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SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900
Rice University MS-46
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George R. Wasserman
Abstract: Butler's notebook-reflections on human nature provide the context for a reading of Part I of Hudibras as a satire on mankind. Reason, traditionally regarded as the mark of man's superiority over the beasts, was, for Butler, the cause of human strife and brutishness. Most men, he suggests, use reason unnaturally, as a result of either excessive passion and humour (accidental madness) or of the deliberate use of reason abstracted from the senses ("Industrious Ignorance"). Thus, to the degree that they act in accordance with their true natures, natural fools and animals may be regarded as rational man's superior. These views are illustrated by both the mock-polemics and the mock-heroics of the poem-i.e., by Hudibras's reasoned defense of the uniqueness of rational man against Ralph's identification of Presbyterian synods with bear-baitings; and by the knight's battle with the bear-baiters, whom he rationally proves to be Jesuit subversives. Further illustration of Butler's views is provided by a pervasive pattern of imagery, brutalizing men and humanizing animals. Part I of Hudibras is thus a dramatic and metaphorical redefinition of the sine qua non of man as bestiality.
Harold Love
Abstract: A previously unnoticed controversy of the 1690's involving Dryden, Durfey, Gildon, Southerne, and Congreve yields new insight into Dryden's mature theory of comedy. In his early criticism, while allowing comedy some measure of moral utility, he had insisted that individual comedies are to be judged by the kind of pleasure they yield, the noblest in his view being that afforded by "genteel" repartee. This, however, left him unable to conceive of critical comedy which was not professedly satiric, a fact that becomes evident in his comments on Southerne's The Wives' Excuse (1692). Gildon, in an attack on Dryden and Southerne in the preface to Durfey's The Marriage-Hater Match'd, argued that the dulce of comedy is primarily the effect of plot, not language, and proposed on this basis that Durfey's play was superior to Southerne's in respect of both dulce and utile. In the slanging-match with Durfey that followed and in his late verse addresses, Dryden can be seen moving towards a broader concept of the dulce of comedy in which the highest value is neither repartee nor plot but "just design" conceived as a merging of separate excellences into a harmonious aesthetic whole.
Michael West
Abstract: Dryden's originality in Mac Flecknoe has been overemphasized. The poem is related not only to Boileau's Lutrin and Tassoni's Secchia Rapita but to other satiric forms current in the seventeenth century. Dryden refers casually to a volume of humanistic mock encomia, and it is likely that his knowledge of this neo-Latin form influenced Mac Flecknoe. Dedekind's Grobianus also furnishes some interesting parallels with Dryden's poem. Boccalini's Ragguagli di Parnaso had been the model for the English Sessions poems, with which Dryden was undoubtedly familiar as the most popular Restoration form for the satire of literary ineptitude. His mock heroic also shows traces of the widely disseminated satiric motif involving an infernal vision and dialogues of the dead; throughout the Restoration Quevedo's Sueños were a prime example of this device, but Marvell had earlier used it to ridicule a despised poet in Tom May's Death. Perhaps the closest parallels occur in two curiously neglected mock epics by the French precieux poet J.-F. Sarasin. Dryden may have silently profited from them, just as in 1702 Christian Wernicke tacitly appropriated Mac Flecknoe as the basis for his own German satire, Ein Heldengedicht, Hans Sachs genannt. Saturated in satiric commonplaces from the continental tradition, Dryden's poem draws on them implicitly to depict Shadwell as a cultural parvenu.
James Egan
Abstract: When one examines the hero's treatment of his fellow men after his spirutual rebirth, the relationship of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe to the Puritan homiletic tradition becomes more apparent. Typically Puritan is the reborn Crusoe's recognition that he must remain in the unregenerate world but not of it. Conversion has imparted to him a twofold responsibility: safeguarding his consecrated soul as well as transmitting his newly acquired purity to others. The monarch image in the novel represents metaphorically Crusoe's regenerate self-image. He is the monarch of the inner kingdom, his own soul, perpetually vigilant against those who would threaten it; Crusoe's wariness is tested by the visitors who arrive on his island. Perceiving that continued association with Friday might lead him into heathenism, Crusoe distances himself spiritually from the savage until Friday accepts Christianity. Crusoe avoids contaminating contact with the Spanish captain because he identifies the Spaniard's Catholicism with the wiles of Antichrist. Eventually Providence vindicates Crusoe by rendering him financially secure, and by granting him an emblematic triumph over evil in the Pyrenees episode. The convert's social posture reflects, finally, the ironic, providential transformation of his former spiritual afflictions into the means of his moral advancement.
