Philological Quarterly

Abstracts: Volume 87, Numbers 3 & 4 (2008)

"Grendel’s Glof: Beowulf Line 2085 Reconsidered " by Andrew M. Pfrenger

This article examines the odd reference to Grendel’s glof in Beowulf’s account of his Danish adventures. The sudden appearance of a "glove" at Grendel’s side in the retelling is widely regarded as the remnant of a Scandinavian folk motif where large gloves were "the characteristic property of trolls." Despite the critical consensus around this interpretation, a review of the Scandinavian sources shows that gloves are indeed rare finds among the trolls and giants of Old Norse legend. Instead, this essay argues that the term glof is used by the Beowulf-poet in an elaborate metaphor for Grendel’s stomach, which fits nicely into other patterns of imagery in the poem. When read in this way, the glove/belly riddle employed by Beowulf also has significant implications for the larger question about Grendel’s invulnerability to weapons.

"Dum ludis floribus: Language and Text in the Medieval English Lyric" by Seth Lerer

"Beast Allegories in the 1381 Visio Anglie" by David R. Carlson

"Writing Back: Robert Persons and the Early Modern English Catholic Subject" by Ronald Corthell

"Reading Othello’s Skin: Contexts and Pretexts" by Meredith Anne Skura

Arguments about Othello’s racism cite racist texts from the period as precedents. A closer look at the play’s context, however, shows that the play shares nothing with many of these texts, parodies or censors others, and models its protagonist on familiar white European heroes who match Othello more closely but have not been recognized in the arguments.

"The Fiction of Imprudence" by Sean Gaston

While most eighteenth century novels advocated the virtues of prudence, the novel also relied on sustained narratives of imprudence in which the progression of the plot demanded a suspension of foresight. The fiction of imprudence contributes to the changing relation between phronesis, prudentia and providentia. Tracing earlier discourses of prudence and distinguishing the necessity of imprudence from the virtue of imprudence, the article examines the place of the novel in eighteenth-century debates on moral philosophy, religion and economic exchange. Offering readings of Austen, Burney and Goldsmith, the article focuses on the novels of the 1740s and 1750s. While Defoe and Richardson attempt to reconcile or equate prudence and providence, Fielding insists on their respectful separation and recognizes the variety of roles played by both prudence and imprudence. Haywood in turn gestures to the almost Epicurean opportunities in the novel to forget prudence.

"Her failing voice endeavoured, in vain, to articulate: Sense and Disability in the Novels of Elizabeth Inchbald "by Dwight Codr

This article explores the opportunities presented by and complications arising from a joint consideration of disability and sensibility in eighteenth-century British literature. The fiction of Elizabeth Inchbald provides a uniquely important instance of the intersection of these two overlapping discourses. Initially, this article collates available evidence to demonstrate that Inchbald’s speech impediment was not a minor aspect of her early life from which she escaped largely unharmed, but rather an important conditioning experience for her later representation of somatic and emotional experience. Reading her novel A Simple Story (1791) with an eye to Inchbald’s experience of disability reveals the monopoly on somatic experience that sensibility had (and has continued to have in critical treatment of her fiction), while an ensuing analysis of her second and final novel, Nature and Art, show that disability could only emerge as a discrete form of somatic reality in the context of a more radical political environment.

"Un-Gypsying the Gypsies: Arnold’s Wandering Metaphor of Time" by Lance Wilder

Matthew Arnold’s four Gypsy poems have rarely been examined together despite the fact that the evolving use of the Gypsy trope is what makes them of a piece. This essay explores Matthew Arnold’s repeated metaphor in "To a Gipsy Child by the Sea-Shore," "Resignation," "The Scholar Gypsy," and "Thyrsis." Early set in conversation with Wordsworth’s "Intimations" Ode, "Gipsies," and "Tintern Abbey," these poems each employ the Gypsy as a model to overcome, to transcend mutability and mortality. They move from a tentative to an assured answer to the question of time. In each subsequent poem, Arnold re-imagines the Gypsies further into immortality, immune to the ravages both of the times and of time itself, yet that success comes at the cost of stripping the Gypsies of the historical and material reality of their Otherness, thereby making their timelessness increasingly fictive and ineffective. Only by divorcing his Gypsies from history and the nineteenth-century "Gypsy Problem" is Arnold able to imagine a way out of time, but in so doing, he admits the futility of the effort.