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Abstracts: Volume 90, Number 1 (2011)

"The Virgin Mary and the Perfect Meulequin: Translating a Textile Analogy in Marguerite Porete's Mirror of Simple Souls" by Zan Kocher

In the Middle French Mirror of Simple Souls, the word meulequin refers to a textile headcovering worn by women, where chapter 126 uses it in an analogy for the perfection of the Virgin Mary. This Picard/Walloon regional term corroborates other evidence of the religious treatise's having been written in Hainaut, in the northernmost part of Francophone Europe. I conjecture that the word was part of the original book. As manuscripts of the medieval bestseller circulated, ca. 1300-1530, scribes and translators preserved the term in Middle French, and translated it faithfully as "kerchief" in Middle English, while the reference disappeared from most copies in Latin and Italian. This reconsideration shows how the wording changed over time, and it corrects some twentieth-century mistranslations of the passage as having to do not with a veil or wimple but with a worm.

"Auerbach's Shakespeare" by Seth Lerer

This article analyzes the chapter on Shakespeare, "The Weary Prince," in Erich Auerbach's Mimesis to understand Auerbach's conception of the theatricality of Jewish identity and to explore how Auerbach engages with traditions of Shakespeare performance and criticism centering on the figures of Shylock and Prospero. It argues that Auerbach performs the act of critical reading in the course of this chapter, and that this performance resonates with his own uneasy engagement with theatrical traditions throughout Mimesis. It also attends closely to the edition of Shakespeare that Auerbach used (by St. John Ervine) and to the critical contexts in which that edition was produced. The article uses Auerbach's own words on Leo Spitzer to understand how he associated Spitzer with the performing, stage Jew (Shylock) and located himself as the exiled scholar (Prospero). Finally, the article reflects on the place of Auerbach's work in the context of more recent understandings of character in literature and the idea of the scholarly persona.

"'The Dullissimo Maccaroni': Masculinities in She Stoops to Conquer" by James Evans

When Oliver Goldsmith's protagonist in She Stoops to Conquer, Marlow, discovers that the Hardcastles' house is not an inn, he worries that he will be caricatured as a macaroni. Marlow's anxiety situates him within the discourse about British masculinities in the 1770s, in which the macaroni was a distinctive, negative figure. Goldsmith wrote his character amid widespread representation of this type in print, where caricaturists and authors mocked the macaroni for his dress and manners. Goldsmith juxtaposes Marlow with other male characters, most notably Tony Lumpkin, his rural foil. Through the example of Kate Hardcastle's "refin'd simplicity," Marlow eventually assumes a masculine identity between the urban macaroni and the country bumpkin, as Goldsmith takes a middle way in the larger cultural debate.

"Genre Labels on the Title Pages of English Fiction, 1660-1800" by Leah Orr

What did writers and printers of fiction in the eighteenth century call their work? At what point does the term novel become the dominant name for long works of prose fiction? In this article, I examine the genre labels on the title pages of some 3,000 new works of fiction known to have been printed in the period 1660-1800, including abridgments and new translations of foreign fiction. I argue that the term novel did not become significantly more popular on title pages than other genre labels until the mid 1780s—-much later than critics have assumed. The terms used-—and, to a certain extent, the type of fiction they denote—-appear to depend far more on changing vogues than on the authors' individual artistic decisions. This article concludes by suggesting some further ways in which quantitative research can be used to make interpretive points about eighteenth-century fiction.

"Christina Rossetti's Secrets" by Kevin A. Morrison

How might a focus on Christina Rossetti's poetry recast the relationships among secrets, subjectivity, and gender? This paper argues that one potentially fruitful area of investigation is the role played by the Tractarian doctrine of reserve in communal conceptions of a female self. I begin by considering "The Iniquity of the Fathers upon the Children" as a proto-Foucauldian critique of the secret's role in the disciplinary processes of individuation and subjectification. By juxtaposing "Winter: My Secret" and Tractarian writings on reserve, I proceed to recover an alternative theorization and practice of secrecy, including its communal dimensions. I conclude by arguing that "Goblin Market" further develops the collective dimension of secrecy and reserve in order to hypothesize a communal subjectivity for women of faith. Taken together, these poems offer a way to think about both the subjective importance ascribed to secrecy and the contemporaneous models of religious selfhood and communality.