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Spanish literature in the Golden Age was a primary literature that produced an impressive number of new literary forms that were admired, copied, and naturalized throughout the rest of Europe. Rojas' La Celestina, Torres Naharro's Comedia Serafina, the anonymous Lazarillo de Tormes, Tirso de Molina's El condenado por desconfiado, and Don Quixote provide examples of the “imaginative authority” of the older literature of Spain. This power of a piece of writing to assume a life of its own, its power to lead the audience wherever it pleases, is best understood in a religious context, since the authors of the works themselves wrote in a religious context. The end of literary study is not theological or moral instruction but elucidation of the intrinsic meanings of the work. Nevertheless, the proper model for the relation of the elucidator to the work is not that of the scientist to physical objects, but that of one man to another in charity. If the critic approaches the poem with this kind of reverence for its integrity, it will respond to questioning and take its part in the dialogue between reader and work which is the life of literary study.
Although often dismissed as a Victorian curiosity, the faith of Tennyson's In Memoriam anticipates the radically modern religious vision of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Both In Memoriam and Teilhard's The Phenomenon of Man stress the need for modern man to see the human phenomenon in the light of recent scientific knowledge. Both works portray the anxiety and doubt that such a vision entails; both works portray the shape that faith must take if man is to survive. Tennyson and Teilhard see modern doubt as stemming from the space-time malady: overwhelmed by the enormity of the universe, modern man fears his existence is both frail and futile. To counter this malady, both men develop a cosmic faith stressing love as the spiritual energy that drives evolution onward; the need for greater knowledge, communication, and spiritual growth; and an awareness of human survival after death. Translating this faith into Christian terms, both men see man's salvation in his efforts to evolve toward a cosmic Christ-that-is-to-be. Although Tennyson speaks as poet in mostly personal terms and Teilhard speaks as scientist-sage in more general terms, both men use art to lead the reader to Real Assent.
As an abstraction from the conditions of real life, the pastoral mode permits both heightened esthetic contemplation and concentrated study of human love. Such removal from reality is related to music, myth, and nature. The peculiarity of La Diana consists in an attempt to fuse the neo-aristotelian antithesis between poetry (myth) and history. For Montemayor, love and virtue are mysterious gifts of nature which man preserves through effort. But if man serves love, high feelings mark the nobleman. In a social context such sentimental aristocracy must be proved in the form of a trial of love. Felismena's contradictory behavior may be understood as an amorous despair—the hardest of trials—that is nevertheless willed. Similar conclusions arise from viewing Belisa's dreams as symbolic projections (the paradigm for which is Felicia's potion—a symbol of rebirth). A symbolic interpretation of the magical dream induced by Alfeo reveals Belisa's desire to kill her lover (will to trial) without suffering his permanent loss. Such psychotic tendencies are stemmed by the goddess Felicia, who allegorically reinstitutes the desire for happiness and its pursuit in the world of reality through self-renunciation.
While the public action in War and Peace moves toward war and then away from it, an analogous private journey from spiritual war to spiritual peace takes place within each of the protagonists. For three of them, Tolstoy structures the development by (a) situating for each character a specific major turning point, (b) constructing among the three stories various parallels and contrasts, and (c) developing appropriate patterns of symbolic imagery. Nicholas moves from war to peace by becoming transformed from a soldier into a farmer, husband, and father; the change is defined by imagery associated with physical liberation and two kinds of hunt. The movement in Natasha's life is from peace to war and is a result of the exposure of her innocence and happiness to temptation and suffering. This development is underscored by imagery connected with two kinds of singing, by the contrasting ways in which she reacts to the party at Uncle's and to the opera, and by a specific analogy between her fate and that of the nation. The movement from war to peace in Mary's story occurs when the inner conflicts created by her relations with her father are resolved, after the latter's death, upon the arrival of Nicholas, with whom her experience is further linked by a repetition of the imagery of liberation.
Chaucer's elegy, The Book of the Duchess, has been read in the past either as an exercise in exclusively human consolation without religious meaning or—by the patristic critics—as so rigidly iconographic that the obvious dramatic situation has been sacrificed to accommodate patristic truths. Chaucer's real intention is more divinely directed than the former and more humanly directed than the latter. The poem offers Christian consolation complementary to the dramatic situation by weaving images of the resurrection into the warp and woof of mute pity. The recurrence of sleeping images, for example, in the case of the Dreamer himself and in the case of Ceys and Alcione, functions as a salubrious intermission between an anguished consciousness and a redemptive awakening. The repetition of horn blasts, both in the underworld episode and the hart-hunting scene, suggests the resurrectional trumpet of the New Testament. And the hunting scene, ambiguously involved as it is with the hart, suggests through the echoic use of resurrectional diction from the Canticle of Canticles further Christian affirmation about the mystery of immortality.
