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Sonnets has appeared to draw on antique topoi of permanence and change and to escape other sonnet sequences' intertextuality and attachment to a set of narrative and lyric conventions. In fact, Shakespeare extensively followed Spenser's nearby nonamatory sequence, translated from Du Bellay's Les Antiquitez de Rome. Numerous verbal and thematic resemblances (some exclusive to Ruines and Sonnets) show Shakespeare transmuting Spenser's image–a preeminent city ruined by time and the conflicts of will and of appetite among its contentious sons but immortalized in the literature inspired by its greatness–into another image: a preeminent youth, vulnerable to time and moral decay, who endures in Sonnets. Also, Shakespeare's early histories borrow verbally and thematically from Ruines' weakening of an otherwise invincible nation by strife. The nature of Shakespeare's transaction with Ruines remains to be investigated.
Writing shortly after Brazil declared its independence from Portugal, Jose de Alencar considered that one of his major tasks was to help formulate a new definition of Brazilian nationality that would be distinct from, but equal in value to, the inevitable European models. Alencar uses some of the stereotypes of European romantic fiction to differentiate the American nation from others. His works, in their subject and in their stance toward Brazilian history and society, reproduce and confirm not only the prevailing national ideologies but also the inherent and characteristic contradictions of those ideologies. Alencar's “Indian” novels–O Guarani, Iracema, and Ubirajara–not only affirm the possibility and the value of the harmonious mingling of the cultures making up the new nation but also show that such harmony is not attainable in the terms in which it is posited. By validating national ideals and following them to their contradictions, Alencar's works show themselves to be firmly embedded in the fabric of Brazilian culture.
Ralph Ellison's critical formulations often suggest a radical dichotomy between lived experience and artistic representation. This dichotomy entails such antinomies in his critical canon as social and artistic, folklore and literature. Yet in the Trueblood episode of his novel Invisible Man literary art does not comprehensively transcend folklore. This episode, in fact, provides a metaexpressive commentary in which an agrarian folk storyteller par excellence inversively parodies Freudian and Christian myths and Anglo-American economic, philanthropic, and psychosocial practices. Trueblood emerges as a mediating blues site reconciling seemingly fixed distinctions between commercial and creative dimensions of Afro-American expression. The folk character's crafty realization reveals Ellison's Afro-American genius in brilliantly reflexive ways.
Since the 1960s scholars have challenged earlier assumptions concerning ritual and literature. They have seriously discredited both the “ritual theory of myth” and traditional ideas on the relation of ritual to Greek and medieval drama. Although some critics still subscribe to theories of psychoanalysis and the “Cambridge anthropological school,” current anthropology offers superior theories of ritual, particularly those of Victor Turner, with their emphasis on community. Because literature and rites have similar emotional effects we have tended to equate them, but by so doing we confuse the liminal with the “liminoid.” Modern authors influenced by Frazer often invite this comparison. Rene Girard's theories of scapegoat and civilization have provided a new, if controversial, turn to ritual criticism. Rites share their symbolic nature with art, but their peculiar satisfaction lies in the experience of community.
Most readers of the Idylls of the King wonder how the traditionally virile and manly King Arthur of legend and romance evolved into the restrained, almost maidenly Victorian monarch of Alfred Lord Tennyson's most ambitious work. Many of the earliest readers of the Idylls saw the change as disquieting evidence of the growing domestication and even feminization of the age, and later critics, however they may have moderated the emotionalism of that first response, still see in Arthur's striking metamorphosis a key element in any analysis of the poem. I argue that such a metamorphosis was inevitable, given the nineteenthcentury confluence of what Foucault calls “the history of sexuality” with what we may call the history of history, and that Tennyson's Arthurian retelling, far from being weakened by its revolutionary premise, is stronger and more resonant for depicting its hero as a species of female king.
Throughout his life, Jefferson maintained an active but intermittent interest in the study of Old English. He collected a sizable library in the subject and advocated the utility of Old English to the professions, especially law. His major work, the Essay on the Anglo-Saxon Language, proposed radical simplifications in pedagogy and instituted at the University of Virginia the first college course of Old English ever taught in America. In several important ways Jefferson accurately predicted the future of Old English studies, and he rightly criticized the Latinate bias of contemporary grammars. Nevertheless, his ignorance of Germanic philology undermined many of his ideas on the grammar and phonology of Old English.