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The latest new books in Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature

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  • 07/04/17--22:00: Shakespeare's Rome
  • For more than forty years, Paul Cantor’s Shakespeare’s Rome has been a foundational work in the field of politics and literature. While many critics assumed that the Roman plays do not reflect any special knowledge of Rome, Cantor was one of the first to argue that they are grounded in a profound understanding of the Roman regime and its changes over time. Taking Shakespeare seriously as a political thinker, Cantor suggests that his Roman plays can be profitably studied in the context of the classical republican tradition in political philosophy.             In Shakespeare’s Rome, Cantor examines the political settings of Shakespeare’s Roman plays, Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra, with references as well to Julius Caesar. Cantor shows that Shakespeare presents a convincing portrait of Rome in different eras of its history, contrasting the austere republic of Coriolanus, with its narrow horizons and martial virtues, and the cosmopolitan empire of Antony and Cleopatra, with its “immortal longings” and sophistication bordering on decadence.

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  • 07/09/17--22:00: Sweet Science
  • Today we do not expect poems to carry scientifically valid information. But it was not always so. In Sweet Science, Amanda Jo Goldstein returns to the beginnings of the division of labor between literature and science to recover a tradition of Romantic life writing for which poetry was a privileged technique of empirical inquiry. Goldstein puts apparently literary projects, such as William Blake’s poetry of embryogenesis, Goethe’s journals On Morphology, and Percy Shelley’s “poetry of life,” back into conversation with the openly poetic life sciences of Erasmus Darwin, J. G. Herder, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, and Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Such poetic sciences, Goldstein argues, share in reviving Lucretius’s De rerum natura to advance a view of biological life as neither self-organized nor autonomous, but rather dependent on the collaborative and symbolic processes that give it viable and recognizable form. They summon De rerum natura for a logic of life resistant to the vitalist stress on self-authorizing power and to make a monumental case for poetry’s role in the perception and communication of empirical realities. The first dedicated study of this mortal and materialist dimension of Romantic biopoetics, Sweet Science opens a through-line between Enlightenment materialisms of nature and Marx’s coming historical materialism.

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  • 08/14/17--22:00: Le Bone Florence of Rome
  • Florence of Rome is a Middle English tail-rhyme romance that survives in a single copy dating to the late fifteenth century. An analogue of Chaucer's "Man of Law's Tale," it follows the adventures of a heroine who survives multiple exiles, sexual harassment, and false accusations. Through that story, it explores issues of abuse of power, the stakes of global conflict, women's place in society, and more. This edition presents line-by-line translations of the French, along with an introduction that analyzes the themes, ideologies, and literary context of the romance.

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  • 08/14/17--22:00: All That Is Wales
  • Wales is small geographically, but its rich and varied culture belies its size. This collection of essays focuses on English-language authors from Wales in order to offer a sample of the country's internal diversity. Contributors include Lynette Roberts, who is Argentinian by birth but of Welsh decent; Peggy Ann Whistler, who chose a new Welsh identity as Margiad Evans; Nigel Heseltine, whose bizarre stories of the decaying squirearchy of the Welsh border country remain sadly little known; and Utah-based poet Leslie Norris, whose Welsh-English translations bring out the bicultural character of Wales. Taken together, they present a Wales that is vibrant in its difference, a culture made of many disparate parts.

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  • 08/27/17--22:00: Uncomfortable Situations
  • What is a hostile environment? How exactly can feelings be mixed? What on earth might it mean when someone writes that he was “happily situated” as a slave? The answers, of course, depend upon whom you ask. Science and the humanities typically offer two different paradigms for thinking about emotion—the first rooted in brain and biology, the second in a social world. With rhetoric as a field guide, Uncomfortable Situations establishes common ground between these two paradigms, focusing on a theory of situated emotion. Daniel M. Gross anchors the argument in Charles Darwin, whose work on emotion has been misunderstood across the disciplines as it has been shoehorned into the perceived science-humanities divide. Then Gross turns to sentimental literature as the single best domain for studying emotional situations. There’s lost composure (Sterne), bearing up (Equiano), environmental hostility (Radcliffe), and feeling mixed (Austen). Rounding out the book, an epilogue written with ecological neuroscientist Stephanie Preston provides a different kind of cross-disciplinary collaboration. Uncomfortable Situations is a conciliatory work across science and the humanities—a groundbreaking model for future studies.

