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Abstracts: Volume 93, Number 4 (2014)

Abstracts 93.4

Brian O’Camb, “Exeter Maxims, The Order of the World, and the Exeter Book of Old English Poetry”

The Exeter Book of Old English Poetry is sometimes read as an anthology with no obvious purpose other than an archival one. This essay compares the vocabulary, rhetoric, and imagery of Exeter Maxims and The Order of the World with devotional prayers and psalm translations in Old English verse. In the process, it suggests the Exeter Book was designed to inculcate readers in a monastic ideology conducive to liturgical discipline and the internalization of devotional literature. Engaging with scholarship on the intellectual development of poetic craft in Anglo-Saxon England, I show how visual-verbal collocations and thematic repetitions embedded throughout this important manuscript articulate a “monastic poetics” that stimulates vernacular audiences toward visionary experiences.

Jonathan Stavsky, “Hoccleve’s Take on Chaucer and Christine de Pizan: Gender, Authorship, and Intertextuality in the Epistre au dieu d’Amours, the Letter of Cupid, and the Series

Thomas Hoccleve made his official literary debut in 1402 with a loose translation of Christine de Pizan’s Epistre au dieu d’Amours. Whereas the French original is concerned with championing the dignity of women and rebuking the men who malign them, the English poet imbues his version with irony and ambiguity, thereby laying claim to what he regards as the sophistication of great authors like Chaucer. In other words, by rendering the Epistre, Hoccleve sought to initiate himself into the self-contained male discourse that, according to Christine, both enables misogyny and divorces language from reality. Nearly twenty years later, he returned to the nexus of authorship and the representation of women in his experimental sequence of poems known as the Series. Though likewise expressing contradictory attitudes, this work acknowledges the hazards of faulty communication and predicates Hoccleve’s convalescence on his ability to perceive women correctly and himself in relation to them.

Nathan Peterson, “A Poor, Hungry Plot”: Lazarillo de Tormes in English Translation and the Episodic Structure of the Picaresque

The English language publication history of La vida del Lazarillo de Tormes, y de sus fortunas y adversidades (1554) disputes theoretical accounts that have regarded the seminal picaresque narrative as the precursor of the modern novel. Until 1908, all extant editions in English ended with one of several continuations, rendering the text more episodic and piecemeal than in its original form. While much Lazarillo scholarship has underscored continuities between the picaresque and the modern novel, this article argues that English-language editions emphasized differences between picaresque narratives and the emergent novel, highlighting dependency and necessity rather than freedom and autonomy. The publication history of Lazarillo contributes to a better understanding of the affiliation between episodic narrative and representations of poverty.

Cordelia Zukerman, "Not Clothes but Brains: Display, Status, and Reading in Ben Jonson's The New Inn"

This essay analyzes Ben Jonson's play The New Inn (1629) alongside the poetry that circulated among Jonson and his literary peers in the wake of the play's failure. It argues that The New Inn’s failure can be analyzed within the context of changing ideas about nobility and status in early modern England. Responding to the play’s failure, Jonson and his peers articulated an antithetical relationship between intelligent judgment and the prominent displays of wealth and status that characterized theater audiences at that time. In the print edition of the play, Jonson declared that the print reader could become his patron, simply through the act of reading -- a suggestion that challenged long-held assumptions that high status and intellectual discernment were linked. In emphasizing the importance of reading well, Jonson articulated a concrete way for people of lower social status to challenge existing structures of authority.

Robert D. Hume, “Garrick in Dublin in 1745-46”

Why did Garrick spend the 1745-46 season in Dublin? (Garrick was disgusted by Lacy’s management at Drury Lane, and he resisted working for Rich at Covent Garden.) Did he serve as co-manager at Smock Alley? (No.) How much did he earn this season? (There is no solid evidence of his earning a reported £600, but that sum is demonstrably possible.) How reliable is anecdotal testimony about this episode? (Most of what Thomas Sheridan says is slanted or actually erroneous; almost all of Mrs. Bellamy’s late-life testimony is lies and nonsense.) Garrick was to spend 1746-47 at Covent Garden, hoping that Lacy’s company would collapse so he could become principal owner and patentee of Drury Lane, but he finally settled for becoming Lacy’s partner, starting in 1747-48.  Whether this was a wise decision may be questioned.  Garrick loathed and despised Lacy – which suggests that Garrick might have been wise to return to Dublin and bide his time.