Byron was—to echo Wordsworth—half-perceived and half-created. He would have affirmed Jean Baudrillard’s observation that “to seduce is to die to reality and reconstitute oneself as illusion.” But among the readers he seduced, in person and in poetry, were women possessed of vivid imaginations who collaborated with him in fashioning his legend. Accused of “treating women harshly,” Byron acknowledged: “It may be so—but I have been their martyr. My whole life has been sacrificed to them and by them.” Those whom he spell bound often returned the favor in their own writings tried to remake his public image to reflect their ...Read More
Much criticism has posited an all-powerful patriarchy that effectively marginalized and disempowered women until well into the nineteenth century. In a startling revisionist study, Mona Scheuermann refutes these stereotypes, finding that the images presented by eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century novelists are of functioning, capable women whose involvement with the getting, keeping, and investing of money provides a ubiquitous theme in the novels of the period.
Her Bread to Earn focuses on the images presented by the major novels of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, those works that form the core of the canon or that define an important trend ...Read More
The importance of the ethics of form in literature has only recently gained broad recognition and has thus far been explored mainly from the position of moral philosophy and critical theory. Leona Toker develops a narratological approach to the subject, based on studying “reticence” in works of fiction.
Reticence consists in narrative techniques through which writers create information gaps that build interest, enhance tension, and control the reader’s comprehension of theme, character, and event. Using novels by Fielding, Austen, Dickens, Conrad, Forster, and Faulkner, Toker demonstrates how the withholding of information affects readers’ attitudes, stimulates their reassessment, and leads to ...Read More
The Beggar’s Opera, often referred to today as the first musical comedy, was the most popular dramatic piece of the eighteenth century—and is the work that John Gay (1685-1732) is best remembered for having written. That association of popular music and satiric lyrics has proved to be continuingly attractive, and variations on the Opera have flourished in this century: by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, by Duke Ellington, and most recently by Vaclav Havel. The original opera itself is played all over the world in amateur and professional productions.
But John Gay’s place in all this has not been well ...Read More
In this fascinating study, Anthony J. Lewis argues that it is the hero himself, rejecting a woman he apprehends as a threat, who is love’s own worst enemy. Drawing upon classical and Renaissance drama, iconography, and a wide range of traditional and feminist criticism, Lewis demonstrates that in Shakespeare the actions and reactions of hero and heroine are contingent upon social setting—father-son relations, patriarchal restrictions on women, and cultural assumptions about gender-appropriate behavior. This compelling analysis shows how Shakespeare deepened the familiar love stores he inherited from New Comedy and Greek romance.
Beginning with a penetrating analysis of the hero’s ...Read More
The period from her first London assembly to her wedding day was the narrow span of autonomy for a middle-class Englishwoman in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. For many women, as Katherine Sobba Green shows, the new ideal of companionate marriage involved such thoroughgoing revisions in self-perception that a new literary form was needed to represent their altered roles.
That the choice among suitors ideally depended on love and should not be decided on any other grounds was a principal theme among a group of heroine-centered novels published between 1740 and 1820. During these decades, some two dozen writers, ...Read More
"The only excellence of falsehood . . . is its resemblance to truth," proclaims a clergyman in Charlotte Lennox's The Female Quixote. He argues that romances are bad art; novels, he implies, are better. This clergyman's remarks—repeating what literary and moral authorities had been saying since the late seventeenth century—are central to Deborah Ross's discussion of romance characteristics in English women's novels.
Aphra Behn, Delariviere Manley, Eliza Haywood, Charlotte Lennox, Fanny Burney, Ann Radcliffe, and Jane Austen did not take the clergyman's advice to heart. To them, the "falsehood" of romance was by no means self-evident, nor was the superior ...Read More
In 1842, Victorian England’s foremost novelist visited America, naively expecting both a return to Eden and an ideal republic that would demonstrate progress as a natural law. Instead, Charles Dickens suffered a traumatic disappointment that darkened his vision of society and human nature for the remainder of his career. His second tour, in 1867-68, ostensibly more successful, proved no antidote for the first.
Using new materials—letters, diaries, and publishers’ records—Jerome Meckier enumerates the reasons for the failure of Dickens’s American tours. During the first, an informal conspiracy of newspaper editors frustrated his call for copyright protection. More important, he grew ...Read More
Murder fascinates readers, and when a woman murders, that fascination is compounded. The paradox of mother, lover, or wife as killer fills us with shock. A woman’s violence is unexpected, unacceptable. Yet killing an abusive man can make her a cultural heroine.
In Double Jeopardy, Virginia Morris examines the complex roots of contemporary attitudes toward women who kill by providing a new perspective on violent women in Victorian literature. British novelists from Dickens to Hardy, in their characterizations, contradicted the traditional Western assumption that women criminals were “unnatural.” The strongest evidence of their view is that the novelists make the ...Read More
Shakespeare and the Poet's Life explores a central biographical question: why did Shakespeare choose to cease writing sonnets and court-focused long poems like The Rape of Lucrece and Venus and Adonis and continue writing plays? Author Gary Schmidgall persuasively demonstrates the value of contemplating the professional reasons Shakespeare—or any poet of the time—ceased being an Elizabethan court poet and focused his efforts on drama and the Globe. Students of Shakespeare and of Renaissance poetry will find Schmidgall's approach and conclusions both challenging and illuminating.
Gary Schmidgall is professor of English at Hunter College and the author of numerous books....Read More
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