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  • 09/14/17--22:00: All That Is Wales
  • Wales is small geographically, but its rich and varied culture belies its size. This collection of essays focuses on English-language authors from Wales in order to offer a sample of the country's internal diversity. Contributors include Lynette Roberts, who is Argentinian by birth but of Welsh decent; Peggy Ann Whistler, who chose a new Welsh identity as Margiad Evans; Nigel Heseltine, whose bizarre stories of the decaying squirearchy of the Welsh border country remain sadly little known; and Utah-based poet Leslie Norris, whose Welsh-English translations bring out the bicultural character of Wales. Taken together, they present a Wales that is vibrant in its difference, a culture made of many disparate parts.

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  • 10/01/17--22:00: Joyce's Ghosts
  • For decades, James Joyce’s modernism has overshadowed his Irishness, as his self-imposed exile and association with the high modernism of Europe’s urban centers has led critics to see him almost exclusively as a cosmopolitan figure. In Joyce’s Ghosts, Luke Gibbons mounts a powerful argument that this view is mistaken: Joyce’s Irishness is intrinsic to his modernism, informing his most distinctive literary experiments. Ireland, Gibbons shows, is not just a source of subject matter or content for Joyce, but of form itself. Joyce’s stylistic innovations can be traced at least as much to the tragedies of Irish history as to the shock of European modernity, as he explores the incomplete project of inner life under colonialism. Joyce’s language, Gibbons reveals, is haunted by ghosts, less concerned with the stream of consciousness than with a vernacular interior dialogue, the “shout in the street,” that gives room to outside voices and shadowy presences, the disruptions of a late colonial culture in crisis. Showing us how memory under modernism breaks free of the nightmare of history, and how in doing so it gives birth to new forms, Gibbons forces us to think anew about Joyce’s achievement and its foundations.

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  • 10/05/17--22:00: Very Queer Family Indeed
  • “We can begin with a kiss, though this will not turn out to be a love story, at least not a love story of anything like the usual kind.” So begins A Very Queer Family Indeed, which introduces us to the extraordinary Benson family. Edward White Benson became Archbishop of Canterbury at the height of Queen Victoria’s reign, while his wife, Mary, was renowned for her wit and charm—the prime minister once wondered whether she was “the cleverest woman in England or in Europe.” The couple’s six precocious children included E. F. Benson, celebrated creator of the Mapp and Lucia novels, and Margaret Benson, the first published female Egyptologist. What interests Simon Goldhill most, however, is what went on behind the scenes, which was even more unusual than anyone could imagine. Inveterate writers, the Benson family spun out novels, essays, and thousands of letters that open stunning new perspectives—including what it might mean for an adult to kiss and propose marriage to a twelve-year-old girl, how religion in a family could support or destroy relationships, or how the death of a child could be celebrated. No other family has left such detailed records about their most intimate moments, and in these remarkable accounts, we see how family life and a family’s understanding of itself took shape during a time when psychoanalysis, scientific and historical challenges to religion, and new ways of thinking about society were developing. This is the story of the Bensons, but it is also more than that—it is the story of how society transitioned from the high Victorian period into modernity.  

