Essays in Literature

Articles

Vol. 23, No. 2, Fall

'The Assurance to Write, the Vanity of Expecting to Be Read:' Deception and Reform in Mary Davy's 'The Reform'd Coquet.' (18Th Century English Woman Author)
Since its coinage in mid seventeenth-century France, "coquette" labels a woman who gains power over others by manipulative verbal and body language, a skill referred to as her "art."(1) Etymologically, the word "coquette" comes from "cock," a male animal...
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On the Sublime and Beautiful in Shelley's 'Frankenstein.' (English Woman Author Mary Shelley)
The categories of the sublime and the beautiful were once the subject of heated debate as the dual focus of much eighteenth- and nineteenth-century aesthetic discourse. Their function in Shelley's Frankenstein needs to be translated for our time, a task...
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Emerson's 'Montaigne; or, the Skeptic:' Biography as Autobiography
There is a curious absence in most of the text of Emerson's "Montaigne; or, the Skeptic": that of Montaigne. Of its forty-four paragraphs a total of nine are devoted to the French essayist (paragraphs fifteen to twenty-three). The whole treatment of...
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Poetic Authority and Accountability: What We Expect of Seamus Heaney
I It has been alluded to often enough that Seamus Heaney's reputation was made, at least in the United States, when Robert Lowell hailed him as "the best Irish poet since Yeats." But Lowell's endorsement invites a comparison that Heaney has repeatedly...
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Vol. 23, No. 1, Spring

'The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia,' Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' and the School of Night: An Intertextual Nexus
For at least a century, critics have acknowledged the relevance of specific plot lines, methods of characterization, and literary motifs in The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia (1593) (hereafter CoPA) for Shakespeare's plays beginning with King Lear and...
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From Insufficiency to Imaginary Mastery: The Illusory Resolve of the Miltonic Subject
The libidinal tension that shackles the subject to the constant pursuit of an illusory unity which is always luring him away from himself, is surely related to that agony of dereliction which is Man's particular and tragic destiny. (Lacan SRE 16) The...
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Moving Targets: The Travel Text in 'A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.'
On February 20, 1676, Mary White Rowlandson and three of her children were taken captive at her Lancaster, Massachusetts home during one of the raids of the Native American uprising known as King Philip's War. Her account of that experience, published...
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"Detested Be the Epithet!": Definition, Maxim, and the Language of Social Dicta in Hannah Webster Foster's 'The Coquette.'
There is critical agreement that Hannah Webster Foster's The Coquette chronicles Eliza Wharton's attempts towards self-definition in a republican society where "making" and "remaking" oneself are the masculine purview.(1) This essay studies the language...
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Private Men and Public Women: Social Criticism in Fanny Burney's 'The Wanderer.'
In 1814, two years after Shelley's thrilled discovery that Godwin was alive and selling books on Skinner Street, William Hazlitt and John Wilson Croker made the apparently less agreeable discovery that Godwin's contemporary Fanny Burney was alive and...
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"Monk" Lewis and the Slavery Sublime: The Agon of Romantic Desire in the 'Journal.' (Matthew Lewis's 'Journal of a West India Proprietor, Kept during a Residence in the Island of Jamaica')
Narrative representations of the West Indian slave colonies run a wide gamut of formal modes and genres. Elsewhere in my writing I have identified the appropriation of georgic themes, the use of allegory, and the figuration of bodily economies in texts...
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Parables of Vocation: Frost and Pound in the Villages of (Gingrich's?) America
"It flatters the mob to tell them that their importance is so great that the solace of lonely men, and the lordliest of the arts, was created for their amusement." - Ezra Pound In this essay I try to account, on grounds largely social, for the various...
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Into the Woods with Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry commands attention as a passionate and eloquent defender of sustainable agriculture on a human scale, a morally as well as economically viable farming that implies respect for the land, for family and community, and for the wisdom embodied...
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Vol. 22, No. 2, Fall

