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.



“There’s Something Wrong Somewhere”: Disenfranchisement and Diegesis in David Goodis’s Down There

Robert Lance Snyder, Connotations, Vol. 30: 37-47.


Described by critics as a “poet of the losers” who masterfully portrayed the “economic struggles, in a truly Kafkaesque sense, of the underbelly of America during his time,” noir novelist David Goodis often used postwar Philadelphia as a microcosm of urban blight and disenfranchisement. At the same time his down-and-outers are typically unable to account for their predicaments. A brother of protagonist Eddie Lynn in Down There (1956) voices this bafflement when he says that “there’s something wrong somewhere.” A strong sense of the American Dream’s bankruptcy in the 1950s, coupled with the inability of Goodis’s characters to analyze it, lies behind his reliance on the narratological devices of internal dialogue, silent conversations, and indirect discourse to project the solipsistic repercussions of withdrawal from an alienating, ultimately hostile environment. Though defeated in the end, Goodis’s inner-city denizens are valorized by an attempt to escape from the prison-house of self and act on behalf of another person. Diegesis is central to this author’s exploration of the pervasive sense in Down There that “the sum of everything was a circle […] labeled Zero.” 


The Authorship of De Doctrina Christiana: A Response to David V. Urban1)

John K. Hale, Connotations, Vol. 30: 24-36.


Urban proposes that the doubts about Milton’s authorship of De Doctrina Christiana make it acceptable to ignore the work when one writes about the theology in Milton’s late biblical poems. I reply that: (1) The doubts are being exaggerated. Copious and many-sided evidence supports the attribution to Milton. Stylometry is inconclusive. (2) The work’s style and argumentation show clear continuity from DDC into his other prose works, both Latin and English, and also some poems.(3) Continuities extend, though in more complex ways, even to the late poems. These ways show Milton’s theological thought changing and developing: the relationship depends on topic and interest, as recent research is demonstrating. (4) Thus to forswear the knowledge and use of De Doctrina would not be enabling to Milton studies but impoverishing.


At the Cutting Edge: Touch Images in Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Pit and the Pendulum'2)

Jarkko Toikkanen, Connotations, Vol. 30: 1-23.


The sense of touch, a less studied aspect of “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1842), is peculiar to how Poe’s story is experienced. Along the way, both for the narrator telling his story in retrospect and for the reader responding to his words, there are strange and awful things to be felt—some of which go unseen, others appear in full view. The analysis will focus on the imagined touch perceptions the words mediate, and how they are rhetorically presented as literary images. In this use, the term “literary image” refers to how sensory perceptions and abstract ideas take shape in the form of words, with touch images as the special object of study. Their functioning is compared to other kinds of sensory images they are joined with in Poe’s story.

I hypothesize that some images call for explanation, creating ekphrastic anticipation when they lead the narrator or reader on to a course of interpretation, speculating on ideas and searching for meaning. Some images are only felt, with no particular meaning attached, functioning as hypotypotic cues whose primary effect is to propel the narrative onward, while making the awful milieu tangible. Whereas previous readings have often searched for the meaning of universal themes such as life and death, I focus on how reading PP enables the search. What is specifically compelling about Poe’s story? How does the interaction between perceptions, words, and ideas constitute a distinctive medial dynamic? Sensory studies and affect theory, as well as rhetoric and Burkean aesthetics, will be used as the theoretical framework, to which my three-tier model of mediality designed for the practical criticism of literary and other media texts adds a layer.


Marx’s scholia: Annotations Involving Classical and Renaissance Texts in Capital3)

William E. Engel, Connotations, Vol. 29: 189-219.


My essay looks at the annotations in the first English printing of Karl Marx’s Capital, volume 1 (planned by Marx even as he was finishing the book in German, edited by Friedrich Engels and published in 1886). Much can be learned from tracking Marx’s use of literary texts in his footnotes, a practice that best can be understood in the context of his classical rhetorical training such that his annotations both contribute to and, as a kind of counter discourse, reflect the larger dialectical process carried out in his critique of political philosophy. My paper narrows the aperture on Marx’s wide reading to focus specifically on the rhetorical value he obviously accorded to Homer, Aristotle, Thucydides, Plato, Xenophon, Virgil, Thomas More, Francis Bacon, and Shakespeare.

