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Abstracts 95.2 Spring 2016

The Readers of the

Krista A. Murchison, "Manuel des péchés Revisited"

Written on the cusp of a wave of vernacular pastoral literature, William of Waddington’s Manuel des péchés (c. 1250-1260) stands as a valuable witness to the impact of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 on religious education. This article takes up the question of who read Waddington’s text by exploring all available information about those who owned or commissioned copies in the medieval period. The evidence offers additional support for the text’s notable Yorkshire connections and suggests that, while scholars tend to emphasize the text’s clerical audiences, lay ones were nearly as important as clerical for the text’s circulation.

Paul Joseph Zajac, "Containing Petrarch with Pastoral:Spenser’s Allegory of Literary Modes in Faerie Queene VI"

As critics have long recognized, Book VI of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene features some of the most supremely meta-poetic fictions in the entire poem. In particular, critics have explored, on the one hand, the Petrarchan significances of Mirabella and Serena in cantos vii and viii and, on the other, the reemergence of pastoral in cantos ix and x. By charting the continuity between these self-reflexive episodes, I argue that Spenser represents a powerful tension between the Petrarchan and pastoral modes. Through Calidore’s courtship of Pastorella, Spenser exposes Petrarchism’s characteristic violence against self and other, presents pastoral as a means to contain Petrarchan violence, and makes that containment fundamental to his epic conclusion. In an allegory of literary modes, Spenser mitigates the threats of fragmentation that attend upon early modern existence and militates against a Petrarchism that has helped to perpetuate, and not merely express, those threats.

“Marcello Cattaneo, "On Similitudes: Montaigne in Matthew Prior’s Alma and the Late Dialogues of the Dead”

This essay focusses on Matthew Prior’s intellectual debt to Montaigne in Prior’s late works. It argues that Prior’s literary scepticism cannot be considered as an unproblematic ‘inheritance’ of Montaigne’s philosophical position: by concentrating on the issues involved in the acts of ‘borrowing’ (Montaigne’s ‘emprunt’) passages from earlier authors, I contend that Prior applies to Montaigne (from whose Essais he plentifully borrows) the problems that Montaigne had applied to his eclectic sources of exempla and sententiae. Thus Prior builds, between himself and Montaigne, a similitude which is intrinsically impossible (no knowledge is achievable through association of similar traits for a sceptic). But it is this dialectic of impossible similitude that dictates the literary and philosophical resources of Prior’s pieces.

Roger Lund, “An Alembick of Innuendos”:Satire, Libel, and The Craftsman"

Eighteenth-century satirists maintained that because there was a distinction between legitimate satire and libel, satire should be immune to prosecution. But in response to the political satire on members of government in the early years of the eighteenth century, the courts responded to the satirists’ reliance on irony and indirection by seeking to redefine  the presence of irony as a “certain sign” of libelous intent. The effort to criminalize satiric indeterminacy  found a focus in the attempts  to convict The Craftsman for “seditious libel,” legal actions that offer  a case study of the larger effort on the part of the government to establish legal criteria by which all  forms of  satire, allegory, fable and parallel history might be redefined as essentially subversive modes of discourse, and therefore punishable as libel.  

Alex Solomon, "The Novel and the Bowling Green:Toby Shandy’s Diagrammatic Realism"

Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is ostensibly an unsuccessful aesthetic project. It contains, however, the account of a successful one: Uncle Toby’s modelling of the Nine Years’ War and the War of the Spanish Succession on his bowling green. While scholars have traditionally characterized Toby's fascination with siege warfare as a displaced effect of the trauma to his groin, this essay argues that his bowling green sieges can be read formally as well as psychologically. When considered within the context of eighteenth-century diagrammatic illustration, Toby’s bowling green project appears as a counter-model to the unwieldiness of the novel in Sterne’s time. Governed by strict rules of probability that render them uniquely susceptible to diagramming, sieges might be called ideal events for reconciling similitude with intelligibility. Toby Shandy thus emerges as more than a sympathetic foil, but as a master of modern representation.