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Abstracts 96.1

Julianne Sandberg, "Book, Body, and Bread: Reading Aemilia Lanyer’s Eucharist"

In Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, Aemilia Lanyer articulates a subversive female identity using a diverse religious lexicon, but no discourse is more vital to her than that of the Eucharist. By considering the theological particularities of Lanyer’s poetry, I contend that she relies on the Protestant, rather than Catholic, version of this ritual as the structural and theological framework of her book. As both a woman and a writer, she wields the power of the Eucharist as she advocates for the unity of women, de-hierarchizes their relationship to each other, and empowers them as readers of metaphor. Seeing Salve Deus through the lens of the Protestant Eucharist exposes new valences to the themes so readily associated with her work and illustrates how even subversive early modern texts find their nuance and vitality via religious experience. 

Aparna Gollapudi, "Criminal Children in the Eighteenth Century and Daniel Defoe’s Colonel Jack"

The essay explores the relationship between Defoe’s portrayal of Colonel Jack and eighteenth-century discourses of criminal children in England. As contemporary legal treatises, Old Bailey trials, criminal biography, social reform pamphlets and charity school debates suggest, Defoe’s depiction of an underworld of criminal children captures important nuances of the culture’s concerns about the bands of youngsters begging, shoplifting, or picking pockets on the city streets. However, Defoe’s engagement with contemporary discourses about the nature and manifestations of child criminality is complex and often contradictory. On the one hand, he makes his protagonist appealing by sanitizing the young Colonel Jack of some particularly anxiety-triggering aspects of the eighteenth-century criminal street boy. On the other, he includes a downright repulsive model of child criminality in the character of the cruel and incorrigible Captain Jack. Colonel Jack’s construction of criminal children thus strategically straddles contrasting narrative registers suggesting that the figure of the criminal child in eighteenth-century England was a shifting and incoherent entity: oftentimes a source of anxiety, sometimes an object of sympathy—but always a target of adult social control. And it is this aspect of adult control that is crucial to the ideological implications of child criminality as represented by Defoe. His contrasting representations of the boy thief in the figures of Colonel and Captain Jack serve the function of preserving the status quo of relations between adulthood and childhood in which the child is marked by dependence and deference toward adult privilege and authority. Thus, Defoe’s novel, an important contribution to the eighteenth-century discourse about London’s child criminals, suggests that in the period, appropriately subservient childlike behavior is as important as honesty or innate rectitude in the child. 

Daniel Krahn, "Secrets and Selves: Theorizing a 'Grandisonian' Self"

Samuel Richardson helped create the modern self, the heroic individual with a rich vibrant interiority who maintains her internal integrity as she stands against the pressures of an external society. This vision of self emerges from a reading of Richardson that privileges Pamela and Clarissa but ignores Sir Charles Grandison. Grandison limits, polices, and flattens the self in order to fit it into an affective community. This article examines several of Grandison’s many narratives about secrets and secret-sharing in order to theorize a “Grandisonian” self. This “Grandisonian” self is a modification of the heroic “Clarissean” self; while it retains “Clarissean” features, it insists that the self limit its desires, submit to the affective community’s authority, and disclose the secret contents of its heart, in such a way that limitation leads to expansion, submission to freedom, and exposure to protection. 

Thomas J. Joudrey, "The Defects of Perfectionism: Nietzsche, Eliot, and the Irrevocability of Wrong in Middlemarch"

George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871–72) is widely regarded as exemplifying a mode of moral perfectionism, yet this conclusion tacitly convicts the novel of Friedrich Nietzsche’s indictment of her work as an incoherent secularization of the Christian doctrine of redemption. This essay argues, by contrast, that Eliot dramatizes the temptations of perfectionism in three distinct forms—as flawlessness, redemption, and exemplary striving—and rejects the concept in all its guises. Middlemarch limns the insidious ways that perfectionism paralyzes the self in egoism and nurtures the illusion that sin is a debt best expiated by suffering. Discarding hollow idealism, Eliot develops an account of ethical transformation based on responsiveness to irremediable failures. 

Jay Jin, "Problems of Scale in 'Close' and 'Distant' Reading"

While the history of close reading has been the subject of numerous high-profile academic studies in the past four decades, there has been a dearth of research on the adoption, proliferation, and usage of the phrase “close reading” itself. This article presents a more detailed history of the phrase during the mid-twentieth century, and examines the arguments over New Critical reading methods that were rhetorically informed by the “closeness” of “close reading.” The article then uses this history to re-conceptualize the scalar terms that populate current debates between “close reading” (traditional literary analysis) and “distant reading” (subsumed under the loose term of the “digital humanities”). Rather than opposing or reconciling the two along a single scale, often via a micro/macro distinction, I suggest that a synecdoche/metonymy distinction would help us better see and coordinate the different kinds of scales at work in both “close” and “distant” reading.