Even though Marx is not writing a literary text as such, I argue that he is in fact doing a fair amount of literary criticism—all tucked away in his notes, going so far as to quote long passages from key works in the classical tradition and from the English Renaissance that he then annotates. In this regard he is, quite literally, the first Marxist literary critic. Marx was far more well read and literarily oriented than many readers realize, mainly because less attention tends to be paid to what is “below the line” on the printed page. My project brings the bottom-matter to light and explores just how literary Capital actually is. Although this may sound a bit perverse, nonetheless it also is true.


Revisiting the History of the De Doctrina Christiana Authorship Debate and Its Ramifications for Milton Scholarship: A Response to Falcone and Kerr4)

David V. Urban, Connotations, Vol. 29: 156-188.


This essay details the history of the De Doctrina Christiana authorship controversy, suggesting that the debate’s conclusion in favor of Miltonic provenance was declared prematurely. It considers Falcone’s and Kerr’s recent essays in light of the larger controversy and proposes that one consequence of the larger debate should be the liberty for scholars to analyze Milton’s theological presentations in his poetry apart from the specter of DDC.


Annotation as an Embedded Textual Practice: Some Further Comments in Response to Lena Linne and Burkhard Niederhoff

Richard Dury, Connotations, Vol. 29: 142-155.


The present article, in dialogue with Lena Linne and Burkhard Niederhoff’s recent article in Connotations, presents writing explanatory notes as an art, involving a feeling of what is right. In the first part, it discusses some of Linne and Niederhoff’s points about how explanatory notes are read and their advice on composition that derives from this. A modification is suggested to their recommendation that notes should be “as self-effacing as possible” to that they should be simply “self-effacing,” as some element of personality will always emerge. Similarly it is suggested that “as concise as possible” could be modified to “concisely-formulated.” Their comparison of notes to a detour on a journey is a good guide to avoid excessive length and irrelevance, although even a longish note can be read without disturbance if taken at a natural break in the reading. The authors also mention the possibility of notes in the form of extended commentary between annotation and the critical essay, and to their examples another is proposed: the “annotated edition,” inspired by The Annotated Alice of 1960.

The second part takes the examples from Dury (2005) quoted by Linne and Niederhoff to see how, guided by the authors’ comments, these would be rewritten by Dury in 2020. The actions here involve greater concision, removal of interpretation, moving a note to a more relevant point of the text, and provision of additional information to clarify. In the penultimate example, a final interpretative comment in the area of genre conventions is preferred to leaving the reader with a series of comments on ambiguity. In the last example, an accepted difference over interpretation is handled by using modality to present the explanation as not final.


Form and Spiritual Content in the Poetry of George Herbert and Henry Vaughan: A Response to Jonathan Nauman

Robert Wilcher, Connotations, Vol. 29: 129-141.


Jonathan Nauman makes a fine job of demonstrating how Herbert sought to express the operation of divine grace in poetry by integrating meaning and form. I take issue, however, with his argument that Vaughan’s reliance upon imitatio prevented him from sustaining a similarly creative prosody in his own work. He devised original ways of matching form with content not only in simple quatrains and complex stanzas, but also in irregular organic structures that reflected the turbulent spiritual experiences that distinguish his poetry from the calmer narrative art of Herbert.


Milton’s Consistency: An Answer to Jason Kerr

Filippo Falcone, Connotations, Vol. 29: 125-128.


In his “Shifting Perspectives on Law in De Doctrina Christiana: A Response to Filippo Falcone,” Jason Kerr makes a convincing case for De Doctrina Christiana as in itself dynamic and discontinuous as the expression of Milton’s Scripture-related intent and evolving theological thought. In the following answer to Kerr, Falcone argues for that same dynamicity and discontinuitiy as incompatible with the consistency of Milton’s undisputed works.


Hamlet and the Limits of Euphuism: A Response to Frederick Kiefer

Roland Weidle, Connotations, Vol. 29: 115-124.


The response paper challenges Frederick Kiefer’s argument that the euphuistic quality of Hamlet’s “What a piece of work is a man”-speech can be held accountable for its ambiguity. It argues instead that Hamlet’s speech is not as euphuistic as Kiefer claims and that the ambiguity of the speech is less related to its presumed euphuistic nature but rather to Hamlet’s use of irony throughout the play.


The Praise of Cosmopolitanism: The Confidence-Man by Herman Melville

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.