to Filippo Falcone’s article on questions concerning Milton’s authorship of De Doctrina Christiana, Jason A. Kerr approaches the argument from a historical perspective: “is the manuscript Miltonic in its material provenance?”