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SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900
Rice University MS-46
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Helen E. Haworth
Abstract: The theme of Keats's "Hyperion" is dominated by a clearly evident paradox: the symbol of the Titan's loss of sovereignty is submission to mortal pain and suffering, while the same submission to human agony becomes the means to Apollo's deification. The paradox is at least explained when one realizes that Keats invests his pagan myth with Christian theology. The fall of the Titans parallels that of Adam and Eve, as well as Satan, in Paradise Lost, in that it is also a "fortunate fall," which will bring a higher good to the entire world. In "Hyperion," however, mankind is, apparently, to be "saved" by the Christ-like Apollo; in the later concept of the "vale of soul-making" and in "The Fall of Hyperion," Keats redirects the fortunate fall theme to involve human beings. As Apollo underwent human suffering to become a god, so man must earn his soul through a "World of Pains and troubles," and the dreamer poet likewise must earn, through endurance of another's pain, the right "to see as a god sees." To be a man, a poet, or a god, the individual must earn his salvation through a fall.
Elizabeth Bieman
Abstract: This dramatic monologue, the opening poem in Men and Women (1855), sets forth the tangle of the speaker's failures and half-failures in marriage and in painting. Interpreted in the light of Neoplatonic discussions of love and art, the poem yields evidence of fuller coherence and richer meaning than have usually been noticed. This critical strategy is justified because the setting is Renaissance Florence, because Browning's conceptual world is usually congruent with that of Neoplatonism, and because this poem uses language which points to the Symposium, and especially to the comic speech of Aristophanes about the primal "round men." Andrea speaks of himself as a "half-man," of Lucrezia as his "moon," and of his life and art in the language of moon-light. He seems to be rationalizing his failures on the assumption that he derives from the old "moon-men," who love their feminine halves to the detriment of artistic achievement. Browning's ironies enable the reader to understand Andrea as self-deluded and guilty of one composite sin: the failure to participate in the cosmic circuit of love and creativity. "One Word More," which closes Men and Women, presents a contrasting image of love and inspiration in the Brownings' marriage.
Gordon W. Thompson
Abstract: The Ring and the Book is a study of perception, a theme presented through two poetic techniques: authorial detachment and imagery. Browning achieves detachment with several devices: the dramatic monologue form; the self-parodying poet of Book I, who tells the story melodramatically and formally withdraws (which is emphasized by the repristination in the ring metaphor); the objective re-telling of the story; the final appearance of the poet in the "O Lyric Love" section; and the use of letters and Fra Celestino's sermon in Book XII. Imagery reveals the Truth of the divine purpose of earthly life, as seen in the constant conflict between good and evil, saintliness and diabolism, purity and corruption, the soul and the flesh. Few of the characters can see this Truth, yet each unconsciously perceives it in his soul. Images, then, are the language of the soul, the expressions of Truth that has been subconsciously glimpsed. They have two significances—one intended by the speaker and a divine Truth the speaker may not see. Thus, authorial detachment and imagery provide the reader with the range of Truth against which to evaluate the differing levels of perception.
Karl Beckson, John M. Munro
Abstract: Arthur Symons, who occupies a central place in the development of the modern aesthetic, derived his idea of the symbolic moment from his understanding of Pater, the French Symbolists, and Browning. Symons's admiration of Pater and the French Symbolists is, of course, well known, but less widely known is his devotion to Browning's verse, which, indeed, he imitated early in his career and about which he wrote a full-length study in 1886. In this work, Symons established connections between Browning's technique of revealing the "soul to itself" in a single moment and Pater's belief that significant moments embody "the greatest number of vital forces" in their "purest energy." Both Browning and Pater prepared Symons for his understanding of what the French Symbolists intended. In formulating his aesthetic, Symons thus anticipated such later concepts as Joyce's "epiphany," Pound's "image," and Virginia Woolf's "moment of being."
Marvel Shmiefsky
Abstract: Contemporary critics have tended to make the search for Unity of Being a peculiarly Yeatsian quest. What surprises one is the extent to which Browning anticipated Yeats thematically and stylistically. The drama of choice is the organizing principle of both their verse. Each poet feels the pressure on the intellect of man to choose between two apparently mutually exclusive alternatives. Each questions whether life's business need be just this terrible choice. They examine the integrity of the choice, the price, and the consequences. They explore the possibilities of thought as action and of language as gesture. Like Yeats, Browning halves a personality in order to make it whole. Both depict the deprivation of a missing part as man's search for his opposite. For both the conflict is not only individual, the problem of the divided sensibility, but social, the problem of two cultures. While they argue from different positions, the frequent similarities in values make one wonder about the pull on Yeats of the century in which he spent the formative years of his life. Ultimately in discovering his own identity, Yeats himself came to see that his quarrel with Browning, was not always a quarrel with his opposite.