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    The life of Jane Austen has fascinated the millions of readers around the world who cherish her work. A new collection presents an intimate portrait of Austen through her personal possessions, showing the many details of her life that found echoes in her fiction, especially her keen observations of the “little matters”—the routines of reading, dining and taking tea, paying visits to family and friends, and walking to the shops or to send the post.             Brilliantly edited by Kathryn Sutherland, Jane Austen: Writer in the World offers a life story told through the author's personal possessions. In her teenage notebooks, literary jokes give a glimpse of her family’s shared love of reading and satire, which can be seen in the subtler humor of Austen’s published work. Pieces from Austen’s hand-copied collection of sheet music reveal how music was used to create networks far more intricate than the simple pleasures of home recital. A beautiful brown silk pelisse-coat, together with lively letters between Austen and Cassandra, give insight into her views on fashion. All feature in this lavishly illustrated collection, along with homemade booklets in which she composed her novels, portraits made of Austen during her lifetime, and much more. Also included are objects associated with the era in which Austen lived: newspaper articles, naval logbooks, and contemporary political cartoons, shedding light on Austen’s wider social and political worlds.             This collection makes a delightful modern-day keepsake from one of the world’s best-loved writers on the two-hundredth anniversary of her death.  

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    The life of Jane Austen has fascinated the millions of readers around the world who cherish her work. A new collection presents an intimate portrait of Austen in her own words, showing the many details of her life that found echoes in her fiction, especially her keen observations of the “little matters”—the routines of reading, dining and taking tea, paying visits to family and friends, and walking to the shops or to send the post.             Brilliantly edited by Kathryn Sutherland, Jane Austen: The Chawton Letters uses Austen’s letters drawn from the collection held at Jane Austen’s House Museum at her former home in Chawton, Hampshire, to tell her life story. At age twenty-five, Austen left her first home, Steventon, Hampshire, for Bath. In 1809, she moved to Chawton, which was to be her home for the remainder of her short life. In her correspondence, we discover Austen’s relish for her regular visits to the shops and theaters of London, as well as the quieter routines of village life. We learn of her anxieties about the publication of Pride and Prejudice, her care in planning Mansfield Park, and her hilarious negotiations over the publication of Emma.  (To her sister, Cassandra, Austen calls her publisher John Murray, “a Rogue, of course, but a civil one.”) Throughout, the Chawton letters testify to Jane’s close ties with her family, especially her sister, and the most moving letter is written by Cassandra just days after Jane’s death. The collection also reproduces pages from the letters in Austen’s own distinctive hand.             This collection makes a delightful modern-day keepsake from one of the world’s best-loved writers on the two-hundredth anniversary of her death.  

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    “Next week I shall begin my operations on my hat, on which you know my principal hopes of happiness depend.”—from a letter to Cassandra, October 27, 1798   “You express so little anxiety about my being murdered under Ash Park Copse by Mrs. Hulbert’s servant, that I have a great mind not to tell you whether I was or not.”—from a letter to Cassandra, January 8, 1799   “Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor, which is one very strong argument in favour of matrimony.”—from a letter to Fanny Knight, March 13, 1817   Much loved for the romantic plot lines and wryly amusing social commentary that spring from the pages of Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and her other novels Jane Austen was also a prolific letter writer and penned missives on many subjects. To her sister Cassandra she wrote with candid humor about the effects of the Peninsular War (“How horrible it is to have so many people killed! And what a blessing that one cares for none of them!”), about her dislike of parties and social obligations (“We are to have a tiny party here tonight. I hate tiny parties, they force one into constant exertion.”), and about her impressions of London (“Here I am once more in this scene of dissipation and vice, and I begin to find already my morals corrupted.”). Austen’s characters likewise offer commentary on topics like moral character, gender inequality, ageing, and the disappointments of marriage. In Pride and Prejudice, for example, Charlotte Lucas cautions Elizabeth Bennet, “It is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are about to pass your life.” Drawing together fifty quotations from Jane Austen’s letters and novels with illustrations that illuminate everyday aspects of life in the Georgian era, this beautifully produced volume will make the perfect gift for Janeites.