'The Book of the Duchess': The Date of Composition Related to Theme of Impracticality
Chaucer's Book of the Duchess has long been considered an elegy for John of Gaunt's wife Blanche, the Duchess of Lancaster. However, its categorization has left many critics uncomfortable. As an elegy, many would agree that it leaves something to be...
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The Adolescent and the Strangest Fellow: Comic and Morally Serious Perspectives in '1 Henry IV.'
The figure of Prince Hal in 1 and 2 Henry IV is notable for the divergent, and often vociferous, reactions it provokes. To Tillyard, for example, the prince is "a man of large powers, Olympian loftiness, and high sophistication, . . . Shakespeare's studied...
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"Betwixt This World and That of Grace": George Herbert's Potential Spaces
In line two of "Affliction (IV)," George Herbert's speaker begs, "Lord hunt me not," apparently addressing a rather aggressive deity. If the word "hunt" is to be taken literally, God is closing in on the speaker. By line three, without even a single...
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Humanitarianism and Uncertainty in 'Arthur Mervyn.'
In the Second Part of Arthur Mervyn (hereafter AM), Mervyn returns to Philadelphia to rescue Clemenza Lodi from Mrs. Villars's house of prostitution. (Clemenza is a young Italian woman whose fortune has been stolen and reputation ruined by Thomas Welbeck,...
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"Playing at Leap-Frog with the Tombstones": The 'Danse Macabre' Motif in Dickens
"The Story of the Goblins who Stole a Sexton" in The Pickwick Papers features the King Goblin conducting his "Christmas games" in a graveyard. Here the King and his buried crew enjoy "playing at leap-frog' with the tombstones" and "bounding over the...
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Meredith's "Readable Marriage": A Polyphony of Texts
Contemporary theories of fiction as well as contemporary practice have caused a reassessment of some nineteenth-century novels which have commonly been judged interesting failures at best, as for instance Charlotte Bronte's "other" novels.(1) The practice...
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Female Innocence as Other in 'The Portrait of a Lady' and 'What Maisie Knew': Reassessing the Feminist Recuperation of Henry James
In A Woman's Place in the Novels of Henry James, Elizabeth Allen suggests that "the attempt to reconcile the contradiction of woman's existence, both as sign and as conscious subject, is central to many of James's major novels" (1). For Allen, in the...
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Pirandello's 'I Giganti Della Montagna' and the Myth of Art
I giganti della montagna (The Mountain Giants, 1937) was unfinished when, on December 10, 1936, Luigi Pirandello died. He had hoped with the play to shape some of his ambiguities and feelings about art into a myth of art. For the play, he had chosen...
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Emptiness and Plenitude in "Bartleby the Scrivener" and 'The Crying of Lot 49.'
Most literary periods are defined by a number of formal, technical, and thematic devices that suggest the distinctiveness of one era in contrast to another. In this way the modern period has been construed through various disruptions in standard techniques,...
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Time in Bellow's 'Seize the Day.'
The ongoing critical study of time and history in Saul Bellow's works has largely neglected Seize the Day, as can be seen in Judie Newman's major study of history in Bellow's works, which mentions Seize the Day only briefly. Accordingly, this study will...
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Vol. 22, No. 1, Spring

