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SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900
Rice University MS-46
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William Frost
Abstract: When studied in the light of the checkered history of the term "satire" from classical times to Dryden's and Pope's age, Dryden's "Discourse on Satire" (1693) stands as a landmark clarifying four previous confusions: Is satire verse or drama? Is the word actually "satire" or "satyr"? What is the appropriate character for the imagined speaker of a satire? In what style should a satire be written? Contrary to Renaissance theories associating satire with comedy or tragedy, Dryden treats it as a nondramatic verse genre. Contrary to much picturesque and influential speculative etymologizing, Dryden follows Casaubon in clarifying the derivation of "satire" from Latin "satur," not Greek "satyros." Contrary to the Elizabethan freakstereotype of the satyr-satirist, Dryden presents his notably unfreakish friend and patron Dorset as an ideal satirist personality. And contrary to a strong tradition that roughness and obscurity were proper to satiric style, Dryden, influenced by Boileau and Vergil, elaborately analyzes meters and stylistic delicacies, associating satire with nonsatiric kinds of poetry. In most respects the Discourse both epitomizes Dryden's own practices and foreshadows Pope's.
Thomas C. Faulkner
Abstract: Examination of the evidence offered by Charles E. Ward in his biography of John Dryden (1961) for attributing the exclusion-crisis pamphlet entitled Great and Weighty Considerations Relating to the D, or Successor of the Crown [1679] to Dryden reveals that the attribution is not correct. Although Ward believes that the style of this tract resembles Dryden's, the use of many references, quotations, and tedious legalistic argument is alien to Dryden's characteristic style. The presence of political arguments similar to those used in Great and Weighty Considerations in Dryden's pamphlets His Majesties Declaration Defended (1681) and The Vindication of The Duke of Guise (1683) provides no support for the attribution because the arguments are conventional. There are also considerable differences in the way these arguments are presented in Great and Weighty Considerations and in the aforementioned controversial works by Dryden. The external evidence offered by Ward, consisting of a reference to the author of the tract as a "Pentionary Pen" and an obscure reference in a contemporary letter to a "history" by Dryden, also fails to support the attribution. Other external evidence, notably an attack on Great and Weighty Considerations by Thomas Hunt, supports the conclusion that the tract was written by an Anglican clergyman maintained by Royalist patronage.
Donald R. Benson
Abstract: Though Dryden's intellectual position has repeatedly been defined in terms of his theological views, his main and consistent intellectual activity was criticism. As a critic his chief preoccupation was with the authority and effects of the artistic image, and his conclusions offer valuable evidence about his basic intellectual position, particularly his conception of reason. The orthodox Renaissance conception, in both epistemological and aesthetic contexts, posited a dependable intuitive capacity for apprehending the true forms of objects and actions. Consistent with writers like G. P. Lomazzo, Philip Sidney, and William Sanderson, Dryden conceived of the artist's image as directly dependent on such intuitively apprehended forms. This is true for the whole range of meanings he attached to "artistic image"—from the "imitation of human life" in actions, through the imitation of the virtues, vices, and passions in characters, to the imitation of objects in descriptions—and also for his notion of the relation of that image to moral philosophy and "the rules." In his criticism Dryden consistently assumed the dependability of the artistic image, never expressing skepticism about it or about the intuitive apprehension it depends on. This is perhaps the most direct evidence we have of his intellectual orthodoxy.
Derek W. Hughes
Abstract: In Venice Preserv'd Otway questions Restoration heroic ideals by suggesting that they are both generated and belied by the animal and primitive aspects of human nature. The Nicky-Nacky scenes are far more intimately connected with the rest of the action than has hitherto been realized, parallelling it in ways which emphasize the erosion of all Man's most distinctive and noble qualities in the would-be heroes. Reason is powerless in the face of physical impulse, speech is debased, approaching the condition of animal noise, and Man is reduced to a Hobbesian condition of nature. Christian values disappear: there is a widespread reversion to pagan concepts of sacrifice and heroic values are repeatedly portrayed as inversions and parodies of Christian ideals. In addition, the characters are given to strikingly perverse definitions of the distinctions between Man and the beasts. In other ways, too, they lose sight of their proper natures: the modulation of theatrical heroic convention into sexual fantasy in the second Nicky-Nacky scene provides a telling comment on the origin of heroic posture in physical (and primarily sexual) impulse, especially as the false heroic roles are largely acted out within the walls of a brothel. Similarly, both Jaffeir and Belvidera, like Aquilina and her client, supplant true identity by a false role sustained by wealth.
Eugene Hnatko
Abstract: The demise of true tragedy in the eighteenth century has been attributed to a rigid adherence to mechanical rules on the part of authors, to a loss of audience for this genre, to the rise of other forms of literature, and to the rise of "sentimentality." Though these causes may have been somewhat involved, an examination of representative plays suggests that tragedy died because, of all types of literature, it seems so admirably suited to what the age saw as the purpose of all writing—moral instruction—and the fulfilling of that purpose was inimical to the very nature of the genre in that it led to a simple poetic justice which allowed no room for tragic questioning or cosmic resolution.
David S. Durant
Abstract: In his Pastorals, Alexander Pope evolves a theory of the relationship between nature and art which helps to explain his subsequent abandonment of that genre. He begins, in "Spring," with what seems the most convenient assumption for writing pastoral poetry: art simply reflects natural beauty. The three following eclogues gradually reverse this thesis. In "Summer" the poet adopts personification as a dominant trope. Now man is more than merely a piece of the all-important setting; landscape is significant as a projection of the speaker. In the third poem, "Autumn," metaphor replaces personification as the major techinique. Here the human use of nature is even more clearly dominant. By the final "Winter," nature is absolutely subservient to the poet, whose command brings it into being. Landscape of and for itself has been replaced by an interest in the human which makes scenery only incidental. Art does not exist to reflect nature; nature is only a poetical device to depict man. The next logical step is to omit nature as a device, replacing the study of man through nature with the study of man through man. Pope has not simply written fine examples of the pastoral, but shaped his Pastorals to explain his future, non-pastoral, career.
