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.



Forster’s Self-Ironizing in “The Road from Colonus”: A Response to Laura M. White1)

Shenyou Mei, Connotations, Vol. 31: 112-125.


E. M. Forster’s “The Road from Colonus” is a tale about the loss of inspiration. Its allusions to Sophocles’ “Oedipus at Colonus” and, more recently, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” have been well recognized. But no attention has been paid to the relationship between the tale and the author’s life. This essay first studies the extraordinary affinity Forster had for Coleridge because of the former’s belief in the centrality of inspiration, then takes a biographical approach to investigate how the tale is derived from Forster’s personal experiences, particularly his troubled relationship with his mother, who Forster feared would interrupt his writing in the same way the epiphany in his story is interrupted by the protagonist’s youngest daughter.


Romance and Metagenre: A Response to Burkhard Niederhoff

Francesca Pierini, Connotations, Vol. 31: 100-111.


This short essay constiutes a reflection on meta-generic strategies and practises employed by authors of romance fiction. Conceived as a response to Burkhard Niederhoff’s article published in Connotations, it aims at making literary criticism and romance fiction dialogue with one another by discussing several of the same texts analysed by Niederhoff from the perspective of Romance Studies.

More specifically, this contribution to the debate on metagenre aims at making available some of the concepts developed by scholars of the romance novel to literary scholars. Adopting Pamela Regis’s definition of the happy ending as “betrothal,” the essay sketches a short progression of this trope as heading towards increasingly visible self-reflexive “metageneric” solutions. The outline begins with a discussion of E. M. Forster’s Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905) as a “failed romance” which aims at complementing Niederhoff’s reflections on the novel’s ending in connection to its protagonist’s inner development and maturation. It continues with an examination of E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View (1908) which focuses on “the bitter notes” hidden within its apparently uncontentious happy ending, and it ends by analysing some of the explicit metageneric devices employed in John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969).


The Woman Taken in Adultery: A Literary Perspective on Christ’s Writing in John 8:1-12

Alan Rudrum and Julia Schatz, Connotations, Vol. 31: 85-99.


Jesus’ writing in John 8:2-12 is a silence that has raised scholarly discussion from the very beginnings of the Early Church. Jesus has just forgiven the sins of an adulteress, and wittily dispersed her prosecutors. Then, he “stoop[s] down, and [writes] on the ground” (John 8:8). What did Jesus put down, and to what end? Why is there a double emphasis on the scholarly act, while no other passage in the New Testament even mentions that Jesus is able to write? We propose that the striking gesture serves both the characterisation and authorisation of Jesus. Considering his writing in the light of (1) historical criticism (i.e. Roman criminal law) and (2) theological criticism (i.e. as a demonstration of Jesus’ messianic claim), it will be shown that the act of writing reinforces John’s High Christology: it expresses Jesus’ divine nature, connecting his own literary undertaking to other instances of writing in the Old and New Testament that carry the same connotations of creative power and authority. Without Jesus’ writing, the pericope would be out of place in the chapter; including the mysterious action, however, it prepares readers for the theoretical superstructure that follows immediately after: “For I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me” (John 8:16).


Meta-Epic Reflection in Twenty-First-Century Rewritings of Homer, or: The Meta-Epic Novel

Lena Linne, Connotations, Vol. 31: 56-84.


The present article discusses meta-epic reflection in a selection of twenty-first-century novels based on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. It defines instances of “metagenre” and “metageneric texts” as texts which, explicitly or implicitly, reflect upon the nature of another genre or of their own genre; novels which comment on the features of the epic qualify as “meta-epic novels.”