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  • 11/15/17--22:00: Great William
  • The Great William is the first book to explore how seven renowned writers—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Virginia Woolf, Charles Olson, John Berryman, Allen Ginsberg, and Ted Hughes—wrestled with Shakespeare in the very moments when they were reading his work. What emerges is a constellation of remarkable intellectual and emotional encounters.Theodore Leinwand builds impressively detailed accounts of these writers’ experiences through their marginalia, lectures, letters, journals, and reading notes. We learn why Woolf associated reading Shakespeare with her brother Thoby, and what Ginsberg meant when referring to the mouth feel of Shakespeare’s verse. From Hughes’s attempts to find a “skeleton key” to all of Shakespeare’s plays to Berryman’s tormented efforts to edit King Lear, Leinwand reveals the palpable energy and conviction with which these seven writers engaged with Shakespeare, their moments of utter self-confidence and profound vexation. In uncovering these intense public and private reactions, The Great William connects major writers’ hitherto unremarked scenes of reading Shakespeare with our own.

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    Wolves are familiar figures in the Gothic imagination, creatures of pure animality that, when combined with the human in the form of the werewolf,  offer powerful opportunities to explore complicated anxieties surrounding difference. This is the first volume that deals with the appearance of werewolves and wolves in literary and cultural texts from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Drawing on representations of werewolves and wolves in literature, film, television, and visual culture, the essays investigate the key texts of the lycanthropic canon alongside lesser-known works from the 1890s to the present. The result is an innovative study that is both theoretically aware and historically nuanced, featuring an international list of established and emerging scholars based in Britain, Europe, North America, and Australia.

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    In Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages, Michelle Karnes revises the history of medieval imagination with a detailed analysis of its role in the period’s meditations and theories of cognition. Karnes here understands imagination in its technical, philosophical sense, taking her cue from Bonaventure, the thirteenth-century scholastic theologian and philosopher who provided the first sustained account of how the philosophical imagination could be transformed into a devotional one. Karnes examines Bonaventure’s meditational works, the Meditationes vitae Christi, the Stimulis amoris, Piers Plowman, and Nicholas Love’s Myrrour, among others, and argues that the cognitive importance that imagination enjoyed in scholastic philosophy informed its importance in medieval meditations on the life of Christ. Emphasizing the cognitive significance of both imagination and the meditations that relied on it, she revises a long-standing association of imagination with the Middle Ages. In her account, imagination was not simply an object of suspicion but also a crucial intellectual, spiritual, and literary resource that exercised considerable authority.

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    Literary scholars often avoid the category of the aesthetic in discussions of ethics, believing that purely aesthetic judgments can vitiate analyses of a literary work’s sociopolitical heft and meaning. In Practicing Literary Theory in the Middle Ages, Eleanor Johnson reveals that aesthetics—the formal aspects of literary language that make it sense-perceptible—are indeed inextricable from ethics in the writing of medieval literature. Johnson brings a keen formalist eye to bear on the prosimetric form: the mixing of prose with lyrical poetry. This form descends from the writings of the sixth-century Christian philosopher Boethius—specifically his famous prison text, Consolation of Philosophy—to the late medieval English tradition. Johnson argues that Boethius’s text had a broad influence not simply on the thematic and philosophical content of subsequent literary writing, but also on the specific aesthetic construction of several vernacular traditions. She demonstrates the underlying prosimetric structures in a variety of Middle English texts—including Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and portions of the Canterbury Tales, Thomas Usk’s Testament of Love, John Gower’s Confessio amantis, and Thomas Hoccleve’s autobiographical poetry—and asks how particular formal choices work, how they resonate with medieval literary-theoretical ideas, and how particular poems and prose works mediate the tricky business of modeling ethical transformation for a readership.

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  • 01/25/18--22:00: Alice in Space
  • In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll created fantastic worlds that continue to delight and trouble readers of all ages today. Few consider, however, that Carroll conceived his Alice books during the 1860s, a moment of intense intellectual upheaval, as new scientific, linguistic, educational, and mathematical ideas flourished around him and far beyond. Alice in Space reveals the contexts within which the Alice books first lived, bringing back the zest to jokes lost over time and poignancy to hidden references. Gillian Beer explores Carroll’s work through the speculative gaze of Alice, for whom no authority is unquestioned and everything can speak. Parody and Punch, evolutionary debates, philosophical dialogues, educational works for children, math and logic, manners and rituals, dream theory and childhood studies—all fueled the fireworks. While much has been written about Carroll’s biography and his influence on children’s literature, Beer convincingly shows him at play in the spaces of Victorian cultural and intellectual life, drawing on then-current controversies, reading prodigiously across many fields, and writing on multiple levels to please both children and adults in different ways. With a welcome combination of learning and lightness, Beer reminds us that Carroll’s books are essentially about curiosity, its risks and pleasures. Along the way, Alice in Space shares Alice’s exceptional ability to spark curiosity in us, too.

