Philological Quarterly

ABSTRACTS for PQ 94.3

Sarah Elliott Novacich, “On Footprints and Poetic Feet”

The idea of “poetic feet,” investigated by medieval writers on the arts of versification and played with by poets, links language at its loftiest to the lowest part of the body. The phrase suggests that poetry, rather than inviting discerning readers to move past the carnal letter and toward a spiritual meaning, endeavors to take on its own flesh. This essay considers how poets’ self-conscious acknowledgement of the prosodic term might relate to incarnational desire and the wish to resurrect figures of poetic inheritance. It also examines how travel narrative, its routes marked out and commemorated by footprints, offers a figure for narrative itself. Looking at a number of prose texts and poetry – accounts of Mandeville’s travels, Dante’s Inferno, and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – the essay considers the meanings wrapped up in the fleshly foot, the footprint, and the poetic foot as they variously intersect, and as they take up the work of narrative first begun by footfall, out of the garden and into a world of language.

Ken Eckert, “The Redemptive Hero and ‘Inconsistencies’ in Havelok the Dane

For over a century Havelok the Dane (c. 1285) scholarship has scrutinized ‘inconsistencies’ such as Grim’s executioner/nurturer switch, Ubbe’s menacing/devoted change, and the sixty sergeants who seemingly become attackers, usually recapitulating the easy conclusion of garbled sources. Two recent readings are potentially more fertile, the interest in MS Laud 108’s hagiographic-romance tropes, and oral-folktale analyses which stress Havelok’s vulnerability and scenic sentimentality. These two approaches may help animate a new poetic conceit where Havelok exerts a redemptive ‘pull’ on other characters via his inherent moral and noble virtue; in effect the kynemark and flame function as dramatic signs betokening character ameliorations already in progress. Tracing in narrative time how others morally improve by proximity to Havelok’s sanctity may help resolve the claimed discrepancies, in addition to illuminating the themes and techniques of the poem.

Joseph Hone, “Pope’s Lost Epic: Alcander, Prince of Rhodes and the Politics of Exile”

This essay examines a lost epic poem by Alexander Pope: Alcander, Prince of Rhodes.Between 1701 and 1703 Pope wrote four-thousand lines of this epic poem, and later shared the manuscript with trusted friends. Yet, upon the advice of Francis Atterbury, Pope burned the only text of Alcander in early 1717. Working from surviving fragments of the text and anecdotes about its content, this essay argues that Pope’s juvenile poem was significantly Jacobite in both content and topical implication, and that Pope burned the manuscript because he feared it might be discovered by the Hanoverian authorities. As such, Alcander demonstrates that Pope was working in a political idiom from the earliest stages of his poetical career.

Peter Collister, “Henry James, the ‘Scenic Idea,’ and ‘Nona Vincent’”

The idea of the scene, and the making of a scene, recurs in both Henry James’s critical and autobiographical writing. The short story, “Nona Vincent,” concerns the professional staging of a play by a young writer inspired by an older woman. This essay considers the scene in its formal, theatrical – as well as its improvisatory – condition, while discussing the staging of a newly-written play, the problems and circumstantial details of dramatic production, the thematics of the play as textual authority, and the unpredictable nature of performance. The story’s comparative silence concerning the play’s content is foreshadowed in the incomplete and perhaps irretrievable scenes of James’s childhood theatricals, but the conditions of its inspiration and the demands of its central role, the exposure of the playwright to his theater public, constitute a parallel, alternative drama.

Erin M. Kingsley, “Birth-Giving, the Body, and the Racialized Other in Jean Rhys’s Voyage in the Dark and Good Morning, Midnight

In Jean Rhys’s Voyage in the Dark (1934) and Good Morning, Midnight (1939), the prevalence of the gestating female body provides an overt correlation between the status of the “othered” outsider figure and the status of the gestating heroine. Both Anna and Sasha, respectively, are at the mercy of their bodies as joint pregnant and colonial women haunting the streets of the metropole. In these two novels, the colonial condition is the condition of pregnancy and of modernism, as all yield changeability, dismantling of self, ostracization, fragmentation, and outsiderness. What is most important to any conception of these novels, I suggest, is a reconsideration of the centrality of the pregnancies both heroines experience. Pregnancy in these novels is a crucial modality of the colonial condition, I claim, and is therefore the prevailing mode of meaning-making for these heroines (and for Rhys) as they attempt to navigate the fragmented modernist landscape.