The Place of 'Mrs. Veal' in Defoe's Fictions about Women
"The gem of the eighteenth century genre" - this is Rodney Baine's appraisal of Defoe's most famous apparition narrative (Supernatural 91). Clearly readers of Defoe's age felt similarly because "A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal" (1706)...
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Reading the Intertext in Jonathan Swift's 'A Panegyrick on the Dean.'
Jonathan Swift's "excremental vision" (the phrase was first employed by John Middleton Murry in his 1954 biography of the Dean), has been the source of much controversy among critics - especially as that vision manifests itself in a set of poems of the...
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The Textual Architecture of Eliza Haywood's 'Adventures of Eovaai.'
The Adventures of Eovaai, Princess of Ijaveo (1736) is a hybrid novel by the "Great Arbitress of Passion."(1) Political satire, woman's romance, imaginary voyage, oriental fantasy and semi-pornography, Eovaai incorporates a wild blend of genres to accentuate...
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Reading 'Emma' as a Lesson on "Ladyhood": A Study in the Domestic 'Bildungsroman.'
Emma can be a problematic novel for the modern reader - especially for the feminist reader. On the one hand, feminist critics have lauded Jane Austen for her critique of the marriage market and exposition of the problems of female independence in the...
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Romantic Parody and the Ironic Muse in 'Lolita.'
Departing with his step-daughter from the Enchanted Hunters Hotel near the end of the first part of Lolita, Humbert Humbert wonders about the extent of the crime he has just committed: More and more uncomfortable did Humbert feel. It was something...
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Mothering a Female Saint: Susan Warner's Dialogic Role in 'The Wide, Wide World.'
According to Anna Warner, one of the first reviews of her sister's novel praised The Wide, Wide World (hereafter WWW) as a book "capable of doing more good than any other work, other than the Bible" (344). Unfortunately, twentieth-century scholarship...
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H.G. Wells' 'Tono-Bungay' Individualism and Difference
H. G. Wells's Tono-Bungay (hereafter T-B) displays a preoccupation with the Other at every level of text: in its narrative commentary, characterization, plot development, and resolution. In a work that blurs boundaries between the genres of realist...
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Narrative Voice and Point of View in D.H. Lawrence's 'Samson and Delilah.'
Each of us has two selves. First is this body which is vulnerable and never quite within our control. The body with its irrational sympathies and desires and passions, its peculiar direct communication, defying the mind. And second is the conscious ego,...
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Carl Sandburg's Unnatural Relations
Carl Sandburg, Bernard Duffey has remarked, "is something of an institution" (295). Indeed, by the time of his death, Sandburg had reached the level of cultural icon--so much so that a list of his activities and honors tells a story of American cultural...
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Quentin Compson's Scouting Expedition on June 2, 1910
While William Faulkner and Malcolm Cowley were corresponding in 1945 concerning Cowley's plans to publish selected fiction in The Portable Faulkner, the author of the Yoknapatawpha novels and stories agreed that a segment from The Sound and the Fury...
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Writing without a Future: Colonial Nostalgia in V.S. Naipaul's 'A Bend in the River.'
V.S. Naipaul's A Bend in the River (hereafter ABR) clearly is not the kind of book one would want to read just before going to Africa. Its narrative action (in essence, the experiences of Salim, an Indian merchant, in a Zaire-like country in the 1960s...
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Vol. 21, No. 2, Fall

Conceptions of Truth in Fourteenth-Century English Poetry
When savage beliefs or practices inform a work of art, the work is not a puzzle to which those beliefs and practices are the clue. The savage origins are the puzzle; the surviving work of art is the only clue by which we can hope to penetrate the inwardness...
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Logonomic Conflict in Anne Bradstreet's "A Letter to Her Husband."
We know today that Puritan women authors often revealed other stories within the main story of emergent orthodoxy. One story they told concerns the discomfort some of them experienced in contemplating their feelings and identity. This discomfort often...
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The Ambiguity of Sound and Silence: 'The Prelude.' (William Wordsworth Poem)
One striking fact about William Wordsworth's Prelude is the provocative contrast between the eloquent outpouring of sound on the one hand and the earnest expression of the poet's desire for silence on the other. "Yet wherefore speak?" Wordsworth goes...
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Talking through the Grate: Interdict and Mediation in Byron's 'Pilgrimage,' Canto 3
Writing from Ouchy on 17 September 1816, five months after leaving England on the tide of his wife's desertion, and two weeks after dispatching to his publisher the third canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Lord Byron ends a letter to his half-sister...
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Oedipus in the South Seas: The Case of Herman Melville's 'Typee.'
Despite Melville's avowal that the account of his first voyage to the South Seas was the "unvarnished truth," Typee (1846) is in fact an exemplary demonstration not only of Melville's early capacity for poesis, for arranging the incidents of his narrative...
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"Distant Dinners" in Crane's 'Maggie': Representing "The Other Half."
Pete's first words to Maggie are: "Say, Mag, I'm stuck on your shape. It's outa sight" (19). Maggie's response: "She wondered what Pete dined on" (20).(1) These two quotations encode an enormous problem for Stephen Crane's. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets,...
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Joycean Heroes, Joycean Counterparts
At one point in Finnegans Wake, the character Shaun, while being interviewed, adopts the pose of a sanctimonious mailman, simultaneously reciting from the litany of the mass and coaxing his traditional letter-carrier's nemesis, a household dog: Hek...
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'Wide Sargasso Sea' and Jean Rhys's Interrogation of the "Nature Wholly Alien" in 'Jane Eyre.'
In that now famous scene which forms the structural hinge of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte violates the silence and secrecy that shrouded Victorian connubial sexuality by offering her readers a startling glimpse of Bertha Rochester, the mad and morally...
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"Laws That Stand for Other Laws": Anthony Hecht's Dramatic Strategy
Three books released in the past few years - Anthony Hecht's Collected Earlier Poems, his Transparent Man, and a collection of essays on his poetry, The Burdens of Formality - have a striking photograph of Hecht on their dust jackets. He is looking into...
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Vol. 21, No. 1, Spring