William A. Gibson
Abstract: Pope derived his aesthetic norms for the Epistle to Burlington largely from humanist architectural theory. The poem's form makes it possible for him to articulate major tenets of the theory, to illustrate the consequences of violating them, and to suggest the possibility of realizing them in architectural practice. His basic premise is that the rules governing architectural forms are the inevitable expression of the forms' uses and of the material and technical means available for satisfying them. Thus "Nature" dictates the essential interdependence of the useful and the beautiful. Vitruvius's rule of decor, as developed by his Renaissance commentators, provides most of the poem's specific key tenets. It demands uniformity of style and the observation of correspondences between the form and order of a building and its function, or its patron, or its inhabitants' station and moral traits. Decorum of "Situation" demands fitting a building to a healthy, productive, and convenient site capable of inspiring contemplation. A builder who observes the rules, and thereby imitates cosmic design, can achieve "Magnificence," the effect that evokes meditation of divine harmony, proportion, and order. Timon's Villa is the antithesis of "Magnificence"; Burlington's principles and examples show how it may be achieved.
John Robert Moore
Abstract: The Quaker's Sermon: Or, A Holding-Forth Concerning Barabbas (1711) is a previously unrecognized tract by Defoe. It is significant as another of his attacks on Dr. Sacheverell, his defenses of the Duke of Marlborough, and his uses of a persona. Defoe rarely signed his name to his writings, but published most of them anonymously or assigned them to any one of eighty-seven different fictitious personalities—sometimes to conceal his authorship or to stimulate sales, but more characteristically to establish a point of view. Here, as in six previously recognized tracts by Defoe, he wrote as a Quaker.
James L. Tyne
Abstract: In "Cadenus and Vanessa," as in Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift dramatizes the problem of how much moral integrity can be expected of finite man. The problem is examined in the person of "Vanessa," Esther Vanhomrigh in real-life, the young woman who had embarrassed the Dean by her passionate overtures. The poem's action fluctuates between a mythological and a real world. As a being of divine origin, Vanessa's lofty pretensions appear justifiable; as an ordinary mortal, however, they appear absurd and by clinging to them, Vanessa alienates both the men and women of polite society. At this point the Cadenus and Vanessa episode—a fictional account of the actual relationship of Swift and Esther—begins. Because of the machinations of a spiteful Cupid, Vanessa foolishly falls in love with Cadenus, her tutor. By blaming Cupid for her infatuation, Swift considerately absolves the girl of all guilt, but by highlighting Cadenus's ineligibility he makes Vanessa's folly perfectly clear. As inflexible as the Alceste of Molière's Misanthrope, Vanessa tries to justify her passion. She succeeds, but only to a degree. The best her tutor can offer is not love but a "Friendship" that "gently warms but cannot burn." Vanessa's status as a semi-divine being prevents him from being any more presumptuous. It is not known if Esther realized she was being rejected. What the reader realizes, however, is that Vanessa, in trying to transcend this limited world of ours, is well on her way to following Alceste to his deserted island or Gulliver to his stable. Such alienation is the price one must always pay for being more Houyhnhnm than human.
Raymond Bentman
Abstract: Much of the disagreement over interpretation of the conclusion of Gulliver's Travels results from current misconceptions of the structure of satire, based on theories which state that in satire "evil and good are clearly distinguishable," so that satire scants "the complexity of human existence." But good satire only assumes a stance of moral certainty; it actually discusses the psychological and philosophical complexities which impede man's attempts to follow his ideals. Gulliver's extraordinary behavior in the concluding chapters demonstrates the danger of trying to live by pure ideals without attempting lesser ideals first. Gulliver's failure consistently to argue an idea demonstrates that life is complex for all humans, even satiric narrators. The work becomes prophetic, for Swift implies the long-range danger in 18th-century trends which put faith in simplified ideologies. The penultimate chapter, concluding Book IV, is dramatic-narrative. Gulliver dramatizes the danger of those who would try to live by pure ideals. The last chapter, concluding the four books, is formal satire. Gulliver, like all narrators in good satire, is unable to maintain his own ideals. Hence much modern criticism, which insists that the work is either for or against the Houyhnhnm ideal, exemplifies the single vision which Swift denounces, for literature is complex, as are all aspects of mankind. Accepting the "complexity of human existence" is the satiric alternative to the pride which this work denounces.
Fred Kaplan
Abstract: Richardson's Clarissa makes significant and frequent use of narrative devices such as, among others, flashback, foreshortening, chronological discontinuity, delayed details, editorial summary, abridgement, footnotes, reported dialogue, and multiple point of view. Many of these narrative devices play an essential role in the novelist's development of his themes of isolation, discontinuity, the challenge to moral order, and the nature of Christian salvation. Richardson's claims in regard to a preplanned structure for the novel are contradictory but internal evidence indicates that a strong unifying artistic consciousness is at work, relying heavily on narrative devices to unify an intensive and expansive fictional world. The author's highly developed sense of time, masterful exploitation of the narrative possibilities of the epistolary structure, and ability to create tension and revelation in long-set scenes produces a novel in which Belford's reference to the events that have been narrated as "our short story" contains as much truth as irony. In the end, Richardson succeeds on the basis of what he has not often enough received credit for, his artistic expertise, particularly in the use of narrative devices.
W. B. Coley

©William Marsh Rice University 1971