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The essay argues that Charlotte Brontë's Villette (1853) grapples with the role of things in the constitution of persons. It is a paradigmatic novel about the fortunes of private, psychological interiority under commodity culture; its immediate context is the empire of things after the Great Exhibition of 1851. Villette represents subjectivity as a cabinet of curiosities, an interior–like a parlor–filled with intensely meaningful, even fetishized, bibelots. Lucy, the novel's narrator, longs to retreat from the public spectacles of commodity culture but, ironically, finds her identity also through relations with things. The novel suggests that bourgeois subjectivity, though it points to a thorough intimacy with objects, is paradoxically defined by the nostalgic notion that true interiority has been beset by or even lost to the pressure of things.
In 1772, Gottlieb Stephanie introduced an adaptation of Macbeth to replace a banned Viennese Don Juan scenario. This essay uses Stephanie's “new stone guest” to uncover broader historical and thematic connections between Macbeth and Don Juan literature. Both tales have roots in anti-Machiavellian theater, which describes the psychic wreckage brought about when one suppresses the conscience in attempting to subdue fortune. Stephanie expresses this shared vision most vividly by folding a lamento into his tragedy. A closing lamentation delivered from hell was a fixture in Don Juan lore, and modern scholarship tends to interpret it as a carnivalesque defiance of temporal and divine stricture. Stephanie, however, draws on a different treatment of the episode: the protagonist's plaint represents a quest for immortality that has turned into a desire for annihilation. Instead of offering defiance, Stephanie's Macbeth follows the course of many Don Juans in despairing over the possibility of grace.
This article investigates how eighteenth-century writers used the figure of the castrato as a privileged metaphor for the negotiation of class conflicts, gender concepts, and the nature of art. A reading of Johann Jakob Wilhelm Heinse's novel Hildegard von Hohenthal shows that Heinse uses the character of the (fake) castrato to celebrate the artificiality of gender, desire, and art, but his novel leaves class boundaries intact. Friedrich Schiller's poem “Kastraten und Männer” attacks aristocratic supremacy but naturalizes gender codes and equates masculinity and art.
In dialogue with Roland Barthes, whose S/Z unfolds a multiplicity of “voices” in Balzac's “Sarrasine,” this essay focuses on literal voices in the story: those of the castrato and his historical successor, the tenor. It exposes the anachronism whereby a nineteenth-century tenor occupies the place of the baroque castrato hero in the central performance that seduces the title hero, and it analyzes the assumptions that made this anachronism essential to the functioning of the story-and invisible to Balzac, Barthes, and others. By emphasizing the thematics of rivalry and rage in the story and in the political and literary history surrounding it, the essay brings out the oedipal tensions in “Sarrasine” (and, briefly, its companion “L'élixir de longue vie”), tensions that both precipitated the castrato's demise and ensured his survival as a haunting presence in 1830, 1970, and beyond.
W. H. Auden's transmutation of homosexual-colonial paradox into discrepant rhetorics of travel is hardly new. Yet the career mobility Auden initiated after his trip to China, culminating in his embrace of an ascetic Christianity after 1943, signals his principled adherence to a negative poetics of transitivity–by which I mean Auden's increasing commitment to writing experience beyond its material context, as well as to the motility of signs unmoored to national-symbolic traditions. This development appears initially in the poet's “Sonnets from China” (1938) as a rejection of colonialism in favor of English literary humanism (inspired by E. M. Forster), subsequently as the rejection of humanism itself in the face of an inscrutable Chinese other unresponsive to English cultural soundings, and finally (after Auden's decision to depart for the United States in 1939) as the transcendence of context altogether.
Woven through the threads of the poetry, performance, and visual art of Cecilia Vicuña are the image and metaphor of weaving itself, a visual and cultural reminder of an other—indigenous and feminine—form of forging cultural memory. Ever committed to using the aesthetic both to remember the violent exclusions of history and to explore the perpetuation and transformation of the marginalizing structures of power in the present, Vicuña's multigenre work spans over thirty years of Chile's turbulent history of struggle with dictatorship and toward democracy. This essay analyzes the interlacing of textile and text in quipoem, a collection of the poetry and visual art of this author-artist that re-presents a constantly evolving theorization of the complex relation between aesthetics and politics, writing and difference, and memory and power in the postcolonial, postdictatorship context of the Americas in the age of neoliberal globalization.
The Essay that Follows was Prompted by a Session at the 2004 MLA Annual Convention, “Ten Years Since Queering The Renaissance,” organized by Madhavi Menon and chaired by Jonathan Goldberg. The other panelists were Jeffrey Masten and Richard Rambuss, two of the contributors to the 1994 volume, and Laurie Shannon. The papers ranged widely from theoretical questions about the activity of queering to the practices of glossing texts, from relations between queering and gendering to the ways in which queering might also throw into question the human-animal divide. The essay below picks up on some of the broadest theoretical questions raised by the panel, emphasizing the need to continue the work begun a decade ago and suggesting some methodological problems and challenges to be faced.
In a Panel Entitled “American (Indian) Studies: Can the Asa be an Intellectual Home?” at the 2002 Meeting of the American Studies Association, three Native Americanists—Robert Warrior, Philip Deloria, and Jean O'Brien—addressed the relation of their field to the broader terrain of American studies. Each remarked on the tenuous place of Native American studies in the academy, manifested by the underrepresentation of Indian faculty members, the existence of only two institutions granting PhDs in the field, the small number of scholarly journals devoted to Native issues, and neglect by other scholars, even those working in American and ethnic studies. Together, these problems create an institutional situation that Warrior labeled “intellectual homelessness,” in which “Native scholars … don't really belong anywhere” (“Room” 683). Yet these problems also suggest disparities between the questions that define Native studies and those that underlie scholarship in American studies as well as in conventional disciplines. If the marginalization of American Indian studies in academia, as these scholars suggested, reflects the place of Native peoples in United States society, so too does Native politics shape intellectual work in the field.
“The Greatest Mistake Made in Judging Southern Literature, Even by its Friends, is That We are Apt to Speak of it By Itself as if it were a thing apart and a country apart.” John Bell Henneman made this assessment a century ago, in 1903 (347). Fifty-one years later, Jay B. Hubbell observed, “The literature of the South … cannot be understood and appraised if one neglects its many and complicated relations with the literature of the rest of the nation” ('x“). Not long after Louis D. Rubin, Jr., and Robert D. Jacobs published The Southern Renascence: The Literature of the Modern South (1953), a collection of essays by distinguished United States scholars in and beyond the South, the study of southern literature, conceived in the spirit of Henneman and Hubbell, became an academic specialty, with its centers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (where Rubin taught); at Vanderbilt University (the home of Thomas Daniel Young, the New Critics, and, a generation earlier, the Agrarians); and at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge (where Lewis P. Simpson edited the Southern Review). There were outriders: Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren infiltrated Yale. They made such an impression that, today, when people from the Northeast are asked to define southern United States literature, they are likely to channel Brooks in his emphasis on the importance of family, kinship, community, history, and memory in the imagined South. None of this is meant to imply that the literature of the southern United States was not studied before the mid-fifties; it was. Its departures from the broader national tradition were noted, but it did not constitute an academic specialty as it does today. The publication of The Southern Renascence and subsequent work by Rubin, Hubbell, Brooks and Warren, C. Hugh Holman, and many others not only institutionalized southern literature as a specialization in the United States academy but also defined the field in terms of the South's relations with the rest of the nation.