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SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900
Rice University MS-46
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Mitzi Myers
Abstract: Godwin's moral philosophy and his accomplishment as a writer of fiction in Caleb Williams are interconnected; the political reflections and psychological analyses cannot be considered in isolation from the moral pattern that forms the core of the romance. Godwin's statements about the book emphasize different aspects at different times: neither of the two major Prefaces is completely accurate as a guide to the work. Other comments of Godwin's, his habits of composition and revision, and his changes from the original version suggest that his vision of Caleb Williams evolved in the course of actual composition. New evidence from unpublished papers establishes conclusively when Godwin substituted a new catastrophe for the original. Recognition of Caleb's importance as narrator and character illuminates the book's moral pattern and validates Godwin's exchange of conclusions. Godwin's continuing efforts to realize fully the psychologically intricate and morally ambivalent relationships of the major characters imply his increasing interest in the characters as complex moral beings, rather than as political pawns. The new denouement both completes the moral pattern developed in the book and underscores the principle of impartiality which is the root of the moral system elaborated in Political Justice.
Roger L. Slakey
Abstract: Wordsworth's "She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways," read in the light of Coleridge's definition of poetic form as a proceeding, describes not so much Lucy's association with the natural world as the speaker's experience while reflecting upon her. The evolving form of the poem, its changes from sentence to phrase, from proposition to appositive, from metaphor to simile, from concrete expression to abstraction, represents that proceeding as the speaker moves from an assertion of fact about her. to an insightful, personal perception of her, and then to a feeling of desolation when he reflects that she is dead. The three appositives define not only her qualities but his shifting relationship to her. Thus, the metaphor and the simile represent her as simultaneously slight and cosmic, and simple and mysterious; at the same time they represent his perception of her, which at first is clear and whole and then is approximate. Moreover, the contrast in language between the second and the third stanzas defines the effect of her death upon him. Because of this contrast, the poem proceeds to its most intense moment, when the speaker, led by his reflections to think of Lucy's death, experiences the weight of void.
George H. Gilpin
Abstract: Coleridge is always both a philosopher and a poet, and his epistemology inevitably shapes his artistic expression. He believes that ideal aesthetic structure should be spiraling or serpentine, and, in Biographia Literaria, he describes how a reader becomes intensely involved in the rhythm of the harmonious movement of a poem. Associating serpentine form with a mythological emblem of intellectual perfection, Coleridge conceives of the structure as a symbol of the creative mind. The spiraling form given to his own poetic expression images for Coleridge the creating Logos and climaxes in a central celebration of the "one Life" which is the wholeness of Nature. Coleridge's poetry, then, has the significant form and metaphysical content of a rite; it functions morally to involve and to delight the reader in an experience of the beauty and order of God's Creation. The structure of Coleridge's poetic thought transports the reader up the spiral staircase of intellect to the highest "landing-place" where he can know God's presence.
Frederick L. Beaty
Abstract: The traditional identification of Longbow and Strongbow with two of Byron's acquaintances has obscured the possibility that they symbolize considerably more than mere portraits from life. In addition to their association with national traits, it can be shown that other friends of Byron likely contributed distinguishing features to these sketches. Furthermore, reminiscences caused the poet to associate erstwhile friends with the classic-romantic dichotomy, which he had originally rejected but by 1823 had come to accept with certain reservations.
Thomas L. Ashton
Abstract: Byron's Hebrew Melodies are not a collection of hymns or psalms echoing the faith of the Old Testament. They are merely thirty poems Byron wrote at various times during 1814 and 1815 and then gave to the composer Isaac Nathan, who in turn set them to music. But it is just this fact that binds the poems together, for they share in the essential unity of Byron's lyric corpus. The Biblical poems are Byronic. In them Byron joined the national melodies style he learned from Tom Moore and the Jews he read about in the Bible to write the Jacobin airs of old Zion. But in those lyrics, the union of Jewish nationalism and a Calvinistically inclined understanding of the Old Testament yielded up romantic metaphors of man and man's condition. In the Hebrew Melodies, Byron creates a myth in which Promethean love, negating self-consciousness, mediates real and ideal. His lyrics have a music of their own.
John R. Nabholtz
Abstract: Lamb's "Essays of the Imagination" are those Elia Essays which dramatize the experience of imaginative liberation. In terms of drama and rhetoric, they vary from the relative simplicity of "New Year's Eve" and "Blakesmoor in H----shire" to the more elaborately orchestrated "On the Artificial Comedy of the Last Century" and "Oxford in the Vacation." These last two examples, though usually placed in separate subject-matter categories of literary criticism and "familiar essay," are actually the working out of an identical dramatic pattern. They are built around three centers of consciousness or speakers, who define themselves by their response to some evidence of imaginative power. The first center of consciousness is occupied by the logical or moralistic reader; the second is occupied by Elia, who gradually leads the reader away from his restrictive perspective; the third is occupied by a pure embodiment of the new and more liberating perspective, the actors John Palmer and John Kemble and "G. D." These three centers of consciousness may be seen as corresponding roughly to three mental faculties much debated and defined in Romantic psychology: the Understanding, the Fancy, and the Imagination. "Essays of the Imagination" record the discrediting and abandonment of the limited Understanding, and the journey of the reader into the life-giving world of the Imagination.
