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.
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?”
God’s Mending: Formal and Spiritual Correction in George Herbert’s “Deniall” and Henry Vaughan’s “Disorder and frailty”
Jonathan Nauman, Connotations, Vol. 28: 112-27.
George Herbert’s choice to present his devotional lyrics under a regime of unprecedented and demanding arrangements of rhyme and meter did not elicit general approval from the literary arbiters of his day. However, the formal strategies used in The Temple are successfully deployed to achieve Herbert’s literary and spiritual goals, and they reflect Herbert’s accomplishments as a musician. A careful reading of Herbert’s rhyme-mending strategy in his much-noted lyric “Deniall” shows the poem to effectively communicate, through a difficult and nuanced formal performance, a religious experience of divine alienation followed by reconciliation with God. When one turns attention to Henry Vaughan, one of Herbert’s most talented followers, one finds a different angle of approach toward challenging formal performance. Vaughan retreated from his less difficult and more fashionable classicist versifying in favor of efforts to emulate Herbert’s artistic and devotional accomplishments; and his adoption of Herbert’s stanzaic forms included an emulation of the rhyme-mending scheme of “Deniall” in his own poem “Disorder and frailty.” A reading of Vaughan’s verse shows how Herbert’s and Vaughan’s performances within similarly demanding verse forms differ both in motive and in outcome. Herbert presents the demands and results of poetic form as part of his poetic depiction of human collaboration with the divine, while Vaughan adopts similar formal constraints as an exercise of imitatio, enabling a voice of visionary union between God and the poet.
William Harmon, Connotations, Vol. 28: 111.
Edward Lobb, Connotations, Vol. 28: 94-110.
John Gray (1866-1934) was a fin-de-siècle poet who moved briefly in the Wilde circle and was one of the models for Wilde’s Dorian Gray. Gray cut all ties with Wilde before the debacle and subsequently became a Catholic priest in Edinburgh. In the 1920s and 1930s he wrote poetry quite unlike his ’90s verse and published Park (1932), his only extended work of fiction. This oblique and playful novella is a fantasy in which Mungo Park—not the explorer, but a twentieth-century priest with the same name—wakes up in a future England governed by an aristocratic caste of black priests. The story is in part a coded expression of Gray’s sense of alienation and his views of class, race, and sexuality. Park’s outsider status and incidents in the novella reflect Gray’s various dislocations as someone who had left behind his working-class origins and his involvement in gay life through Wilde’s circle. The treatment of race in Park extends the analysis of class and sexuality and owes something to Gray’s own life; he had two half-African nephews. Elusive and strikingly modern, Park invites us to reconsider conventional ideas about identity and the boundaries between groups.
Heather Dubrow, Connotations, Vol. 28: 84-93.