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Abstracts 96.4

Elizabeth Liendo, “In hir bed al naked”: Nakedness and Male Grief in Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess

This article analyzes the representation of grief in Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess and the text’s anxiety at depicting scenes of intense male bereavement or sorrow. The poem’s three major sections imagine their grief-stricken characters as naked or made naked by Death. This establishes thematic similarity between all three figures and allows the text to elide the experience of grief by substituting it with another, more acceptable form of exposure. While Chaucer’s Alcyone first appears naked when mourning her husband’s disappearance, the poem also characterizes both the Man in Black and the narrator as naked at key moments in the text and obscures the reader from witnessing true sorrow or emotional distress by turning instead toward the metaphor of nakedness. This anxiety within Book of the Duchess takes place within a larger contemporary rejection of scenes of public, male grief, evident from conduct literature, mirrors for princes, and courtier books.


Danila Sokolov, “Love under Law: Rewriting Petrarch’s Canzone 360 in Early Modern England”

Francesco Petrarch’s canzone 360 “Quel antico mio dolce empio signore,” a debate poem in which the speaker initiates a legal suit against Love in the court of Reason, inspired at least two early modern English texts. Thomas Wyatt translated it as “Myne Olde Dere En’mye” around the 1530s, and in the 1590s, a certain J. C. again rewrote the Italian poem as “Lovers Accusation at the Judgment Seat of Reason.” Separated by six decades of juridical, poetic, and societal change, the two English texts register important changes in the patterns English love poetry’s engagement with the discourse of law over the course of the sixteenth century. In both Wyatt and J. C., the conflict between the lover and his personified desire hinges on accusations of failure to honor a legal obligation. However, Wyatt’s “Myne Olde Dere En’mye” presents the relationships between the lover and his adversary as governed by the codes of feudal loyalty, while J. C.’s poem approaches the dispute through the lens of the emerging law of contract, as a friction between promissory intent and inadequate performance.


Kat Lecky, “Milton's Experienced Eve”

This article reframes John Milton’s Eve as the first naturopath by placing Paradise Lost into conversation with popular herbals. These medicinal manuals, which combined empiricism and eschatology to offer a cure for the social ills plaguing Civil War–era England, were marketed toward the distaff healers who formed the backbone of the seventeenth-century medical profession. Milton draws from these works to paint an Edenic pharmacopeia controlled by the first woman, whose botanical experience leads directly to her homeopathic administration of the fruit. In this way, Milton’s epic embeds in the fallen world the seeds of Paradise.


Maximillian Novak, “Did Defoe Write The King of Pirates?

After William Lee ascribed The King of Pirates (1719) to Daniel Defoe in his study of Defoe in 1869, no scholar expressed any doubt about Defoe’s authorship. But in a series ofbooks attacking the makeup of the Defoe Canon, P. N. Furbank and W. R. Owens argued that there was no reason to ascribe this particular work to Defoe. They argued it was too much like Defoe’s Captain Singleton (1720), that it would be unlikely that Defoe would write two works about the pirate Captain Avery, and that it lacked Defoe’s interest in ideas. None of these arguments are capable of standing up under close scrutiny. It seems as if Captain Singleton, written for a different set of publishers, makes a deliberate attempt to avoid accounts of Captain Avery. Whereas Avery was famous for capturing the fleet of ships with the granddaughter of the Great Mogul, with all its sexual overtones, this story is barely mentioned in Captain Singleton. It is given an interesting, novelistic treatment in The King of Pirates. A close examination would suggest that the dozens of scholars who ascribed The King of Pirates to Defoe were correct.


Nicholas A. Joukovsky, “Peacock’s Modest Proposal: The Two Voices of ‘The Four Ages of Poetry’”

Thomas Love Peacock’s enigmatic essay “The Four Ages of Poetry” (1820) is a Swiftian satire with a carefully contrived persona, identifiable as Francis Jeffrey, the influential editor of the Edinburgh Review. Within the discourse of the fictitious author, it is possible to distinguish two voices: the first is that of the Edinburgh reviewer, as caricatured by Peacock, while the second is Peacock’s own satiric voice, subtly modulated to accord with Jeffrey’s. Once we recognize the nature of Peacock’s ventriloquism, his essay can be seen to have a unity of purpose that explains and reconciles all its most outrageous features: the too-neatly-schematic historical theory, the attacks on contemporary poets and poetry, the utilitarian hyperbole of the conclusion, and what has been called its “waggishly provocative and bumptious rhetoric.” Thus, “The Four Ages” is a sort of “Modest Proposal” for the abandonment of poetry, with the Jeffreyan essayist representing much that Peacock despised in the intellectual climate of the early nineteenth century.