Ann M. Guest
Abstract: Walter Scott uses color imagery throughout his poems for literal description, mood creation, characterization, symbolism, and overall structure. References to color and the effects of light and shadow on the landscape attest to his close observation of natural detail. Elsewhere, colors heighten the dramatic effect of battle-scenes (Marmion) and create Gothic atmosphere in moonlit settings (Rokesby, The Lay of the Last Minstrel). Blacks and flaming reds recur in the somber passages, while blue, yellow, and the pink tints of dawn create a lighter mood for scenes of love and reconciliation. Color helps to characterize Scott's dark villains and fair, yet sanguine heroes and to reflect the changing emotions of various characters. Several of Scott's poems are unified by a particular color scheme, though some display more realistic, subtle tones than others. Scott's use of painterly techniques was apparently influenced by his knowledge of contemporary poetry and art from various historical periods.
Jill Rubenstein
Abstract: The Bridal of Triermain is a poetic resolution of Scott's central concern with the problem of how man may use his individual and racial past to best advantage without becoming immersed in it. The poem affirms the viability of both love and measured historical progress. Its three narratives—set in Arthurian, medieval, and not-quite-contemporary periods—share the theme of personal maturation and the growth into humility. This tripartite temporal structure allows Scott to trace the emergence of moderation in the course of history. The poem is also a moral and aesthetic fable in which Scott argues that art, society, and individuals flourish under a balance of discordant qualities which modify and enrich each other. He uses the traditional dichotomy between art and nature as an analogue of his own favorite historical dichotomy between past and present. The poem's complex narrative structure as well as its three stories emphasizes the reconciliation of both dichotomies into the fulfillment of a natural present.
Dorothy M. Mermin
Abstract: The poet-hero of "The Strayed Reveller" chooses the dangerous world of "natural magic" because he thinks the gods indifferent and human life futile and hard. In the other long poems Arnold published in 1849 the choice or rejection of nature and the pleasures associated with it also depends on a conception of the gods. Earlier poems show the painful result of choosing nature, later ones the equally painful result of choosing the gods. "Resignation," with many parallels to "The Strayed Reveller," merges God, man, and nature, but devitalizes them all. Arnold resolves the problem only in his religious writings.
Bruce K. Martin
Abstract: Critics dissatisfied with Adam Bede have singled out the rescue of Hetty Sorrel by Arthur Donnithorne and Adam's marriage to Dinah Morris as especially glaring imperfections. However, such criticism generally ignores the relationship of those two crucial incidents to the form of the novel. Because Adam Bede concerns principally its title-character's acquisition of sympathy, the story of Arthur serves as a subplot, to induce behavior in Adam indicative of his moral state, and to create, through the crisis involving Hetty, an inescapable condition of suffering, from which his reversal of character can arise. His marriage to Dinah near the end of the novel represents not only a reward for his reform, but the culmination of his growing attraction to the quality of sympathy which Dinah epitomizes. The rescue reflects the subordinate position of Hetty and Arthur, for having created a crisis which renders the change in Adam plausible, George Eliot sought to get Hetty out of the way without the diverting pathos of an execution. Thus the rescue is meant to solve the dilemma posed by a condemned Hetty, just as the marriage helps alleviate the problem of a solitary Adam. Each device contributes to a non-tragic line of development featuring Adam.
Richard S. Lyons
Abstract: Walter Pater's The Renaissance presents a complex of attitudes that has continuing relevance for the present effort to redefine the "aesthetic movement." In general terms, The Renaissance is a work of aesthetics, based upon a concept of culture and animated by a moral idea. The unifying concept of The Renaissance is Pater's idea of expression—the unique and untranslatable character of art that gives the critic his special function and art its privileged role in human life. All the characteristics of expression as Pater defines them—uniqueness, unity, reduction to the moment—are present in the book's concept of culture and its moral vision. Present also is a central contradiction between the claim that art and aesthetic culture put us in touch with "the fulness of life" and the reductive and passive role they pre-suppose. Thus Winckelmann's culture achieved its expression only by severely limiting its interests and the moral ideal of "The Conclusion" rests on man's fundamental isolation. The essential consistency of The Renaissance partly accounts for its extended relevance for over forty years but its contradictions are even more interesting, for when effectively embodied in image and symbol they become, as in "The Child in The House," the central subject matter of Pater's art.
Ernest Tuveson
Abstract: The Turn of the Screw belongs to the genre of the märchen, in the Romantic tradition. Its background, the materials which James imaginatively transformed, is like a palimpsest. On one level is his interest in the activities of the Society for Psychical Research, in which William James and such friends as F. W. H. Myers were very active. These investigations, as William James said, were intended to demonstrate the depths and the "personal" reality of the self, which psychological scientism had largely excluded a priori. Henry James's novella is an imaginative reconstruction of a kind of hallucination, described in several cases in the Proceedings of the SPR: the governess is a medium, but unaware of the fact. The irony is that she makes it possible for the evil spirits to get in touch with the children. The final sentence implies that what Myers termed a "psychic invasion" has taken place, the consciousness of the dead supplanting that of the living. On a deeper level is the memory of the Swedenborgian enthusiasm of Henry James, Senior. The dead servants resemble the "evil angels" Swedenborg described, and their actions, including possession of the living, are in line with those attributed by Swedenborg to the evil dead.
U. C. Knoepflmacher

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