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Showing posts from November, 2013

Monograph Challenge #24: Romantic Things

In capitulation to the obvious fact I am going to fall short of my original target, I'm going to rename this the 'Monograph Challenge', and discreetly drop the '40'! A rather unusual monograph this week, perhaps the most heavily theorised I've read since Tilottama Rajan's Romantic Narrative.

Title: Mary Jacobus, Romantic Things: A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013)

Methodology: Heavily theoretical
Critical Context: Derrida, Nancy, Merleau-Ponty; insofar as she stands against his textualism, Paul de Man
Thesis: The monograph as a whole explores the intersections between materiality and immateriality in lyric, exploring a strange, deconstructive phenomenology grouped arounds tropes of thing, weight, sense, absence and death. (Yes, I am sure this does not necessarily make things clearer!)

In a Nutshell: In a study mostly concentrated on Wordsworth, Jacobus is interested in the way that the experience of matter occurs and - equally fu…

Yearsley, Sensibility, Madness

Nearly finished another monograph (hoping a late burst might drag my total into the respectable 30s, even though the original aim was 40…!) but in the meantime, here's some brief thoughts about Ann Yearsley's 1787 poem, 'Addressed to Sensibility', which we studied this week.

One thing that really struck me is that the first, and indeed, only properly present figure in the poem is the Bedlamite, the 'ill-fated youth' (l.11). Yet, although conspicuously sentimental elements are in place - the tear, the sigh, the melancholy gaze, the clasp - this is a figure of insensibility:
Thy pow'rs are all unhing'd, and thou wouldst sit
Insensible to sympathy: farewell.
Lamented being! ever lost to hope
(ll.18-20) The caesura effected through the colon is brutally stark. The madmen hence represents a strong gesture: in a poem nominally about sensibility, the eighteenth-century cultural privilege of which is intimately connected to feeling with another, here is a momen…

40 Monograph Challenge #23: The Invention of the Countryside

Title: Donna Landry, The Invention of the Countryside: Hunting, Walking and Ecology in English Literature, 1671-1831 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001)

Methodology: New Historicist, Cultural Materialism, some nods to Eco-criticism
Critical Context: John Barrell, Anne Janowitz, Tim Fulford (on landscape), Harriet Ritvo (on animals)
Thesis: Interrelated functions/activities as diverse as agricultural improvement, hunting, walking and picturesque aesthetics (and writing reflecting on them) contributed to the 'invention of the countryside' in the post-Renaissance period.

In a Nutshell: Landry's study looks at the way 'the countryside' was constructed as a category - the 'imaginary Other' of the Agricultural Revolution - through various practices (especially hunting), the embedding of those practices in the social formations of rural England, and the way that those practices and the terrain they crossed were represented in literature. Despite this robustly '…

"It's the Structures, Stupid..?": Rebranding Feminism

Joss Whedon's recent comments on why 'feminism' is a word he wants to replace have sparked the predictable proliferation of comment (e.g. here, there, and everywhere). It's definitely true that  feminism seems to have an image problem, at least if the general response of intelligent young undergraduates, both male and female, is to be taken into account. (I've found this both in the UK and Ireland, across five or six years of teaching.) Whilst it's not as if I've heard a clamour for more wage gaps or street harassment, the leap between being against sexism but for feminism seems to be one that many find difficult. Hence, perhaps, the constant call to redefine, rename ('genderism', 'equalism') or rebrand.

I would certainly say, as far as it makes sense to do, I am a feminist, although my individual choice (as a straight, white, middle-class, Oxbridge-educated lecturer...) to broadly consent to the theoretical positions of feminist theory is (…