In his speech on “vertue” (I.iii) Iago defends the absolute power of the individual to will freely. This doctrine of the autonomous will was commonly attributed to the Jesuit theologian, Molina, whose writings were then the subject of bitter controversy. Iago's subtle twisting of moral values also falls into the pattern of malign casuistry and cynical self-aggrandizement associated with the Jesuit image in England. Iago, then, is not the usual Machiavel who spurns both religion and morality; he is the Jesuitical Machiavel who employs the language of piety to “enmesh them all.” Convinced that he is the master of his will, Iago usually finds no difficulty in supplying motives for his actions; yet, after he is unmasked, he doggedly remains silent. From the Augustinian (and Shakespearean) point of view this is simply the ultimate mute evidence that, contrary to his belief, Iago has been mastered by a radically evil will for which he has merely supplied both motive and opportunity. Like the Pardoner and the Ancient Mariner, he knows what he has done, but does not (in the fullest sense of the word) know why he has done it.
The justification in Paradise Lost of the ways of God to men depends as much on Milton's dramatic and psychological motivation of the Fall as on its theological structure. The designed contrasts between Adam's and Eve's reactions on first awakening to life absolve Eve of the usual charge of vanity by establishing her as a feeling in relation to Adam as a ratiocinating being. Under the influence of Satan's venom Eve fails in love to Adam and then to God. But in Milton's view Adam is the faultier of the two because of his conscious failure to assert the absolute authority of his reason over her misguided feelings. Milton formally depends upon Paul's statement that Adam fell undeceived, but in his psychological motivation of the three key episodes of the Fall he differs from the usual interpretation of the Church Fathers that Paul meant only that Satan had not deceived Adam directly as he had deceived Eve. Milton thus reconciles the apparent paradox that Adam was not deceived but instead foolishly overcome by female charm. The scene in which he weakly yields permission is a direct foreshadowing of his acceptance of the apple since both contain the same false rationalization of his unwillingness to accept the responsibilities of his superior wisdom and its proper exercise in command.
In the Life of Johnson, Boswell suggests that Rasselas echoes the vanitas vanitatum theme of Ecclesiastes. Boswell's suggestion is quite discerning, for Rasselas is, in fact, designed to recall both the Preacher's futile quest for perfect happiness and the meaning of that quest as interpreted by a post-Reformation school of commentators on Ecclesiastes. This school includes Bishop Simon Patrick, whose scriptural writings, in conjunction with those of William Lowth, made up the “standard” Augustan commentary on the Old Testament. Rasselas is informed with a complex of images, sentiments, and ideas drawn from Bishop Patrick's paraphrase of and annotations to the Book of Ecclesiastes, and the thematic structure of the apologue follows the thematic structure that the post-Reformation school attributed to Ecclesiastes.
The Gothic novel is defined not by its stock devices—ruined abbeys and the like—but by its use of a particular atmosphere for essentially psychological purposes. Mary Shelley, Maturin, Melville, and Faulkner develop a form crudely forged by Walpole, Mrs. Radcliffe, and M. G. Lewis. Their Gothic novels attempt to immerse the reader in an extraordinary world in which ordinary standards and moral judgments become meaningless and good and evil are seen as inextricably intertwined. Gothic writing is closely related to romantic: both are the product of a profound reaction against everyday reality and conventional religious explanations of existence. But while romantic writing is the product of faith in an ultimate order, Gothic writing is a gloomy exploration of the limitations of man. The one attempts to transcend the flux of the purely temporal to find joy and security in a higher beauty; the other is mired in the temporal and within it can find only absurdities and unresolvable ambiguities.
Hardy seems to have reacted negatively to the poetry of William Barnes, his friend and mentor, when it idealized the countryside as the location of a stable, harmonious, divinely sanctioned social order. Such poetry lacked “dramatic form”—contrast within the poem between the limited sphere of the speaker and the larger awareness of the poet. There are nevertheless affinities between the two men: Both venerated the countryside as a relic of the past—as a location sanctified by the meaningful human experience associated with it. If Barnes influenced Hardy positively, it must have been mainly through the loving awareness of the meaning of time and place expressed in his verse. Yet Barnes laments merely the pastness of the past; Hardy explores the radical discontinuity between the idealized past and the real present. Wessex for Hardy represents both an idealized Barnesian world and a real world in which the eternal disparities causing inevitable human suffering can be most clearly observed.