In its main part, the article distinguishes between three modes of meta-epic reflection in the contemporary novel. It briefly discusses Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey: A Father, a Son and an Epic (2017) as an affirmative take on the ancient genre and Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad (2005) as a subversive one. Subsequently, it focusses on Natalie Haynes’s A Thousand Ships(2019) as an ambivalent approach to the epic. In this novel, meta-epic reflection takes centre stage through the character of Calliope, the ancient muse of epic poetry, who advocates a reform of her own genre: dissatisfied with its patriarchal traditions, Calliope calls for a new kind of epic which foregrounds the fates of the female characters. A Thousand Ships, which narrates the tragic stories of the women affected by the Trojan War, adheres to the rules of this new sort of epic. Adapting a term from Henry Fielding, the article reads A Thousand Ships as a “tragic epic poem in prose”–a prose epic for a twenty-first-century readership.


Parodies of Six-Word Stories: A Comic Literary Metagenre2)

David Fishelov, Connotations, Vol. 31: 33-55.


The article discusses parodies of six-word stories and locates them within the broader context of metagenre in general, and humorous metagenre in particular. Parodies of six-word stories offer a playful, ironic perspective on the genre’s form and its most famous example, the story (wrongly) attributed to Hemingway: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” The genre of six-word stories is a newcomer to the repertoire of narrative genres: it emerged in the 1990s and since then has become a fast-growing literary phenomenon with a great number of followers, both readers and writers. After describing the central characteristics of this peculiar mini-genre (e.g. the tip of the iceberg principle, the punch line structure, its poetic-like patterns), I focus on a detailed analysis of selected parodies of the form, and show how examples such as “For sale: this story format. Overused.”; “For sale. BMW. Blinkers never used.” and “Fr sal: Typwritr. In mint cnditin.” present a close imitation of conspicuous aspects of the generic model, in being embodied in its prototypical member, together with a comic, tongue-in-cheek, manipulation of that model. I conclude by arguing that parodies of six-word stories offer further indirect evidence of the diversity and productivity of this peculiar mini-genre.


An Introduction to Metagenre with a Postscript on the Journey from Comedy to Tragedy in E. M. Forster's Where Angels Fear to Tread

Burkhard Niederhoff, Connotations, Vol. 31: 1-32.


The article defines metagenre as a quality or dimension of a literary text: the way the text reflects on the genre it belongs to (which includes a consideration of adjacent or opposed genres). We may distinguish between explicit metagenre, which is relatively infrequent, and implicit metagenre. The latter can be further divided into three types: mise en abyme or genre within genre; transtextual references to prototypical examples of the genre (quotation, allusion, parody, etc.); and conspicuous deviations from or violations of genre conventions. The textual strategies associated with metafiction and other meta-terms are seen as self-undermining and self-repudiating by some theorists. This view, however, does not apply to metagenre, at least not to its most interesting cases, which can best be described as probing and dynamic self-definitions that rely both on affirmations and rejections.

A text of this kind is E. M. Forster’s first novel Where Angels Fear to Tread (which contains both explicit and implicit metagenre). The analysis of this novel is based on Forster’s statement that “the object of the book is the improvement of Philip,” its protagonist. This improvement follows Forster’s imperative to “connect,” which has a psychological and a social dimension. Connecting the fragments of one’s personality means connecting with other people and transcending cultural or political barriers in the process. Philip’s improvement is accompanied by a shift from comedy to tragedy, which echoes the history of the genre (while the novel defined itself in comic terms in the long eighteenth century, it increasingly turned to tragic models in the nineteenth). An interesting problem arises in the final chapters, in which Philip is pushed back into the role of an aesthetic observer, which, as part of his improvement, he has previously abandoned in favour of responsibility and involvement. This problem can be solved, however, if one takes the shift from comedy to tragedy into consideration. In the final chapters, Philip changes from a comic into a tragic observer, which means that he is more sympathetic and involved than he used to be.


A Sentimental Journey: Lost in Translation

Mark Loveridge, Connotations, Vol. 30: 140-172.