Juliet McMaster
Abstract: Jane Austen's fine sense of balance, and her exact definitions of the limits as well as the extent of any vice or virtue, are in operation not only in single novels, through her use of character contrast, but in the whole sequence of her works. In each succeeding novel her practice is to redress a balance or correct the emphasis of the previous one. So she follows Sense and Sensibility, in which Elinor's sense is endorsed against Marianne's emotionalism, with Pride and Prejudice, which can be read as an extended exploration of the perverse operation of the head at the expense of the heart; and Sir Thomas Bertram's benevolence in adopting and advising Fanny changes its aspect and becomes the heroine's arrogant enterprise to take over and dominate another human being in Emma. Similarly, in her social themes, the liberalism of Pride and Prejudice, where Elizabeth wins a class victory over Lady Catherine, is continued in Persuasion, in which the "baronight" is deposed but qualified by the moral development of Wentworth, the self-made man who has to learn humility.
Sidney M. B. Coulling
Abstract: A close reading of their works modifies the traditional belief that Carlyle was a kind of "second Swift." Although he admired Swift and felt a certain affinity to him, Carlyle's attitude was essentially an ambivalent one, reflecting his distinction between humor (an expression of sympathy or love) and satire (a form of apathy or contempt). This duality, with its implicit rejection of the satiric side of Swift, is first evident in Wotton Reinfred and reappears in Sartor Resartus, where Diogenes Teufelsdröckh is depicted as alternately cynic and man of feeling. Yet his irony, which he eventually repudiates, is never as drastic as Swift's, and in other ways as well the work expresses a rejection of irony and satire: ultimately logic gives way to vision, ridicule to prophecy, the descendental view to the transcendental. In the final analysis Carlyle was too distrustful of the satirist, too prone to believe that he was irreconcilably opposed to the true humorist, to be Swift's disciple in any profound sense.
Robert L. Patten
Abstract: The rivalry between Thackeray and Dickens commenced with their nearly simultaneous issuing, by the same publisher in a similar format, of Vanity Fair (1847-1848) and Dombey and Son (1846-1848). Thackeray attributed to Dickens's jealousy the cooling of their relationship after 1847. However, comparison of the sales of the two novels reveals that Vanity Fair was not so successful as Dombey, losing money during its serial run. It did not earn enough to pay the publishers their contractual £1,200 until mid-1850. On the other hand, bound volumes and the cheap edition (1853) sold well; by 1859 Thackeray had received over £1,700 for his novel. Dombey was Dickens's first novel for which his former printers acted also as publishers; though he was worried about their inexperience, the novel was an instant and continued success, beating Martin Chuzzlewit by 10,000 copies per number and earning for Dickens in twenty months £9,165.11.10. Dickens had more buyers, and probably more readers, than Thackeray, and he was more remunerative to his publishers. So on professional grounds he had little reason to be jealous. The causes of their strained relationship are more likely to be found in their divergent modes of life and philosophies of literature.
Richard L. Stein
Abstract: Rossetti's two arts share important formal assumptions, and these account for many of the difficulties in his verse. Like his own painting and the medieval art he admired, his poetry involves sharp juxtapositions of narrative and decorative material, as well as shifts between physical description and symbolic details. Rossetti organizes his poems around these oppositions, most self-consciously the poems referring to painting. His poetry dramatizes the interrelation between alternative views of experience, between figurative and literalistic treatments of a given subject. Frequently these connections are only implied by poetic form, almost visually, rather than developed in logical argument. At times Rossetti offers only the two end-points of an involved train of thought, leaving its reconstruction to the reader. As a result, some poems appear underdeveloped or contradictory, their images unexplained. But his best poetry exploits these complexities, suggesting the difficulties inherent in the act of making poetry itself. Especially in the octet-sestet structure of the Petrarchan sonnet, Rossetti successfully employs poetic form to symbolize the mental processes out of which all art is created.
Barry N. Schwartz
Abstract: An analysis of Jude the Obscure reveals Thomas Hardy's major intention as demonstrated throughout his career as a novelist. Hardy's wish was to portray "an honest picture of human nature," and in doing so Hardy created, or tried to create, writing of the magnitude and scope of the epic. The essential qualities of epic writing are described and demonstrated as relevant to Jude the Obscure. Understanding that Hardy is writing a modern epic, a story of destiny in a world without God, explains why Jude the Obscure (and other novels) is not a tragedy, but is a lament. Jude is the epic hero, lacking divine intervention, who becomes one of the first anti-heroes of existentialism and able guide to the realities of twentieth-century life.
Patrick J. McCarthy
Abstract: George Eliot's creation of her doctor-scientist hero raises questions of why such a hero did not appear earlier in British fiction and what induced the novelist to create him when she did and as she did. Doctors in fiction had reflected medicine's anomalous social and scientific position, or, when featured as heroes, had been altered in various ways and their non-medical sides stressed so as to make them acceptable to readers. Lydgate's training, class position, and advanced methods similarly enable him to avoid the stereotype, but also the importance and validity of his researches, conducted in a realistic world, give him a special interest at a time when the public esteem of medicine was growing. George Eliot's interest in science had been deepened and given direction by G. H. Lewes's studies in physiology and psychology. His work on nervous tissue reminds us of the subject his novelist wife sets for Lydgate, and a scientific trip Lewes took while Lydgate was forming in George Eliot's mind suggests a connection between the two. The image of the web, so central to Middlemarch, may well have been derived from the scientific vocabulary common to Bichat, Lydgate, and Lewes.
Harold Bloom

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