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Abstracts 94.1–2

Seppo Heikkinen, “Re-classicizing Bede? Hrabanus Maurus on Prosody and Meter”

Hrabanus Maurus’s ninth-century Excerptio de arte grammatica Prisciani is a compendium of prosodic rules intended for classroom use as an aid to the scansion and composition of metrical poetry, a hard-learned skill in the Early Middle Ages, when syllable lengths had disappeared from spoken Latin. The work is best understood as a creative synthesis of several Late Antique and Early Medieval grammatical works, mainly those of Donatus and Priscian. In addition, Hrabanus’s presentation of common syllables (syllables that can be interpreted as either long or short) relies heavily on Bede’s eighth-century De arte metrica, and, in many places, quotes it verbatim.

            In his highly polemical De arte metrica, Bede sought to create a standard for purely Christian verse, replacing Vergil and the “pagan” classics with Christian epic poets as a normative model, even in questions of prosody. In Hrabanus’s paraphrase, however, Bede’s strongly pro-Christian sentiment has been moderated to a high degree. Bede’s condemnation of “pagan” prosodic license is presented in a considerable less severe form, and Hrabanus has re-introduced quotations from pre-Christian poets into his presentation, including the verse of Horace, which had enjoyed a renaissance in the Carolingian age. While Hrabanus does not directly challenge Bede’s dichotomy of pagan and Christian verse technique, he has sought to find a compromise between the Bedan norm and the Carolingians’ new-found interest in the classical tradition in order to meet the demands of his audience.


Fabienne L. Michelet, “Hospitality, Hostility, and Peacemaking in Beowulf

Hospitality aims at securing communal harmony against the potential disruptions caused by the arrival of strangers. Arguably the bedrock of social interaction, it testifies to the idea a community has of itself. Yet in practice hospitality is closely related to hostility, as the presence of strangers reveals, tests, and possibly upsets social order. This article focuses on Beowulf and examines hospitality as a public performance entailing the display of overt gestures. Arguing that with its eponymous hero, Beowulf offers an idealized model of behavior whose appeal resides in his ability to establish lasting peace, it contrasts Beowulf’s successful visit to Hrothgar’s court with recurring instances of failed hospitality (as seen in the Finnsburh episode, Heardred’s death, or the marriage between Ingeld and Freawaru).

Greta Smith, “Readership, the Fables of the Elegiac Romulus, and the Morall Fabillis of Robert Henryson”

Evidence in manuscript copies of the medieval fable collection, the elegiac Romulus, indicate that aside from the traditional moral at the end of the fable, there were also moral lessons contained in the middle of fable. The significance of these internal morals can be seen particularly clearly in the work of fifteenth century fabulist, Robert Henryson. Rather than furthering these moral lessons, however, Henryson’s collection departs from the traditions of the genre in ways that are both imaginative and highly critical. Henryson depends on his reader’s knowledge of other fable collections, and uses this assumption of knowledge to teach the reader a new form of understanding the popular genre. Throughout his collection, Henryson works to change his reader’s view of the virtues of moral behavior by forcing them to critique the very genre he is writing in.

Ryan Hackenbracht, “Milton and the Parable of the Talents: Nationalism and the Prelacy Controversy in Revolutionary England”

This article traces the political uses of Milton’s favorite scriptural narrative, the parable of the talents, in his writings during the English Revolution. The parable served as a rhetorical commonplace for Milton, the Smectymnuans, and others advocating reforms in church government, and from the pulpit to the pamphlet, “talents” signified England’s opportunities for religious change. I show how in The Reason of Church-Government, Milton reinvents the parable to describe England’s struggle as an end-time conflict, in which everyone must employ his or her talents before ultimate reckoning with God. Sonnet 19 “When I consider how my light is spent” also examines English identity in light of the Second Coming. I offer a new and non-biographical interpretation, in which England—having run out of “light” and time—is in danger of becoming the parable’s wicked servant. In conclusion, I show how the politicization of the parable is a fresh lens through which to understand Milton’s works, the religious climate of the Revolution, and the complex relationship between poetry and polemic.

Paul Davis, “George Harbin and the Malet Family Manuscript of Rochester”

Andreas K. E. Mueller, “Politics, Politeness, and Panegyrics: Defoe, Addison, and Philips on Blenheim”

This essay offers a comparative reading of Defoe’s, Addison’s and Philips’s poems on the English victory at Blenheim, with a particular focus on the way in which the three poets adhered to established critical definitions of politeness. In the process, the discussion suggests that Defoe’s A Hymn to Victory is an important early contribution to the mass of Blenheim panegyrics, since it represents an ideological and aesthetic middle ground between the two poles represented by the Whiggish The Campaign and the Tory-inflected Bleinheim.

Peter Knox-Shaw, The Dry Salvages: T. S. Eliot in Wordsworthian Waters”

Since Wordsworth was seen by T. S. Eliot both as a fellow revolutionary and as a cultural adversary, he supplies a particularly rich illustration of Eliot’s contention that the significance of a poem depends on an appreciation of its relation to the great poetry of the past. The Dry Salvages is the poem through which Eliot engages most fully with Romanticism, and it represents, as has long been recognized, his closest approach to the loco-descriptive poem of that movement. Comparison of the many specific motifs that the poem shares with The Prelude allows for a close textured account of the immediate poetic implications of the two writers’ diverging views on the role of the poet, on primitivism, on the rival metaphysics of immanence and transcendence, and on the relative importance of individual and collective identity. The two poems abound in passages sufficiently affined to reveal the differing aims and achievements of each.

 John S. Bak, “‘Stranger in Yellow Gloves’ by Thomas Lanier [Tennessee] Williams III”

While an undergraduate at Iowa in the fall of 1937, Thomas Lanier [Tennessee] Williams III authored “Stranger in Yellow Gloves,” a prose poem about a young man’s obsession with another man’s wife-to-be. Wavering between heterosexual erotics and social criticism, the poem turns from being a troubled paean to heterosexuality into a romantic denunciation of ostentatious wealth, a theme that preoccupied the writer throughout his life. Ostensibly a fictive piece influenced by real life events – here, his first and last heterosexual encounter with the young coed Elizabeth Mary “Bette” Rietz, whom he calls “Sally” in the Memoirs – “Stranger in Yellow Gloves” is an example of Williams on the cusp of a divided self that, within a year, would sacrifice the heterosexual Tom to save the gay Tennessee.