The divorce tracts, which consist of four prose pamphlets published between August 1643 and March 1645, represent a significant and underappreciated development in John Milton's theorizing of liberty. His arguments raise issues not only of family harmony, but also of political commitment. This article explores the emotional and political breakthroughs and sunderings visible in, and prompted by, these texts. Milton's tracts became the centre of a storm of anti-sectarianism, and were held up for ridicule as a harbinger of anarchy. They also engaged the stricken political realm. In recontextualizing Milton's divorce writings, the article places his analysis of irremediable difference, both on a personal and political level, in relation to the practical political work of the day. It also helps to explain the larger, both more local and more philosophical, significance of Milton's analogy between the marriage contract and the contract of civil obedience to the magistrate.
The sketch of prosodic theory presented in this article helps to clarify how the blank verse of Paradise Lost is virtually a new beginning and transmits a quite un-Shakespearean energy. Prosodic analysis shows that John Milton ranges freely within his chosen limits: there is no iambic jog-trot, and the rhythms are endlessly varied. The verse of Paradise Lost is distinguished by the sustained length of its sentences, which are on average about ten lines long, despite the frequent use of short sentences for rhetorical effect. Its blank verse is a deliberate and distinctive creation, influenced by but antithetical to late Shakespeare, through working within a strict discipline. Prosody and syntax are almost inseparable in effect in Paradise Lost.
In the 1990s, ceasefires were adopted in Ireland, followed in 2007 by the institution of devolved government at Stormont. With the Troubles now gone, the country has experienced a dramatic growth in tourism. Goodwill is everywhere, as is ‘progress’. Poetry now crowns the dome of one of Ireland's largest and plushest shopping malls. This chapter explores whether Belfast has stopped posing more problems than it offers solutions, and how the poets now coming of age will define themselves and their role, particularly in relation to the city. It focuses on the work of three poets – Leontia Flynn, Sinéad Morrissey, and Alan Gillis – all of whom wrestle with the problem of representing and interrogating their ‘own moment in history’. The chapter argues that, perhaps contrary to expectation, the peace context renders identity in Northern Irish poetry more, rather than less, problematic.
This article examines the poetry and essays of Alice Meynell. It first considers the poem, ‘A Modern Poet’ (1875), which illustrates both her ambivalence about women’s poetry and her own reception as a nineteenth- or twentieth-century poet. It then turns to ‘The Laws of Verse’ and ‘The English Metres,’ where she addresses poetic form.
“All livin language is sacred”: Poetry and Varieties of English in These Islands’ considers the various uses of non-standard Englishes in contemporary poetry, whether the variety of English be national, regional, class- or ethnically based. It argues that the association of poetry with a prestigious standard form of the language has created particular difficulties for poets who do not speak this variety, and that the record of these difficulties can be found in a number of contemporary poets’ work, especially that by Harrison, Heaney, Leonard, and Nagra. But it also argues that contact with vernacular speech, in many forms, can be a source of poetic energies, and that these are drawn upon in a number of contemporary poets writing in various forms of non-standard English, notably in Scots (arguably a standard variety itself), Ulster Scots, or in the Nation language of dub poetry.
This article focuses on Spenserian allegory. Comparable to Dante in his importance for allegory, Spenser creatively expanded its potential throughout his literary life. But the experimental vigor of his endeavor is too little acknowledged. While assimilating and building on medieval precedents, the poet's engagement with allegory subsumed diverse influences from the ancients to his own contemporaries in a unique new formulation. The consummate expression of Spenser's allegorical poetic, The Faerie Queene samples and redevelops myriad literary and other texts, forms, and discourses to manifest its own poetic world. Few books read like no others, and this poem's profound allegorism ensures it is one of them.
Beginning with an examination of some of the ways in which allusion was conceptualized in the eighteenth century, this chapter focuses on verbal literary allusion, which exists on the allusive spectrum between frank plagiarism at the one extreme and echo at the other. Close reading of poems by Alexander Pope (the different versions of the Dunciad), William Collins (“Ode on the Poetical Character”), and Thomas Gray (“Ode on the Spring” and “The Progress of Poesy”) demonstrates some ways in which eighteenth-century poets used the figure of allusion to articulate meaning, and to negotiate the writer’s relation with poetic contemporaries and forebears. Allusion tests the reader’s powers of recognition and invites the reader’s participation; this chapter explores some opportunities for poetic obfuscation or clarification that the trope offered to both satiric and lyric authors, and some possibilities and implications of the poet’s, or editor’s, or poet-editor’s explanatory and interpretative commentary.