The focus of My Antonia is controlled by Jim Burden's attempt to invest the memories of his youth in the image of Antonia. Jim gives us first an extended portrait of the Nebraska prairies, of the Shimerdas' struggle for survival, and of an Antonia who grows muscular under the strain of work. An idyllic quality pervades the narrative, a sense of happiness remembered. Incidents of bitterness and violence are muted by a style which sacrifices immediacy to the afterglow of remembrance. At the midpoint of the novel, Lena Lingrad, enticing, sensually eloquent, poses a challenge to Jim and his memories. A latter-day enchantress, Lena inspires irresponsibility, forgetfulness, and dream. But Jim's narrative is dedicated to showing the value of memory in and for the present; he identifies Antonia with the prairie and clusters its meanings around her. When, after years have passed, he returns to Nebraska and sees Antonia's large, joyous, and vibrant family, the past and the present finally merge for him in a dynamic new image of happiness. Antonia comes to be Jim's personal symbol of the value of human experience. The novel first validates his memory, then transfigures it into something fertile, fresh, and living.
Certain similarities of style and concept can be found in the majority of Pascalian texts. A tracing of the structure and use of these patterns in the three major phases of Pascal's writings (nonreligious, the Provinciales, the Apologie) shows that the configuration shared by the different modes gravitates constantly toward one type of rhetorical and conceptual figure, the figure of person. It is a dialogic movement with a consistent pattern of an animate image containing human characteristics in which there are correspondences and structures of meaning and expression. This underlying configuration clearly places Pascalian thought and style in the tradition of Renaissance cosmology where the animate image of man, nature, and the universe had not yet been replaced by Cartesian mechanistic scientific philosophy.
Critical and historical investigations of eighteenth-century French literature have been hampered by inadequate and often irrelevant schemes of periodization. If, as has been claimed, the secular division itself is arbitrary and does not respect the realities of literary production, other principles of division, such as literary generations, have not seemed more realistic. As for the contested attempt to equate the eighteenth century with the Enlightenment, its effect on literary studies has been to stress unduly the literature of ideas, especially as produced by the outstanding philosophes. Attempts to elaborate a rationale for a rococo-style periodization have raised more problems than they have solved, and may lead to unproductive theoretical bickering. Logically, it is only a systematic survey of the literature itself in the light of literary tradition that will yield truly literary periodizations, and it is only when these have been achieved that we can meaningfully investigate literature's relationships with other aspects of what might as well be called, with due reservations, the eighteenth century.
An analysis of Les Caves in terms of Le Rire reveals the nature of Gidian comedy, at the same time establishing an affinity between Bergson and Gide. Bergson's thesis is that comedy springs from the conflict between mechanical and living, body and soul, inanimate and animate. Even wordplay and farce find a place in this context. The presentation of comedy requires detachment on the part of the author, an effect which Gide successfully achieves in this novel. Comedy criticises hypocrisy, whether it be social or individual. Gide criticises forms of hypocrisy arising from inadequate awareness of immediate exigencies. Amédée, central to the theme of comic conflict, is central to the action and structure of Les Caves. Anthime reveals the aspirations of the soul in comic conflict with the limitations of the body. Protos manipulates social groups and individuals mechanically but cannot escape the consequences of the game he has initiated. Lafcadio, desiring spontaneity, in conflict with the logical Julius, lives out an inconsequential dream. For both authors the contradictions of the world of dreams reveal parallels with the world of comedy.
In a recent article, “Swift's Project: A Religious and Political Satire” (PMLA, LXXII, March 1967, 54–63), Leland D. Peterson argues that Swift's Project for the Advancement of Religion, and the Reformation of Manners (1709) cannot be taken as a serious “reformation tract.” In his view, what Swift appears to be recommending in the Project is as outrageous in its own way as his more famous project in A Modest Proposal and we must therefore assume that in the earlier piece, as in the later, Swift's pose is ironic, his persona unsympathetic, and his purpose satirical. Peterson concludes by suggesting that “the main targets of satire in the Project are reformers and reforming societies, projectors, nominal Christianity, and the Whig Junto” (p. 58).