Dialectic and Spectacle in the Harrowing of Hell
Roland Barthes's essay on "The World of Wrestling" draws analogically on the ancient theatre to contextualize wrestling as a cultural myth where the grandiloquence of the ancient is preserved and the spectacle of excess is displayed. Barthes's critique,...
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Reading Pseudonyms in Seventeenth-Century English Coterie Literature
The study of pseudonyms is one of the oldest activities of literary historians. In its first stages, "pseudepigrapha" was an important arena of scholarly endeavor because of its goal of establishing the canon of the New Testament through the correct...
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"Impartial Critick" or "Muse's Handmaid": The Politics of Critical Practice in the Early Eighteenth Century
Great Wits as well as little have their Passions, their Piques and Prejudices, when the least Blemish is discovered in their Glory.... John Oldmixon (15) In Soliloquy, or Advice to an Author, first published in 1710, Lord Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley...
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The Context of Blakean Contraries in 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.'
One of the most problematical aspects of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is the term "marriage." How are we to interpret it? In the biblical context of two becoming one flesh,(1) or in the more modem context of two joined in equal harmony? The statement...
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Dread and Desire: "Europe" in Hawthorne's 'The Marble Faun.' (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
James Buzard has argued recently that nineteenth-century travelers in the Old World, frustrated by the society of their mother countries, tried to avoid contact with the "prosaic" domestic aspects of the societies they visited and, instead, directed...
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A Bracing Corrective: Women and Comedy in George Meredith's "Case of General Ople and Lady Camper."
George Meredith (1828-1909), a prolific novelist whose writing spanned from mid-Victorian times to the dawn of the twentieth century, was deeply concerned with the social evolution of humanity. His fiction evokes a vision of this evolution--the development...
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Ford Madox Ford and the Politics of Impressionism
That literary impressionism was one of the most significant and definitive practices of early British literary Modernism is a claim that few students of British Modernism would dispute.[1] But if the claim need not be argued now, it does need to be re-asserted....
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Repression and Counter-Memory in 'Tender Is the Night.'
What we call the beginning is often the end And to make an end is to make a beginning --T S Eliot, Four Quartets It is a commonplace of Scott Fitzgerald criticism that Tender Is the Night (1934, rev. 1951) embodies its author's most comprehensive account...
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Insularity and Self-Enlargement in Raymond Carver's 'Cathedral.'
In "The Compartment," one of Raymond Carver's bleakest stories, a man passes through the French countryside in a train, en route to a rendevous with a son he has not seen for many years. "Now and then," the narrator says of the man, "Meyers saw a farmhouse...
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The Family Romances of John Irving
John Irving's The Hotel New Hampshire (1981) begins with a story- telling father, telling "Father's story" (1). He is the origin of story and the origin of the children who will populate the story, and his word is intimately known: "That was the line...
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Vol. 20, No. 2, Fall

