Early
Abstracts

A Shroud for the Mind: Ralegh's Poetic Rewriting of the Self. [1]Miri Tashma-Baum, Tel-Aviv University.

Sir Walter Ralegh's longest, most complex, and probably unfinished poem "The 11th: and last booke of the Ocean to Scinthia," has long served as a riddle for interpreters. While scholars have disagreed on almost all aspects related to the poem, from title and date to whether the poem is genuinely unfinished or intentionally unpolished, whether it is Ralegh's masterpiece or a clear-cut failure, "Ocean to Scinthia" is usually treated in isolation from Ralegh's earlier poetry. This article will show that while there are structural and thematic differences between the poetry written in Ralegh's days of courtly favor and the poem recording his downfall, "Ocean to Scinthia" expresses qualities characteristic of Ralegh's writing throughout. Foremost among these is a strong impulse of self-assertion, and a concomitant, growing anxiety regarding the true efficacy of language as the tool for such assertion. In "Ocean to Scinthia," this anxiety, reaching its climax, resolves itself in the idea of writing as "labour," involving the implicit rejection of the sprezzatura which had characterized Ralegh the courtier, and asserting the existence of a different, internally rather than externally-focused speaking self.

"On forfeit of your selves, think nothing true": Self-Deception in Ben Jonsonís Epicoene. [2] J.A. Jackson, Hillsdale College.

Ben Jonson's Epicoene, or The Silent Woman concerns itself with the staging of meaning-making. Beginning with the "second prologue," the play ascribes a certain "authority" to its audience and simultaneously insulates itself from any charges of slander. The play explicitly argues that any meaning the reader may see in the text is really only a projection of the reader's own intentions. The play utilizes its audiences' reliance on theatrical conventions, which it overtly puts on display, to emphasize that the audience does, in fact, repeatedly deceive itself. Epicoene stages the audience's precarious position of believing what one sees or, at the very least, what one desires to see; the audience is potentially deceived by the very conventions both shrouded and exposed as only conventions. Furthermore, the audience's acceptance of these theatrical conventions allows Jonson to conceal the identity of his super-plot, while he simultaneously reveals this secret to his audience each time Epicoene is on stage. This simultaneous revealing/concealing of his plot in turn becomes doubly concealed behind the familiar construction of Jonson's comedy of humours, a plot line in which the audience is always allowed to be in on the sub-plots and jokes.

Does Beatrice Joanna Have a Subtext?: The Changeling on the London Stage. [3] Roberta Barker and David Nicol, Dalhousie University.

Middleton and Rowley's tragedy The Changeling returned to the London stage in 1961 after an absence of almost three hundred years. Over the ensuing forty years, it has received five major London productions in which its heroine, Beatrice Joanna, was played by Mary Ure, Emma Piper, Diana Quick, Miranda Richardson and Cheryl Campbell respectively. In a striking example of the process by which critical reception of one production can lead to the establishment of accepted interpretations for the next, reviewers of these productions developed a Freudian reading of Beatrice Joanna as a spoilt child whose amoral decision to murder her detested fiancé is only a precursor to her slow realization of her repressed, subtextual desire for De Flores. After outlining the roots and growth of this reading, we suggest that it is flawed on two counts: first, that it necessitates many overt misreadings of the play, and second, that it promulgates a dangerous construction of femininity by implying that Middleton and Rowley's heroine actually desires a rape she pleads against in the lines they wrote for her. Arguing that the dominant theatrical reading of Beatrice Joanna speaks productively neither to her cultural origins nor to our own constructions of gender, this essay offers some notes toward a re-evaluation of her role in stage productions of The Changeling.

Women, Children, and the Rhetoric of Miltonís Divorce Tracts. [4] Sara van den Berg, Saint Louis University.

In his divorce tracts, Milton uses vignette, metaphor, and vituperation as rhetorical strategies to augment his rational argument that English marital law should be reformed to permit divorce on grounds of personal and spiritual incompatibility. Vignettes of unhappy marriage not only reflect Milton's own biographical circumstances when he wrote the tract but also give his readers a way to understand the experiential motivation of marriage, divorce, and the call for reform. Images of women and children in the divorce tracts augment his rational argument, indicating Milton's deep awareness of the cost of failed marriage. His vituperative rhetoric in Colasterion displace onto an anonymous critic the rage he felt toward Mary Powell.

Miltonís ĎDivorciveí Liberties: Ecclesiastical, Domestic or Private, Civil and Cosmological [5]. W. Scott Howard, University of Denver.

In his pamphlets from the 1640s - in particular: "Of Reformation Touching Church-Discipline" (1641), "The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce" (1643/4) and "The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates" (1649)-Milton's formulation of liberty resonates most strongly when placed within a cultural context of early seventeenth century debates about covenant theology and commonwealth government. Milton neither separates private from public realms nor simply elides their divisibility, but posits a rather paradoxical, inverse formulation: that domestic liberty, as the nexus of both ecclesiastical and civil liberties, is always already socially contingent. This epistemological inversion charges Milton's 'species' of liberty with transgressive energy and consequently grants the imagined subject of the early prose tracts increasing authority to reform public laws of custom on the basis of private apprehensions of unwritten divine laws of grace and charity as well as in accordance with the individual's apposite faculties of conscience and reason. I argue in this essay, therefore, that Miltonic liberty is inherently divorcive-free, that is, to overturn institutional laws that impede the subject's ability to engender and engage the inward, civil implications of their domestic liberty. Milton's early political tracts hinge upon (and do not resolve) this paradox of irremediable private agency and irrevocable civil duty. Paradise Lost, however, offers the most ambitious articulation of Milton's ideas touching upon cosmological liberty, which in turn provides an elegant solution to the aporia at the heart of the prose works that devise and defend an epistemology of the divorcive liberties.

Human Nature in Republican Tradition and Paradise Lost. [6]William Walker, University of New South Wales.

An account of human nature is an important component of arguments about politics presented by Aristotle, Cicero, and Machiavelli, all of whom are widely regarded as major figures in the republican tradition of political thought. Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost, presents a comprehensive description of human nature which in many ways differs from that which features in these three authors. These differences are grounded mainly in the fact that Milton was a Christian whereas these republicans were not. Because Milton differs from the republicans on what human nature is, he also differs from them on the nature of virtue, forms of government, and history. While Paradise Lost may, as many critics have recently argued, draw on republican tradition, it thus differs from and openly repudiates major aspects of it as well.

Roman or Revenger? The Definition and Distortion of Masculine Identity in Titus Andronicus. [7] Brecken Rose Hancock, University of New Brunswick.


Coppélia Kahn describes the trajectory of Titus Andronicus as "the story of Titus's transformation from Roman hero to revenge hero, which he accomplishes by hacking and hewing his way through the tangled matrix of outrages and injures that Tamora spawns" (55). Using Kahn as my starting place, I will explore the possibilities for masculine identity in this play. In particular, Kahn's implication that there is a definitive difference between "Roman hero" and "revenge hero" is relevant to my investigation of character archetypes that are set in opposition to one another. Through his characterization of Titus, and also of Lucius, Shakespeare interrogates the dichotomous construction of "Roman" versus "revenger" in order to destabilize the apparent resolution that emerges out of brutal, pitiless, all-consuming violence. Significantly, as the chaotic principles of patriarchal violence are repudiated - in Titus's murder of Lavinia and in his cannibalistic banquet - they are also embraced - in Lucius's treatment of Tamora's corpse and Aaron's living body. This violent assertion of masculinity leaves no room for a positive resolution to gender tensions, particularly because all the women are destroyed and there is no regenerative hope offered by Lucius's re-established empire.



© 2004-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).