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.

 

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

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

Abstract

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.


12/09/2023:

A Particular Trust: George Herbert and Epicureanism

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

Abstract

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.


10/31/2023:

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.

Abstract

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.


10/29/2023:

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.

Abstract

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.


10/25/2023:

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

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

Abstract

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.


10/24/2023:

Six-Word Stories as Autonomous Literary Works in Digital Contexts: An Answer to Paola Trimarco

David Fishelov, Connotations, Vol. 32: 68-79.

Abstract

In my answer to Paola Trimarco’s thoughtful response to my essay on parodies of six-word stories, I will take up two important issues raised by her. Trimarco claims that, while many six-word stories published online may have a (minimal) narrative element, they should not be categorized as stories. To address this issue, I point out several meanings associated with the term story and argue that it is useful to adopt a flexible and inclusive approach for its application. To demonstrate the usefulness of an inclusive approach to the definition of a story, I briefly discuss a specific six-word story that, according to Trimarco, should not be categorized as such. The second issue is that of Trimarco’s suggestion to regard six-word stories published online as turns in an ongoing conversation among members of Internet communities, as posts in a dynamic thread of posts and comments, rather than as autonomous literary works. To address this issue, I broaden the perspective and contend that many literary texts, not only online six-word stories, have close relationships with their co-texts (e.g. a sonnet in a volume of sonnets). That online six-word stories may have close relationships with their co-texts (e.g. in the form of comments) should not, however, undermine their status as autonomous literary works, a title that they undoubtedly deserve.


08/04/2023:

“Pride” in Byte and “Prejudice” in Bits: A Medievalist’s Perspective on Jane Austen’s Novel

Fritz Kemmler, Connotations, Vol. 32: 39-67.

Abstract

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.


06/26/2023:

"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.

Abstract

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.


05/10/2023:

Six-Word Narratives and Hybrid Genres in Digital Contexts: A Response to David Fishelov

Paola Trimarco, Connotations, Vol. 32: 11-16.

Abstract

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.


04/12/2023:

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.

Abstract

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.