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Abstracts 101.1-2

Omar Khalaf, “An Epitome of Earl Rivers’s Dicts and Sayings of the Philosophers in New York, Columbia University Library, MS Plimpton 259”

In 1477 William Caxton published the first edition of Earl Rivers’s Dicts and Sayings of the Philosophers, one of the several translations of Guillaume de Tignonville’s Ditz Moraulx des Philosophes that were produced in England in the second half of the fifteenth century. Two more editions by Caxton followed shortly after (ca. 1480 and 1489) together with several manuscript copies, most of which, unfortunately, have not yet received scholarly attention. One of them is extant in New York, Columbia University Library, MS Plimpton 259. A remarkably abridged version of Caxton’s first edition, this version is included in a miscellany of secular and religious works produced for Robert Gottes, a Norfolk gentleman. The article proposes a study and an edition of the text, followed by a commentary.


Jason Peters, “The Trouble with Authority in Skelton’s Replycacion

While critics have always known that Skelton’s Replycacion was written as part of an official attack on two heretics—Thomas Bilney and Thomas Arthur—there has been a tendency to subordinate that attack to Skelton’s own, ongoing pursuit of poetic authority, or, as Jane Griffiths puts it, to his concern with the poet’s “liberty to speak.” Focusing on Bilney and Arthur changes the rhetorical signifance of Skelton’s claim to be divinely inspired in the poem. This paper argues that Bilney’s turn to an individual conscience no longer bound by the church creates a significant problem for Skelton: he and the ecclesiastical authorities he represents can claim to represent the church, state, or whatever institutionalized tradition they want, but those claims hold little or no power over the heretic’s conscience. This leaves Skelton with few options. If Bilney won’t listen to the arguments of the theologians, Skelton needs to find some other, new source of authority. Whether Skelton thinks in quite these terms hardly matters; the point is that he wants to defeat the heretics and so ends up repeating their logic.


Joshua R. Held, “Epic Messengers in Homer, Virgil, and Milton: Repetition and Gender in Paradise Lost

John Milton’s Paradise Lost engages dexterously with previous epics, especially those of Homer and Virgil. In the conventional epic scene of a descent from heaven, a deity gives commands to a heavenly messenger who then conveys them to an earthly audience. Beginning with Homer, this essay shows how later poets—and particularly Milton—harness the resonances of repetition within these command speeches in order to highlight variant approaches to obedience. In Paradise Lost, both Eve and Adam recast the words of God’s messenger Raphael in the separation scene of book 9, creating an implicit, triangulated dialogue with this angel instead of merely a two-sided debate. Whereas critics often apportion blame in the debate and the fall based on gender roles, I argue that this is not a zero-sum game: Adam and Eve mutually animadvert Raphael’s instructions and then, unlike analogues in classical epic, together disobey the messenger’s instructions.


Marlin E. Blaine, “‘Juno Thunders with the Tongue’: A Misogynistic Latin Epigram Attributed to Dryden and Its Afterlives”

Hilton Kelliher’s suggestion that John Dryden may have been the author of a satiric Latin epigram on Juno, depicted as a scolding wife, has been met with caution by scholars. A hitherto unnoticed attribution of these verses to Dryden in The British Apollo bolsters Kelliher’s suggestion and reinforces his inferences about the occasion of the poem’s composition, as do the circumstances of an anonymous printing of the piece in an anthology of Latin verse called Examen poeticum duplex (1698). The Latin epigram in question enjoyed an afterlife of more than a century in translations, paraphrases, and imitations that appeared in poetic miscellanies and other publications. Its appeal and spread in the vernacular can be traced to its rhetorically efficient encapsulation of misogynistic views of women’s speech, its resonance with other similarly stereotyped patterns of representation, and the prestige granted by its Latin origins.


Robert Brown, “‘The Opulent Treasury of Sylvanus Urban’: A Latin Epigram Attributed to Samuel Johnson”

The epigram In Locupletissimum ornatissimumque SYL. URB. Thesaurum (On the most opulent and ornate treasury of Sylvanus Urban), signed by “Rusticus,” which appears after the title-page in volume 6 of the Gentleman’s Magazine (1736), was attributed to Samuel Johnson by John Nichols in 1821. This article disputes the attribution on two main grounds: (i) A contribution by Rusticus follows Johnson’s ode Ad Urbanum (GM, vol. 8, 1738, 156) which, according to Boswell, was his first contribution to the Gentleman’s Magazine. (ii) This Rusticus can be linked to the Rusticus who was a regular contributor to the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1735–36 (vols. 5–6). At least twenty of the twenty-five poems signed by Rusticus in 1735–36 (excluding In Locupletissimum) can be shown to be by the same author, and a case can be made for his having composed them all. The combination of these points makes it highly probable that he was also the author of In Locupletissimum, and that Johnson’s ode Ad Urbanum was influenced by his epigram.


Thomas C. Sawyer, “Poetics of Purgation in Seamus Heaney’s ‘Station Island’ Sequence”

Seamus Heaney’s “Station Island” sequence records the poet’s experience of a three-day penitential pilgrimage to the shrine at Lough Derg, long associated in literature with Purgatory. Caught between private confession and public examination, through “Station Island” Heaney confronts the inheritances and insufficiencies of his own poetic fashioning in dialogue with a series of imagined ghostly interlocutors. In its setting and in its contents, the sequence occupies a place of intersection between this world and the next, where the living meet the dead. Critical accounts often understand the authoritative voice of James Joyce, the ghostly speaker ventriloquized by Heaney in the final section of the sequence, to provide a primary solution to difficult problems of cultural representation raised by Station Island and so to inform a major shift in Heaney’s œuvre. In contrast, this essay argues that “Station Island” develops a poetic ideal which recognizes and incorporates the ethical accusations Heaney’s ghosts level at him without accepting any final imperative to aesthetic detachment or liberation from the world’s traumas in poetic fashioning. Particularly in sections 8 and 9, “Station Island” purges any poetic stance that would take the severing of social and religious ties as necessary grounds for poetic fashioning. Rather visionary than revisionary, the sequence acts as an enduring juridical and confessional ars poetica, in which poetry is not for the poet but for the communities he inhabits, their living and their dead.


Book Reviews by William Rhodes, Ted McCormick, and Nicholas O. Pagan