This essay argues that Sterne’s pervasive interests in different forms of translation in A Sentimental Journey (1768) result in a text in which fuzzy, occult, and elusive language, calqued translation, wordplay, and suggestion are not merely forms of wit but fundamental to the project. The different resonances that are lent to Sterne’s keywords (sentimental, sensibility, soul, conscience, delicacy, grace, translation itself, and others) allow the dramatization of the curious relationships between the three worlds of humanity: spiritual, linguistic, and physical or material. To John Wesley’s English ear in 1772, the word sentimental is “not English. He may as well say Continental. It is not sense.” Frénais, translating the Journey in 1769, would agree: he says that he has only kept the word because there is no viable alternative. The text is constructed around the most elusive of words. In practice, translation is often occult to the point of perversity. In Calais, having eaten and drunk well, Parson Yorick tipsily rebuts the materialist philosophy of a “physical precieuse,” an imagined French bluestocking, by saying that he is confident that he could “overset her creed.” Creed descends from Latin, through the Italian credenza, to the French crédence: a sideboard. Immaterialism, spirituality, is translated to materials, through translation of a different kind which is endemic in the Journey.


"New Alchimie": Reading John Donne's "Nocturnall" Through Poems by Kimberly Johnson and Alice Fulton

Theresa M. DiPasquale, Connotations, Vol. 30: 113-139.


The study of pre-Enlightenment literature is too often separated from the study of contemporary literature; literary scholars are too often out of touch with their colleagues in creative writing; and mutual disdain divides literary folk from STEM folk. Who better to bridge such gaps than John Donne and those twenty-first-century poets who are, like Donne, inspired by both the humanities and the sciences, analytic dissection and linguistic play? In “A Nocturnall Upon S. Lucies Day,” Donne blends alchemical terms and liturgical language, moving readers but also puzzling them. Those most fruitfully puzzled and moved by Donne’s “Nocturnall” are poets who have taken it as a point of departure for new poems of their own. Kimberly Johnson’s “A Nocturnall Upon Saint Chuck Yeager’s Day” and Alice Fulton’s “A Lightenment On New Year’s Eve” are startlingly original poems and, at the same time, scholarly interpretations of Donne’s piece. In selecting Donne’s “A Nocturnall Upon S. Lucies Day” as the prima materia for their creations, Kimberly Johnson and Alice Fulton reveal the radical ductility of Donne’s poem, its openness to the diverse needs, desires, traumas, and dreams of twenty-first-century readers.


C. S. Lewis’s Complex Relationship with Queer Milton Studies: Indirect Inspiration, Hegemonic Antagonist, and Erased Inconvenient Forerunner3)

David V. Urban, Connotations, Vol. 30: 99-112.


This essay discusses queer Milton scholarship’s various responses to C. S. Lewis’s A Preface to Paradise Lost, beginning with Gregory Bredbeck’s groundbreaking 1991 PMLA article through the 2018 volume Queer Milton and beyond. Although most of these responses portray Lewis as one whose explicit denial of queer angelic behavior in Paradise Lost has served to prevent queer readings of Milton, Lewis can also been seen as one who, by this explicit denial, indirectly brought about queer Milton studies. Attention will be paid to Drew Daniel’s unexpected 2014 portrayal of Lewis’s offering an especially daring queer vision of Paradise Lost, a portrayal that is erased when Daniel’s 2014 essay is revised for the 2018 Queer Milton.


C. S. Lewis and His Later Respondents: Letting in Fresh Air, Preventing Questions, and Reimagining A Preface to Paradise Lost4)

David V. Urban, Connotations, Vol. 30: 67-98.


This essay chronicles significant responses to C. S. Lewis’s A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942) that occurred from the 1960s into the twenty-first century. Important responses include those of William Empson, Stanley Fish, Stuart Curran, John Rumrich, Peter C. Herman, Michael Bryson, and Joseph Wittreich. All of these scholars challenged Lewis on various pointsmost commonly concerning matters of Lewis’s analysis of Milton’s Satan, his alleged oversimplification of Milton’s theologically complex epic, the supposed similarities between A Preface and Fish’s Surprised by Sin, and his assumed hegemonic prevention of new avenues of critical inquiry into Milton’s epic. This essay contends that certain of these critics have misread or misinterpreted Lewis, and it suggests that such portrayals of A Preface obfuscate the insights that it continues to offer readers of Paradise Lost.