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Abstracts 96.2

Katherine R. Norcross, “Counter-Empathy and Elegiac Critique in the Old English Christ and Satan

Scholars have long noted that the Old English poem Christ and Satan applies typically sympathetic elegiac topoi to the devil; however, few have explored what emotional response this is intended to elicit. Using cognitive theories of reader response and philosophical models of medieval empathy and counter-empathy, this article reads Christ and Satan against Old English elegies and depictions of unsympathetic exiles to argue that the poem elicits a complex emotional response that cannot be reduced either to sympathy or antipathy. While the inherent poignancy of elegiac tropes pulls the reader toward sympathy, the poem subverts these tropes by denying that the consolation frequently offered in elegies is in Satan’s case possible or merited by the subject, pushing readers toward a reaction of pleasure at Satan’s suffering. The poet thus stages a Christian critique of Germanic elegy, exposing how dubious subjects could appropriate its aesthetic language and emotionally charged forms for specious ends.

Lisa Lampert-Weissig, “The Time of the Wandering Jew in the Chronica Majora and the De Brailes Hours”

This essay examines the two earliest extant images of the Wandering Jew, both from thirteenth-century England. These images appear in Matthew Paris’s Chronica Majora and the De Brailes Hours. In the Chronica, Jewish immobility seems to represent an imaginative overcoming of Jewish messianism through a fantasy about Christ depriving a Jew of any such temporal control. In the De Brailes Hours, Jewish stasis acts as a foil to the quotidian devotional progress of pious Christians. In both texts, the Wandering Jew speaks to investments in Christian temporal mobility that inform the Christian anti-Jewish tradition. Matthew’s drawing of an aged Wandering Jew and William’s of a “wandering” Jew who is actually rooted in place visually render the idea that the Jews are always out of sync with the flow of Christian time and can, at best, only serve as signs to be interpreted by Christians. This denial of coevalness represents a denial of a shared humanity and thereby of the humanity of the Jews.

Oliver Wort, “Dating William Forrest’s The History of the Patriarch Joseph

William Forrest’s long poem, “The History of the Patriarch Joseph,” survives in three versions in four manuscripts, only one of which is dated (to 11 April 1569). From this one datable manuscript, it is however possible to place the others at least approximately, though there is an unacknowledged disagreement in the available scholarship about this, with some dating the first version of Forrest’s poem to 1545, and others dating it to 1547. Here I outline and comment upon the discrepancy, noting in particular that the poet volunteers a chronology for his own poem that describes its development in three stages, the first version having been finished in 1547, the second in 1569, and the third in 1571. I end this essay by suggesting why an initial terminal date of 1547 may prove important to any future discussion of Forrest’s poem.

Kathleen E. Urda, “Escaping Type: Nonreferential Character and the Narrative Work of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones

While insisting on the greater flexibility of nonreferential characters as crucial to the rise of fictionality in the eighteenth century, Catherine Gallagher admits that the same generality that allows readers to identify with such characters has its own limitations. Though unassociated with actual historical individuals, nonreferential characters still may bear “the burden of their type,” though, she contends, they escape this burden through “the process of individuation.” But how is that escape enabled in novels like those of Henry Fielding, which forego the portrayal of interiority that Gallagher and others identify as essential to individuation? This article offers one answer to that question through the example of the eponymous hero of Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749). I argue that in the narrative’s repeated rehearsal and rejection of the “typical” stories about a bastard that cling to Tom, we see the mechanism through which Fielding gradually frees Tom from his type.

Graham Davidson, “The Intelligible Ode”

Wordsworth’s “Ode,” without the subtitle by which we know it, was initially received with ridicule by his opponents and incomprehension by his friends. However, although it gained popularity―especially among discerning readers―it did so principally on account of its magnificent poetry―or rhetoric, or bombast. The incomprehension remained, moderating into a perception of its failure to reveal any recognizable form of immortality. But that has been judged by simplistic conceptions which Wordsworth repudiated. His idea of immortality depended on a perceived unity of life, a power flowing through us, in which we learn to participate, enabling us to ‘to look through a grave’, in John Smith’s words. The first part of this paper tries to clarify the relation of that idea to Wordsworth’s sense of eternity remembered from his childhood; unwittingly he shared that quality of experience with Thomas Traherne―examined in some detail in part two.