This essay considers a reconfiguring of the sublime in British poetry of the 1970s and 1980s that coincides with theoretical activity around the ways in which the concept of the sublime is renewed and diversified. While Fredric Jameson calls for ‘cognitive mapping’ in cultural practice, to induce in the reader a sense of her or his place in what is nothing less than a global system, Jean-François Lyotard supplies a counter-argument to Jameson’s emphasis on the cognitive, proposing an aesthetic experience in which the activity of the imagination necessarily exceeds that of the understanding, so that the ‘mapping’ which occurs extends the territory of the mind beyond that of individual cognition. Tom Raworth’s poem ‘West Wind’ takes as its reference points those two pejorative instances of the sublime proposed by postmodernist theory—global communications networks and the threat of the nuclear bomb—but links these to a mentality capable only of producing a concept of the imagination while remaining incapable of activating and exercising the imagination. Andrew Crozier’s ‘The Veil Poem’ focuses on architectural terminology, and on the conditions of ‘dwelling’ that articulate its spatial and temporal dimensions, moving towards an exploration of the altered sublime that is carried further in J. H. Prynne’s ‘The Oval Window’.
Robert Dale Parker
Scholars and readers of American poetry in general and American Indian poetry in particular generally assume that American Indian poetry begins in the late 1960s with the American Indian Renaissance. Even among scholars of American Indian literature, let alone scholars of American poetry in general, few readers can name more than, at most, a few American Indian poets before N. Scott Momaday. But indigenous people in what is now the United States have written poetry since the time of Anne Bradstreet, and the 1890s and the early twentieth century brought an effusion of Indian-written poetry. Poems by more than ninety different American Indians writing from 1900 to 1930 have been found. The anthology Changing Is Not Vanishing: A Collection of American Indian Poetry to 1930 showcases the work of eighty-three poets and provides a bibliography that lists almost 150 Indian poets up to 1930. While Indian poets wrote about the same range of topics as non-Indian poets, they also brought their interests and experiences as Indians to bear on their poems. This article discusses how these poems address colonialism and the federal government, land, the condition of the world in general, nature, Christianity, love, war, other Indian peoples, and the temptation to internalize anti-Indian ways of thinking.
This article traces the history of American poetry in the Victorian period, which witnessed the birth, maturity, and demise of American poetic culture. In 1837, American poetry was in its infancy. Cultural pressures to create a distinctively American literature that was respected by Europeans and met the needs and democratic aspirations of a highly diverse populace raised the value of poetic production and rewarded those who produced it. By mid-century, a fully accredited culture of letters was established in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where James Russell Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, along with Emerson, manned an American outpost of mainstream Victorian culture: English poetry’s satellite campus at Harvard.
Twentieth-century American poetry metabolizes a variety of discursive genres, including fiction, song, theory, advertising, letters, and the law. To adapt Mikhail Bakhtin's terms, it dialogizes “literary and extraliterary languages,” “intensifying” and “hybridizing” them, making them collide and rub up against one another. But Bakhtin famously theorized poetry as monologic and exclusionary, “suspended from any mutual interaction with alien discourse, any allusion to alien discourse,” “destroying all traces of social heteroglossia and diversity of language”: “The language of the poetic genre is a unitary and singular Ptolemaic world outside of which nothing else exists and nothing else is needed.” Close analysis of twentieth-century American poems in relation to their generic others reveals a vastly more dialogic conception of poetry. This article focuses on poetry's ambivalent interactions with two of its generic others: the news and prayer as representing two widely divergent positions on a broad discursive spectrum. How do modern and contemporary American poems that engage with the news respond to journalism's mimeticism, presentism, and transparency? How do poems that adapt prayer respond to its ahistoricity, ritualism, and recursiveness? Do modern and contemporary American poetry more nearly resemble one or the other of its discursive cousins? How does American poetry overlap with, and distinguish itself from, these intergenres?
This article discusses how Amoretti and Epithalamion singly and together clear a space in late Elizabethan poetry. The Amoretti and the Epithalamion establish themselves in relation to an actual event, Spenser's marriage to Elizabeth Boyle of 11 June 1594, more than any other sequence of the period. The Amoretti is unique in representing a courtship that demonstrably leads to a marriage, while the wedding takes place not out of the reader's sight but immediately after the sequence, within the same volume of 1595. The Epithalamion is one of the most successful wedding songs in any European vernacular. The process of the Epithalamion is to narrate the wedding day not only as an event in itself but as an intersection of social and mythological significance, as though Edmund Spenser's marriage to Elizabeth Boyle mattered equally to the townspeople, distant merchants, and classical figures such as Hymen and Hesperus.
This essay examines Poe’s conception and use of the Gothic via his engagements with the work of earlier writers from Horace Walpole through Ann Radcliffe, William Godwin, Charles Brockden Brown, Mary Shelley, and E. T. A. Hoffmann. Poe’s uses of the Gothic, and his relationship with the work of these writers, was informed by his philosophical materialism and framed by his dialogue with the writings of Sir Walter Scott. Tracing these associations reveals Poe’s transformation of the idea of “Gothic structure” from an architectural model, the ancestral pile of the eighteenth-century Gothic, to one of energetic transformation, the electric pile featured in many of Poe’s tales.
