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Abstracts 95.1

Gina Filo, “'Spermatique issue of ripe menstrous boils': Gender Play in Donne’s Secular Lyrics"

Since the 1970s, much Donne scholarship has focused on the apparently overdetermined misogyny exhibited through his texts. While it is true that several of Donne’s poems lend themselves to such a reading, such criticism often overlooks the more complex postures that the poetry displays towards sexuality and gender. This becomes clearer when examining poems that blur the boundaries between and refuse stable conceptions of genders. While it is true that, during the English Renaissance, gender was more overtly acknowledged to be contingent than it is today, the recognition of gender’s mutability was often met with anxiety and the attempt to discursively erect barriers between the sexes; through a reading of several of Donne’s lyrics, I suggest that, far from being anxious about the malleable quality of gender, Donne instead viewed it with intellectual and imaginative delight, and thereby complicate modern critical attempts to fix him as a straightforward misogynist.

Matthew Risling, "Ants, Polyps, and Hanover Rats: Henry Fielding and Popular Science"

This article reconsiders Henry Fielding’s attitude towards science. The eccentric practices of the early Royal Society provided easy material for humorists such as Fielding. However, critics have been too quick in assuming that his frequent satirical jabs indicate deep ideological, and aesthetic, aversions to experimental philosophy. Examining three standalone parodies of the Royal Society, along with key moments in Tom Jones, I argue that Fielding had a much greater appreciation for science than has thus far been recognized. While he mocks certain practices and pretensions of the Royal Society, he evinces a firm grounding in popular science and the conventions of scientific writing. His ambivalent treatment reflects an increasing cultural engagement with science, which was facilitated by England’s expanding periodical market.

John A. Dussinger, "Johnson’s Unacknowledged Debt to Thomas Edwards in the 1765 Edition of Shakespeare"

In the Preface to Shakespeare Johnson attacks Thomas Edwards and Benjamin Heath as William Warburton’s most relentless critics, who are allegedly not even worthy of comparison with the bishop. Yet Johnson’s contemporaries and some modern scholars alike have remarked his unacknowledged debt to these two critics in his 1765 edition. Immediately after Johnson’s edition appeared in 1765 William Kenrick, a learned but libelous journalist, reviewed it at length and demonstrated some of the many lapses in giving credit to Edwards’s commentary. For the revisions of 1773 and 1778, George Steevens even cited Kenrick favorably for some readings and also made a point of including not only Edwards’s relevant commentary from the Canons of Criticism but also new Edwards manuscript material he had acquired in time for the revisions. It was not until the twentieth century that fresh allegations of plagiarism were leveled against the 1765 Shakespeare. This essay reviews the charges presented and concludes that what is unquestionable is a neglect to acknowledge sources properly, and largely because Johnson simply did not have the time or patience to do his homework. Nothing shown by Johnson’s detractors suffices as evidence of deliberate stealing of intellectual property.

Rosalind Powell, "Linnaeus, Analogy, and Taxonomy: Botanical Naming and Categorization in Erasmus Darwin and Charlotte Smith"

This essay considers the challenges of communicating botanical information in scientific and literary texts written between 1735 and 1807. Looking at the systematic botany established by Carl Linnaeus and its representation in Erasmus Darwin’s Loves of the Plants (1789) and Charlotte Smith’s Conversations Introducing Poetry (1804) and Elegiac Sonnets (1784-1800), it argues for the centrality of analogy to reading and learning natural history in this period. Analogy is shown to be central to didactic poetry and to thinking about the specialist perception and replication of plants. The essay explores how two kinds of categorical system, language and plants, are made analogous by Linnaeus, and poets such as Darwin, through figures such as personification and through a more abstract system of classification through designation. Through a consideration of these analogical connections and the perceptual mimesis of plants, evidence is demonstrated for an approach to botanical poetry that is a unique product of Linnaean botany.

M-C. Newbould, "The Rape of the Whisker and Fuzwhiskiana: Regrooming Pope’s Rape of the Lock in Early Nineteenth-Century Cambridge"

Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock has inspired numerous imitations that follow the pattern of parodic reformulation belonging to its own use of the mock-heroic form to apply similar methods, and for similar satirical purposes, to new times and places. Two poetic parodies of 1838—The Rape of the Whisker and Fuzwhiskiana—both appropriated and reshaped the form and content of Pope’s poem to apply to a comparable event as that which inspired The Rape of the Lock. Now, however, a dispute between undergraduate students at Cambridge University—and the mock-tragedy to which it led—offered the squibbing poets who wrote about it an opportunity to reflect satirically on the very different social mores shaping their world, from university drinking-culture to the discourse of male grooming. Both poems show the enduring appeal Pope’s poem exerts to those who similarly seek to expose triviality and more pressing social preoccupations alike to comical scrutiny.