"I Am Arbaces, We All Fellow Subjects": The Political Appeal of Beaumont and Fletcher's 'A King and No King' on the Restoration Stage
Scholars have surveyed the Beaumont and Fletcher canon and related the plays' plots, themes, and dramatic strategies to Elizabethan, Jacobean, Caroline, and Carolean dramatic practices, and recently critics have addressed the psychologically compelling...
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"The Softness of Expression, and the Smoothness of Measure": A Model of Gendered Decorum from Dryden's Criticism
In 1679 Dryden compared Shakespeare's "masculine," "bolder" and "fiery" genius with Fletcher's "more soft and womanish" creativity, employing the hierarchy of genders to recommend his preference for Shakespeare (Essays 1.212). As Dryden fashioned the...
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The Arts of Memory and William Hogarth's Line of Beauty
In a rejected passage of The Analysis of Beauty (1753), William Hogarth describes how "in the beginning" a great part of his time was spent copying coats of arms on silver plate and how he determined not to "continue copying objects but rather [to]...
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Transgressive Daughters in Sarah Orne Jewett's 'Deephaven.'
[The daughter] enters the Oedipus situation as though into a haven. ... Girls remain in it for an indeterminate length of time. Freud, "Femininity" Generally considered merely an embryonic work,...
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Mary Wilkins Freeman's Devious Women, 'Harper's Bazar,' and the Rhetoric of Advertising
Harriet had never told a deliberate falsehood before in her life, but this seemed to her one of the tremendous exigencies of life which justify a lie. She felt desperate. If she could not contrive to deceive him in some way, the man might...
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Robert Frost and the Motives of Poetry
In 1934, Robert Frost's daughter Lesley Frost Francis delivered a lecture on the "New Movement" poetry of the mid-1910s. Apparently at her request Frost wrote her a long letter sketching his own history of the movement and summarizing the aesthetic...
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T.S. Eliot and the New Criticism
Nearly everyone who considers the history of modern literary criticism regards T. S. Eliot as one of the progenitors of the New Criticism. Typically, it will be pointed out that Eliot's theory of impersonality paved the way for the formalism of the...
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A Wordless Balm: Silent Communication in the Novels of May Sarton
This voice itself and not the language spoken. --May Sarton, "A Voice" The characters in May Sarton's many and various novels are typically engaged in two basic recurrent actions, the effort to shape and to understand...
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Vol. 20, No. 1, Spring

Satanic Verses of the Bible: Swallowing Ezekiel's Loathsome Word
I would like to brood over the phenomenon of morally repulsive passages in the Bible, passages where the brutality is not simply a manifestation of xenophobia but a peculiar twist in the conception of God. I have chosen one of the most troublesome...
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Don Juan in Shechem: Rape, Romance, and Reading in Genesis 34
Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the region. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the region, saw her, he seized her and lay with her by force. And his soul was drawn to Dinah...
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Prominent Women, Widows, and Prophets: A Case for Midrashic Intertextuality
Although recent discussions of the Bible as literature have introduced the term "intertextuality" as a theoretical basis for certain kinds of reading, the actual practice of such "inner-biblical exegesis" is actually not new at all. The interplay...
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Spies, Sacrifices and Fringes
At the climax of the spies episode in the Book of Numbers, Yahweh questions Moses in frustration: Yahweh spoke to Moses: Until where will this people scorn me? And until where will they not believe in me, in all the signs that I did in its midst?...
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Spatial Form and Plot Disruption in the Gospel of Matthew
STEPHENSON HUMPHRIES-BROOKS The plot of Matthew(1) is composed of episodes arranged in a sequence that corresponds to what we normally term the "historical." Such a plot comprises temporal and spatial dimensions that remain relatively constant....
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Raiding Jonah: Reading through Object Relations Theory
The ways in which the Jonah story eludes interpretive rationalization index its literariness, a term I take as referring to a verbal construct's resistance of explanatory reformulation. These words and no others yield the resonance. To supplement...
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None but Thine: Joshua 6 and the Ethics of Reading
O God, thy arm was here; And not to us, but to thy arm alone, Ascribe we all! Take it, God, For it is none but thine. King Henry V, Act IV, Scene viii Surveying the wreckage of French forces before him at Agincourt, Henry V could only conclude...
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Following Everything Closely: Narrative Presence in Luke 1-2
The narrator of Luke's Gospel will not be ignored by his reader. The story he has to tell is one of the (now ancient) past, and the world of that story must be recreated for the reader. Luke's narrator is not alone in telling this story; other narrators...
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Daniel's Pesher; a Proto-Midrashic Reading of Genesis 40-41
Dreamers fill the Hebrew Bible. From Jacob's night vision of the angelic ladder bridging the gap between the heavens and his rocky pillow in Genesis 28 to Solomon's oneiric conversations with God in 1 Kings 3, the Bible recounts numerous instances...
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Eco-Ing Mark
And I, on the contrary, find the most joyful delight in unraveling a nice, complicated knot. Literary texts are rather knotty entities displaying formal structures that elicit the cooperation of readers in actualizing meaning. Such free-handed...
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Reading at Cockcrow: Oral Reception and Ritual Experience in Mark's Passion Narrative
Someone speaks, someone speaks to me in the text, someone addresses himself or herself to me, a voice, which is of course an instance of the text, but which tells me, like the voice to which Augustine attributes the origin of his conversion, tolle!...
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Vol. 19, No. 2, Fall

