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Abstracts: Volume 85, Numbers 1 & 2 (2006)

"Hermeneutical Perversion: Ralph of Coggeshall's 'Witch of Rheims'" by Christine M. Neufeld

This article examines a curious digression in Ralph of Coggeshall's account of the preparations made for the Fourth Crusade in the Chronicon Anglicanum, an anecdote about heresy and witchcraft known as "The Witch of Rheims." The drama of institutional efforts to control the reprobate bodies of heretics or women can obscure the degree to which a nexus of textuality and sexuality fragmented the ecclesiastical establishment itself, particularly as the rise of early scholasticism alienated the cloister from the cathedral. "The Witch of Rheims" reveals the ideological link between the integrity of the texts and the integrity or deceptiveness of the body through the author's deployment of the interrelated discourses of virginity and witchcraft. Coggeshall's narrative presents an important moment in anti-heretical discourse that means to police the boundaries of the authentic church practices through the symbolics of the female body.

"Reading the Lies of Poets: The Literal and the Allegorical in Machaut's Fonteinne Amoureuse by Sylvia Huot

"'With many a floryn he the hewes boghte': Ekphrasis and Symbolic Violence in the Knight's Tale" by Robert Epstein

Although ekphrasis has been received conventionally as a semiotic phenomenon, Chaucer's most extensive application of the trope, in the descriptions of the temples in part 3 of the Knight's Tale, is essentially social in its themes: as the representation of representation, ekphrasis allows Chaucer to comment on the economic and political conditions of artistic production. In a meticulous alteration to Boccaccio's Teseida, Chaucer's temples are works of human artifice commissioned by Theseus for political purposes. The temple decorations, revealing a universe of capricious violence, should reasonably undermine Theseus's justification of his rule by analogy to the benevolent order of the universe. Instead, the ironically detached voice of the esthetically sophisticated narrator exposes the functioning of "symbolic violence," not only because the art represents violence, but also because it translates Theseus's political ambitions into the field of artistic production, thereby obscuring and denying its own origins in and extension of violent power.

"Henry Constable and the Question of Catholic Poetics: Affective Piety and Erotic Identification in the Spirituall Sonnettes" by Gary Kuchar

This essay offers further evidence that Henry Constable's Spirituall Sonnettes are stylistically and devotionally distinct from the predominant poetic modes of the late sixteenth-century English Counter-Reformation, particularly as represented by the work of Robert Southwell. While Southwell's poetry is generally written in the complaint mode, Constable opts for unusually eroticized expressions of affective piety. In order to account for the rhetorical structure and devotional character of Constable's use of affective piety, this essay situates the Spirituall Sonnettes in relation to contemporary psychoanalytic accounts of identification and Michel de Certeau's analysis of the rise of mystics in the early modern period.

"The Tempest and the Discontents of Humanism" by Goran Stanivukovic

This article argues that the dominant discourse in The Tempest is not colonialism but humanism, and also a critique of humanist education and government, with Prospero playing both a failed humanist governor and a humanist educator. It also argues for a reading of The Tempest that recovers the play as being about the Old World, not the New World, as post-colonial approaches have done. The essay examines the interplay of the two aspects of humanism: one is humanism in its original meaning as a transmission of knowledge through reading, education, rhetoric (especially memory), and narration; the other is a critique of humanism and its dark side. This dark side of humanism is defined as the discontent with political pragmatism and the abuse of authority brought by the new individualism of the humanist West.

"Revolt in Utica: Reading Cato against Cato" by Richard Terry

Until a few years ago, it was a critical truism that Addison's play Cato existed as a glorification of the personal conduct and political philosophy of its central character. Untidy details such as Cato's stoicism, a doctrine largely discredited in the eighteenth century, tended to be passed over as detracting little from his general admirableness, even as essentially congruent with a sort of liberal Christianity. Furthermore, those parts of the plot not directly addressing the political struggles in which Cato immerses himself, the love scenes, were routinely dismissed as little more than a distraction from what the play is primarily about. This essay challenges this comfortable view of Cato, and shows how a concentration on the play's details can give rise to a much less attractive view of its supposed hero. It also suggests that eighteenth-century audiences and readers may have been more divided over the merits of Cato than is often taken for granted.

"Haywood's Re-Appropriation of the Amatory Heroine in Betsy Thoughtless" by Aleksondra Hultquist

Eliza Haywood's domestic fiction, epitomized by The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless (1751), does not reject the modes of her earlier amatory fiction work (such as her 1724 Fantomina), but instead dialectically incorporates it. By considering both Pamela and Betsy Thoughtless in the context of Haywood's amatory fiction of the 1720s, this paper argues that the struggle to appropriate the narrative of the sexually experienced woman highlights the dialogic complexities of the relationships between amatory and domestic fiction in the mid-eighteenth century. The perseverance of amatory modes of writing in later eighteenth-century domestic novels gestures toward alternate ideological possibilities for female subjectivity through both the exercise of virtue and the exploration of sexual desire.

“Peacock in Love: Reminiscences of Cecilia Jenkins, an Unknown Victorian Novelist” by Nicholas A. Joukovsky

This article begins with an account of the life and work Cecilia Gidoin Jenkins, née Knowles (c.1792-1868), a lifelong friend of Thomas Love Peacock and a hitherto unrecognized Victorian novelist whose work is noteworthy for its critique of the institution of marriage in early nineteenth-century England. It then proceeds to examine Mrs. Jenkins's autobiographical novel Wedlock; or, Yesterday and To-day (1841), in which she relates otherwise unrecorded anecdotes of Shelley and Peacock, quotes the full text of an otherwise unknown love poem that Peacock sent her, and even describes how, one summer day, Peacock proposed to her. Wedlock not only contains the only extensive personal reminiscence we have of Peacock as a young man, but also throws new light on Peacock's relationship with Shelley in 1813-14 as well as his later treatment of their friendship in his "Memoirs of Percy Bysshe Shelley."