This article fully considers the tradition and function of ancient Greek elegy. It is shown that the elegy uses its own peculiar hexameters existing in a codependent relationship with the elegiac pentameter. The article then addresses ‘the delights of elegy’. It concentrates on the hexameter as combined with the pentameter in the elegiac couplet. Additionally, the formal characteristics of elegy as a genre in the attested phases of Greek literature are explained. The article considers how the genre of elegy shows its capacity for performing the functions of forms that belong to the genres of epic and oracular poetry. There is a remarkably wide range of possibilities for the self-expression of a woman who is singing a lament. The lament of men in their sympotic singing of elegy may be a stylized and representational form of lament. There is a pleasure to be had in the sensuality of lament.
One of Donne's compositions the Anniversary Poem is the focus of this article. The literary record of the life and death of Mistress Elizabeth Drury might have been a very dull affair, soon forgotten by all but members of her family. Dead shortly before her fifteenth birthday, unknown to the world for any notable action or attribute, her passing might have been lamented in the conventional terms of pastoral elegy. Instead, her poetic monument, made public in print, instantly, by its extravagant strangeness shook the literary firmament, readers, patrons, and poets. Elizabeth had been buried on 17 December 1610; the first edition of An Anatomy of the World appeared in 1611. This title provides a broad suggestion of its generic affiliations: literary ‘anatomies’, usually in prose, were by no means uncommon in those times. Yet ‘anatomy’ as a renaissance ‘metaphorical label’ is ‘vague, formally, by comparison with the classical genre terms’.
This chapter discusses the anthology of war, which it views as a political protest and an expression of solidarity during a time of national crisis. It states that anthologies serve as a way to sew poems together, and shows that these have played a central role in the creation and revision of the concepts of the ‘war poem’ and ‘war poet’. The chapter emphasizes that without the huge investment in war poetry, it is most likely that the works of Rosenberg, Owen, Sassoon, Auden, and Douglas would not have survived the two World Wars, and then looks at the role poetry played in making Britain as an ‘imagined community’. It also takes a look at the ‘Iconoclastic’ war poetry, the return of war poetry during the 1960s, and the 1960 anthologies of the Second World War verse.
John Milton's five tracts against the idea of bishops in the Church of England argue one essential point: that there is no justification for the position of bishop (as opposed to minister) in the blueprint for Christian churches to be found in the New Testament, and in the Pauline epistles in particular. Milton's views on church government in these early 1640s tracts are grounded in a profound belief in Scripture reading for all and a return to Scripture for church precepts. The anti-episcopal tracts are exercises in discursive zeal: in righteous anger raised against the prelates. The argument of Of Reformation seeks to purify the body of Christ and his Church. Furthermore, the issue of Milton's political allegiances in these tracts is described. The anti-episcopal tracts were an opportunity for the younger poet, in his thirty-third year, to engage in public controversy.
Lara M. Crowley
Archival research on the works of John Donne is the essence of this article. ‘What Printing-presses yield we think good store, but what is writ by hand we reverence more’. Edmund Blunden's translation of Donne's Latin encomium of manuscripts reminds us that Donne composed poetry primarily for a manuscript medium. Traditionally, scholars prized his few extant holographs, but nonholographic copies of Donne's poetry and prose in numerous Renaissance verse miscellanies, commonplace books, and other manuscripts were relatively neglected by scholars prior to the nineteenth century, when pioneers such as Alexander B. Grosart and E. K. Chambers began to consult them. Although manuscript verse collections were often compiled during authors' lifetimes, frequently by members of their literary circles, printed verse collections were usually published posthumously and based on whichever literary manuscript editors or printing houses could obtain. Shami's exciting find illustrates that manuscript archives are rife with potential insights, even discoveries.
The title page of Areopagitica presents the pamphlet as the sort of free political speech that was an integral part of Attic citizenship and liberty. John Milton draws its epigram from a debate between Theseus and the Theban herald in Euripides' The Suppliant Women. One reason why Milton entitled his pamphlet Areopagitica was that he wanted to recall one of the most famous examples of this sort of parrhesia. In Areopagitica, he argues that the Licensing Order is an affront to Englishmen because it deprives them of their Christian and civil liberties in one go. From Areopagitica to The Readie and Easie Way, Milton never shrank from the idea that maintaining the health of the commonwealth might require careful management – and might even necessitate that a Protagoras be purged.
Aristotle’s Poetics has been thought to be inaccessible or misunderstood in sixteenth-century England, but this inherited assumption has drifted far from the primary evidence and lagged behind advances in contiguous fields. As a member of the corpus Aristotelicum, the shared foundation of Western education until the late seventeenth century, the Poetics enjoyed wide circulation, ownership, and interest in Latin and Italian as well as the original Greek. Placing the Poetics in its intellectual context suggests a very different narrative for its reception in English criticism, one that accounts for a multiplicity of readings and uses on both sides of the academic divide. Some of those readings—in Cheke, Ascham, Rainolds, Sidney, and others—are considered in this article, and directions are proposed for future research in what remains a rich and mostly unworked vein of literary history.