Gascoigne's 'Master F.J.' as a Renaissance Proto-Novel: The Birth of the Judicious Editor as Narrator
George Gascoigne's short fiction work entitled The Adventures of Master F.J. (1573/74) is perhaps proof that when a tree falls in the forest there is a sound--a reverberation--only if someone is there to hear it fall. In Master F.J. Gascoigne introduced...
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The Double Figure of Elizabeth in 'Love's Labor's Lost.' (Queen Elizabeth I in William Shakespeare's Play)
swears by her "maiden honour, yet as pure / As the unsullied lily" (V. ii. 351-52). Many years later, at the end of his career, Shakespeare's highest praise for his dead Queen took the form of this supreme floral image. "Would I had known no more," Cranmer...
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Sentiment, Authority, and the Female Body in the Novels of Samuel Richardson
There is a long tradition of reading the novels of Samuel Richardson as fictions illustrating and supporting the traditional distinction between the spirit and the body, with the spirit the site of value and the body that of degradation. As always, the...
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George Eliot and the Trauma of Loss
Several of George Eliot's characters suffer repeated, involuntary visions or hallucinations of traumatic events that they experienced earlier. Hetty Sorrel, after leaving her baby in the woods, is haunted by its cries and by the vision of the place she...
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Whitman's Rejection of "Respondez!" (Poet Walt Whitman)
"Sun-Down Poem" (later retitled "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry") and "Poem of the Propositions of Nakedness" (later retitled "Respondez!") both were first printed in the 1856 Leaves of Grass. From that point, their publishing histories widely diverged. "Poem...
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The Proud Penitent: Madame Merle's Quiet Truimph in Henry James's 'The Portrait of a Lady.'
At their last meeting at the convent, after separate visits with Pansy, Madame Merle discloses to Isabel that Ralph was the true source of her inheritance. For Isabel, Madame Merle's revelation is just the latest "in a world illuminated by lurid flashes,"...
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"A Trade, like Anything Else": 'Martin Eden' and the Literary Marketplace
The main thing is that a written text of the sort we care about is originally the result of some immediate contact between author and medium. Thereafter it can be reproduced for the benefit of the world; however much the author demurs at the publicity...
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The Psychological Politics of the American Dream: 'Death of a Salesman' and the Case for an Existential Dialectics
Hayman, Ronald. Arthur Miller. London: Heinemann, 1970. Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. 1927. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper, 1962. Heyen, William. "Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and the American Dream." Bloom,...
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To Caption Absent Bodies: Marilynne Robinson's 'Housekeeping.' (Novel)
Ruth Stone is abandoned by her mother, tended by her grandmother, and given up as hopelessly eccentric by her sister Lucille. When Ruth and her aunt Sylvie escape the concerned citizens of Fingerbone by crossing a bridge at night, the townspeople conclude...
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Peter Handke, Walker Percy, and the End of Modernity
In Real Presences (1989) George Steiner defines the beginning of modernity as the "break of the covenant between word and world" on the one hand (93), and as the disintegration of the "I" on the other hand: "Mallarme's disjunction of language from external...
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Collaboration as Conversation: Literary Cases
There is an assumption I wish to challenge: it is that people sit in garrets and write books on their own. Dale Spender (Man Made Language x) The way we teach and study literature implies that writing is a solitary act. Although numerous examples of...
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