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Abstracts: Volume 91, Number 1 (2012)

"Lost Books: Abbess Hildelith and the Literary Culture of Barking Abbey" by Diane Watt

This article explores the literary culture of Barking Abbey under the rule of Abbess Hildelith (fl. 700), successor to the founding abbess of Barking, Æthelburh (fl. 664). In his Ecclesiastical History, Bede mentions a lost liber or book, which evidently recorded visions experienced by the nuns of Barking concerning the death of their founding abbess, and which may well have been written by the nuns themselves. The article explores Bede's appropriation of this lost book in the context of other evidence of a vital textual community at Barking, including Aldhelm's De Virginitate (ca. 675-680), written for Hildelith and her fellow nuns at Barking, and also the correspondence of Boniface (ca. 675-754) which includes a reference to an account by Hildelith of the vision of the Monk of Much Wenlock.

"'Empericks of state': Manuscript Verse and the Impeachment of Francis Bacon" by Tom Lockwood

This article presents new evidence for the meanings and circulation of manuscript verse libels written after the impeachment of Francis Bacon in 1621. It argues that a variant text of a poem written by Bacon's chaplain, William Lewis, preserved in Leeds University Library, Brotherton Collection, MS Lt q 44, offers evidence not only for the increased textual complexity of this one early modern libel, but further evidence for the textual and intellectual culture of Bacon's household. Through a detailed pattern of allusion to The Advancement of Learning, the new manuscript text of Lewis's poem, "When you awake . . . ," takes us closer into the detail of this poetic and political culture, and allows us to locate this kind of writing within early modern (and contemporary critical) debates about the meanings and relationships of the public and the private. This article extends our understanding of the ways in which variant texts address different audiences in manuscript, and the roles played by chaplains, alongside secretaries, scribes and other amanuenses, in early modern textual culture and production. A semi-diplomatic transcription of the new version of Lewis's poem is supplied as an Appendix to the article.

"Hareton Earnshaw and the Shadow of Idiocy: Disability and Domestic Disorder in Wuthering Heights " by Emily M. Baldys

This article examines Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights in light of the proliferation of cultural discourse surrounding the idea of "idiocy" in the 1840s. It argues that Brontë's narrative suggestively deploys characteristics of idiocy in its depiction of Hareton Earnshaw, who comes to embody the narrative's central anxiety about the disordered nature of domestic relations. As the novel progresses the implications of idiocy are revoked, effectively rehabilitating Hareton's character. In this way, the narrative capitalizes on the flexible nature of its representation of disability in order to complete its ideological work, rehabilitating shattered domestic and familial relations via the same trajectory through which it rehabilitates Hareton.

"Tom Maguire: 'An Under-Paid Agitator' in the Late-Victorian Socialist Press" by Elizabeth Carolyn Miller

Although little remembered today, Leeds poet and labor organizer Tom Maguire was a major figure in the late-Victorian socialist movement. While still in his early twenties, Maguire led the tide of New Unionism--the effort to broaden organized labor to include unskilled and semi-skilled workers--that swept Leeds in a number of important strikes from 1889-90. He also published a great deal of poetry, songs, fiction, and journalism in socialist papers such as the Commonweal, the Labour Leader, the Yorkshire Factory Times, and his own paper, the Labour Champion. Like most working-class authors of his day, Maguire's career is virtually invisible outside of the Victorian periodical archive where he published his work. This article recovers Maguire's career against the backdrop of a new socialist imagining of classlessness, where many hoped to see talented new writers of working-class origins emerge as literary leaders for the future.

"Tennessee Williams's 'Serious Comedy': Problems of Genre and Sexuality in (and After) Period of Adjustment " by Alexander Pettit

In Period of Adjustment (1960), Tennessee Williams torpedoes comedy's fantasy of future delight by pairing off four losers in accordance with the genre's mandate of domestic stability but in contradiction to the play's sense of ideality. The threat to comic convention is more pronounced in pre-performance texts than it would be on stage. In the early texts, Williams amplified Ralph Bates's parasexual interplay with both Isabel and George Haverstick, thus presenting proscribed pairings as credible impediments, not alluring obstacles, to closure. Williams pushed more aggressively against comic constraints in Kingdom of Earth (1968), Will Mr. Merriwether Return from Memphis? (1969), and A House Not Meant to Stand (1982), “queer” comedies that own a mode of generic critique about which Williams become anxious as Period of Adjustment moved toward production. But they do so fantastically, without authorizing the dignified homosexual bond that Williams had tried, briefly, to write into his "serious comedy."