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SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900
Rice University MS-46
407 Fondren Library
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Houston, Texas 77005-1827

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E. Margaret Moore
Abstract: Emma is discussed with special reference to the relationship between Miss Bates and the heroine. Episodes illustrative of anxiety about dependent needs and of approved defenses against such anxiety are cited from several of Jane Austen's novels. The author's preoccupation with this theme is related to the probable psychological effects of separations from her mother and foster-mother in early childhood. These experiences are also suggested as part-explanations of the direct concern about changes of abode and the ambivalent attitudes toward children which are expressed in her writings.
Michael G. Sundell
Abstract: Between the spring and fall of 1813, Byron revised The Giaour with what seems a firm artistic purpose. Mainly by a series of additions which more than tripled the length of the poem, he progressively transformed it from a good adventure story, interesting primarily for its plot, into the forceful presentation of a mysterious and powerful character whose fate exemplifies humanity's. Byron achieved this shift of focus by obscuring the story-line so that it is confusing until the Giaour himself clarifies it, diffusing the narrative of and thereby lessening the consequence of the other important speaker in the original version, changing the secondary characters from figures of independent interest into reflections or symbolic extensions of the protagonist, and creating an allusive context in which the Giaour's behavior seems representative of mankind's rather than idiosyncratic. Although still imperfect, the final text of the tale is far denser in meaning and richer in artistry than the original. Intrinsically interesting, the pattern of Byron's revisions also shows that as early as 1813 the poet was experimenting with the methods by which he would organize such later works as the last two cantos of Childe Harold, Manfred, and Cain.
Truman Guy Steffan
Abstract: Four versions of the anonymous "Relation of the Death of the Cenci Family" belong to the Stark Library of the University of Texas. A fifth is Mary Shelley's holograph, and another is the version published by her in 1840. All seven accounts relied mainly on rumor and invention. At all stages of the narrative—the father's persecution of his family, their plots against him, the murder, the interrogation and torture of the accused, their confessions, and the prolonged ritual of their brutal executions—in all these matters, the copyists made alterations that reflected their bias, whim, and fancy. Variation was abundant in the use of numbers, in recording speeches, in description of clothing and emotion, and in reporting the behavior of Pope Clement. Shelley likewise modified circumstances to suit his idealistic predilection and dramatic purpose. His changes were usually superior in artistry and psychology to the legendary variants. Except for Shelley's drama, patterns of treatment were indeterminate, because no Relation was consistently partial or neutral, violent or restrained, sparse or copious. Two pairs of these accounts however, often, though not invariably, shared certain particulars. One version was excessively prolix and awkward. Another had a notable number of substantial deviations from the other six.
Mary Rahme
Abstract: Coleridge's concept of the symbol as a part of that unity which it represents is puzzling and requires consideration of his metaphysics and aesthetics, for he was primarily concerned with the relationship of the symbol to "reality." Coleridge thought of the physical universe as analogous to, but not identical with, the spiritual, but at the same time he believed in the organic unity of all life. His reconciliation of these opposing beliefs sheds light on his concept of the symbol. He thought of art as imitation of the creative process; artistic symbols imitate neither objective nature nor subjective feelings. They are forms created by the human mind in the same way that the forms of nature are created by the Divine Mind: "Nature is God's Art." Since the primary materials fused into the symbol by the creative imagination are taken from both objective nature and the mind which inspires and guides the creation, the symbol is part of what it represents. Analyses of some of Coleridge's examples of "translucent" symbols, of his idea of beauty, of his distinction between symbol and allegory, and of one of Virginia Woolf's symbols, further explicate his concept.
John O. Waller
Abstract: Matthew Arnold's "Rugby Chapel," memorializing his father, Thomas, was constructed largely with phrases and larger thematic materials from the father's published Rugby Chapel sermons. A sequential study of these echoes in their original sermon contexts should give added meaning to parts of the poem, and greater symbolical unity to the whole. The central metaphor of life as an Exodus-like journey across a moral wilderness (sin, or whatever distracts Christians from consciousness of their being God's sons) on to a heavenly city was a recurring theme in the sermons. The company of travelers, led by men like the Doctor, was the Christian Church universal. Particularly, as counselor to young boys, the Doctor never tired of encouraging the moral laggards to believe in Christ and press on. Men like Matthew himself, battling up the mountain to solitary distinction, were apart from the Christian band and ultimate moral failures even when reaching their goals. Symbolically, the poem had begun with the speaker standing outside the once-lighted chapel, now darkened in a somber autumn evening. Yet by force of powerful memories and sympathetic imagination, the outsider elegist speaks here in the voice of the elegized.
R. A. Forsyth
Abstract: The characteristic Victorian conflict between intellectual convictions and spiritual aspirations sprang from the need to accommodate the newly emergent concept of Nature. This concept had dual origins—evolutionism and industrial technology—and demanded adjustment of the traditional relationship between God, Man, and Nature. The man-made industrial city became the visible symbol of the new relationship. Buchanan reflected the dilemma, more particularly in The City of Dream. In the section "City Without God" the poet presents a type of scientific-humanist Utopia, the opposite, it seemed, of contemporary London from which he had fled. Unexpectedly, however, he rejects this city, seeing it as the epitome of rationalism and materialism, philosophies which offered no satisfaction in those aspirations to immortality which were his real motivation. Accordingly he also rejected political activism as mere socialistic tinkering with the grand movement of evolution, unable to appreciate the "evolutionary" nature of political legislation. He resolved the anomaly by identifying God and City as being alike hostile to spiritual man, with thaumaturgic Christ becoming a humanist opponent of the Father's implacable "laws." But Buchanan's resolution was only partial because the superseded concept of a beneficent dispensation unconsciously remained his chief emotional solace in the brave new Victorian world.