Tuvia Bloch
Abstract: In his final novel, Amelia, perhaps as a result of his growing experience on the magistrate's bench, Fielding subscribes to George Booth's doctrine, expounded on no less than six occasions, that men act according to the dictates of the passion "upper-most" in their minds and that they "can do no otherwise." Occasionally, no doubt, he reverts to his earlier views-dramatized, for example, in Tom Jones-that reason and will can control the passions and that good nature prevents vice. But generally he turns his back on these former convictions and not only bases his direct moral comments and speculations on Booth's doctrine but derives from it his emphases and strategies in character portrayal. So in depicting Booth, Colonel James, the Noble Lord, Mrs. Ellison, Miss Bath, Mrs. Bennet, Colonel Bath, and Elizabeth, in every case he first brings out the good nature of the character and only after having established this unfolds the blameworthy or vicious behavior into which the character is impelled by overriding passion. The recurrence of the pattern indicates that Fielding uses it deliberately to convey his new belief that injurious passions are compulsive, uncontrollable even by benevolence.
Ripley Hotch
Abstract: Pope's object in the Essay on Criticism is not to say something original about criticism, but to announce himself as a poet. The poem compares the state of poetry to a kingdom, and describes the history of its establishment, overthrow, and restoration. Pope's metaphors are drawn from the language of law and conquest, organized by variations on the supreme symbol of kingship, the sun. By breaking the bounds of the law, false poets have destroyed the kingdom, and it falls to Pope to reestablish the laws without falling into a sterile worship of antiquity. The conclusion of the poem argues that the poetic empire has been restored in England by Pope's mentors Roscommon and Walsh. Since they are now dead, Pope is the logical heir to the throne of poetry. Throughout the poem, however, Pope insists on his humility in order to avoid seeming pretentious, while in fact his practice demonstrates that he is a supremely accomplished poet, worthy of the position he claims.
Richard H. Douglass
Abstract: A close reading of several passages from the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot reveals the subtlety of Pope's associating himself with great men and dissociating himself from dunces as a means of professing and dramatizing his own internal harmony. A cluster of ingestion images, as yet not fully explored, furthers the impression of a concordant persona. In his defense for publishing his poetry, Pope characterizes his supporters with epithets that suggest his own virtues. Further, the variety and climactic presentation of his friends' responses establish a balance in the persona between bold self-assertion and discriminating honesty. In the flatterers' inept comparisons between Pope and historical figures. Pope disarms his enemies by confronting the fact of his deformity in a comic guise. Third, Pope gains from his association with Arbuthnot, in one instance appropriating Arbuthnot's benignity by exploiting the medicinal connotations of the word "drop." Through images of biting and dining Pope contrasts the hunger, satiety, malice, and shallowness of the dunces with the generosity of his own character.
James E. Tierney
Abstract: Robert Dodsley's fortnightly, The Museum: or, Literary and Historical Register (London, 1746-1747) survives as a rather comprehensive portrait of its age. Edited by Mark Akenside, this periodical did not imitate the Gentleman's Magazine, as has been suggested. Unlike Cave's production, the Museum did not chronicle the times but rather reflected them. In its simple four-part format-essays, poetry, literary memoirs, and historical memoirs-the Museum more resembled the literary journal than the magazine by showing the larger aspects of the age's philosophical, political, religious, esthetic, and social concerns. Furthermore, whereas the Gentleman's republished essays and poetry from other periodicals, the Museum's contents were entirely original. By 1746, Dodsley's reputation as the fashionable London publisher of belle lettres drew original contributions from the three Wartons, "Kit" Smart, William Collins, Joseph Spence, David Garrick, Horace Walpole, and Samuel Johnson among a host of other authors whose reputations have dimmed with time. In fact, so formidable was the entire enterprise that Cave seemed threatened at its inception. Besides poetry and essays, the Museum provided reviews of significant publications, both domestic and foreign, as well as historical portraits of several national powers, together with a brief history of the '45, sometimes attributed to Henry Fielding. The Museum's role in the production of Dodsley's famous Collection of Poetry is certified by many authorial, editorial, and publishing circumstances.
Richard Helgerson
Abstract: The works of Goldsmith produced during the 1760's are governed by an opposition between two worlds, the world of the village and the world of the city. The former is the milieu of The Deserted Village, of Henry Goldsmith in The Traveller, and of Dr. Primrose (though not of his children) in The Vicar of Wakefield. The latter is the great world into which the Traveler adventures, the world with which Goldsmith's various "good natured men" -the Man in Black, Honeywood, Sir William Honeywood, and Sir William Thornhill-must come to terms, a place where the source of being is the esteem of one's fellow men, and where esteem depends on wealth and the prudent management of it. In the city the free benevolence of the village can only lead to ruin and the subsequent loss of esteem. Being depends in the village not on the opinion of men but on a relationship with the divine. Goldsmith does not choose between his two irreconcilable worlds. As one of these who left the village, he looks back on it with both condescension and awe, while he recognizes in his new urban world both material superiority and spiritual insufficiency.
F. Kaplan
Abstract: In Tom Jones the "prefaces" are an integral part of the novel: they present a developed sequence of ideas on the nature of art and the relationship between art, artist, and audienc·, and they are always related to the progress of the main plot. In preface I Fielding's concern with problems of fiction emerges, in II his major subject is time, III exemplifies the principle expressed in II, IV prepares the reader for the introduction of Sophia, V explores the problem