Alan R. Burke
Abstract: Dickens, who has long been recognized as a brilliant observer of the city, told the Rev. Dr. G. D. Carrow in an interview (published for the first time in 1965) that his London scenes were derived from personal observation, but that he sometimes assumed disguises or played roles or employed a police escort while observing. His love of the melodramatic and his sense of the danger of being watched in a large city made such stratagems necessary. These stratagems are reflected in his narrative technique of covert observation and in his theme of the observed city which he initiated in Sketches by Boz and brought to full realization in Bleak House. He establishes Esther Summerson and the omniscient narrator as observers of a city which ideally should be a coherent structure of human relationships, but actually is, like the law, a murky labyrinth of elusive and hidden connections. Within this city, which subsumes Chesney Wold and Bleak House, Dickens creates many observers who wear disguises, play roles, and watch windows in order to hide or expose the interrelated secrets of Esther's parentage, Tulkinghorn's murder, and the Jarndyce Chancery suit. As an integral part of this strategy and theme, Dickens makes use of private and public documents, such as wills, letters, newspapers, advertisements, and pictures to provide visual clues to the secret relationships existing among apparently disparate citizens. Not all of the citizens can or will see and read, however. It is Dickens's irony at the expense of such an urban society that the documents for which everyone is looking—Lady Dedlock's letters and the Jarndyce will—are hidden in the shop of Mr. Krook, a man who is too selfish to learn to read and write. While Dickens allows his good characters to escape from the city, he himself always returned to the city to observe it.
Jules Paul Seigel
Abstract: Rossetti considered Jenny, a monologue spoken by a young man spending the night with a prostitute, his most serious poem, and of the poems buried with his wife in 1862, was the one he wanted most to exhume. The poem, begun as early as 1848, was revised continually, and by 1870 (Poems) was practically rewritten. Because of his high regard for Jenny he awaited what he thought would be hostile criticism by the periodical reviewers. Ruskin, and later, Buchanan, insisting on a definite moral stance, criticized the speaker's ambivalence—his simultaneous compassion for a prostitute, his passion for the woman. Yet it is this unresolved moral vision which is precisely the excellence of the poem in that it is skillfully and artistically reflected in its dialectic structure, balanced expressive and rhetorical patterns, and juxtaposed symbolic constructs. The ambivalent but honest stance of the speaker—clear to the reader because of the very structure of the poem, but muted to the speaker because of his dramatic involvement within the poem—reflects the ironies of man's temporal existence and his inability to resolve completely his divided nature, although through love and humility the ironies may be lessened.
Carole G. Silver
Abstract: Close examination of William Morris's complex, ironic "Defence of Guenevere" and of its source, Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur, reveals that although Guenevere is "innocent" of the specific charges for which she is tried, she is nonetheless guilty of adultery. Although the queen intends a "defence," or speech of self-vindication, she half-confesses her crime through the ambiguous nature of her most important statements. She further strengthens our belief in her guilt by the double meanings of the images, descriptions, and objects of identification she selects in the course of her argument. Moreover, as she seeks our sympathy, she clearly reveals her adultery; the crux of her defense—her plea of moral confusion—convinces us of her sin. Yet despite the queen's amorality, we and Morris tend to pardon and sympathize with her. Gripped by a love more powerful than she, Guenevere pleads brilliantly to save what she knows will destroy her. Morris's "Defence" testifies to the awful force of a passion that dissolves all else within it. It reveals, as well, his unacknowledged mastery of the psychological character portrait.
Robert L. Selig
Abstract: Jubilee, like New Grub Street, deals with the relationship of culture and society, but emphasizes consumers rather than producers, and mass culture rather than literature. The novel centers around estrangement in marriage, with differences in cultural taste playing the decisive role. Specifically, Gissing blames late-Victorian schools for producing half-educated women. Yet a pattern of references to popular songs and advertising suggests that mass culture provides an unofficial education in false values. The full texts of the many songs briefly alluded to reveal the discrepancy between their sentimental idealizations of love and the brutal realities of the novel's sexual relationships. For example, the humiliation of the pregnant Nancy by her husband's desertion across the ocean is counterpointed by reference to a sailor's tender love song for his girl on shore. Advertising, highly developed by 1894, plays a role in Jubilee similar to popular songs. By praising shoddy products as masterworks, advertisers train the characters in the arts of insincerity. Gissing's study of cultural consumers is flawed at the close, when Nancy submits to her husband because of his greater cultivation. She is morally his superior, and, as Gissing admitted, the ending "is not a piece with what comes before."
Thomas J. Bontly
Abstract: The Turn of the Screw is a ghost story in which the fantasy of one level of meaning ironically reveals the moral and psychological reality of another level of meaning. The symbolic significance of the ghosts should be sought in the governess's reaction to them, as it is ironically qualified by the logic of the narrative itself. Neither hallucinations nor representatives of a Manichean dualism or a Puritan asceticism, the ghosts symbolize the origins of human fear in the adult's sense of sexual guilt—a sense which is inevitably passed on to the child. Thus the governess is neither mad nor abnormal, but quite tragically typical, in her inability to accept the genuine innocence of the children. The loss of innocence, James felt, could be understood only as a failure in the individual's personal life—failures which, like Original Sin, are self-perpetuating as they are passed from generation to generation.
J. Hillis Miller
©William Marsh Rice University 1969