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  • 04/05/18--22:00: Shakespeare Dwelling
  • Great halls and hovels, dove-houses and sheepcotes, mountain cells and seaside shelters—these are some of the spaces in which Shakespearean characters gather to dwell, and to test their connections with one another and their worlds. Julia Reinhard Lupton enters Shakespeare’s dwelling places in search of insights into the most fundamental human problems.   Focusing on five works (Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Pericles, Cymbeline, and The Winter’s Tale), Lupton remakes the concept of dwelling by drawing on a variety of sources, including modern design theory, Renaissance treatises on husbandry and housekeeping, and the philosophies of Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger. The resulting synthesis not only offers a new entry point into the contemporary study of environments; it also shows how Shakespeare’s works help us continue to make sense of our primal creaturely need for shelter.

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    This fascinating book offers twelve chapters by experts in the field of Celtic mythology—from myth and the medieval to comparative mythology and the new cosmological approach. Celtic Myth in the 21st Century offers a wide range of innovative research that leads readers on an adventure through the wonders of Celtic history: the possible use of hallucinogenic mushrooms in ancient Ireland to the mental mapping in the interpretation of the Irish legend Táin Bó Cuailgne. It also looks at the modern integration of established scholarship with new findings that have recently emerged at the Indo-European level; these developments have the potential to open up the whole field of mythology in a new way. An exciting addition to existing scholarship, Celtic Myth in the 21st Century is the first book to offer a view of Celtic mythology as the reflection of a prehistoric state that it is possible to recover through integrated cosmological enquiry.  

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  • 05/29/18--22:00: Strange Footing
  • For premodern audiences, poetic form did not exist solely as meter, stanzas, or rhyme scheme. Rather, the form of a poem emerged as an experience, one generated when an audience immersed in a culture of dance encountered a poetic text. Exploring the complex relationship between medieval dance and medieval poetry, Strange Footing argues that the intersection of texts and dance produced an experience of poetic form based in disorientation, asymmetry, and even misstep. Medieval dance guided audiences to approach poetry not in terms of the body’s regular marking of time and space, but rather in the irregular and surprising forces of virtual motion around, ahead of, and behind the dancing body. Reading medieval poems through artworks, paintings, and sculptures depicting dance, Seeta Chaganti illuminates texts that have long eluded our full understanding, inviting us to inhabit their strange footings askew of conventional space and time.Strange Footing deploys the motion of dance to change how we read medieval poetry, generating a new theory of poetic form for medieval studies and beyond.

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    The range of J. R. R. Tolkien’s talents is remarkable. Not only was he an accomplished linguist and philologist, as well as a scholar of Anglo-Saxon and medieval literature and Norse folklore, but also a skillful illustrator and storyteller. Drawing on these talents, he created a universe which is for many readers as real as the physical world they inhabit daily. Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth explores the huge creative endeavor behind Tolkien’s enduring popularity. Lavishly illustrated with three hundred images of his manuscripts, drawings, maps, and letters, the book traces the creative process behind his most famous literary works—The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion—and reproduces personal photographs and private papers, many of which have never been seen before in print. Six essays introduce the reader to the person of J. R. R. Tolkien and to main themes in his life and work, including the influence of northern languages and legends on the creation of his own legendarium; his concept of “Faërie” as an enchanted literary realm; the central importance of his invented languages in his fantasy writing; his visual imagination and its emergence in his artwork; and the encouragement he derived from his close friend C. S. Lewis and their literary group the Inklings. The book brings together the largest collection of original Tolkien material ever assembled in a single volume. Drawing on the extensive archives of the Tolkien collections at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, which stretch to more than five hundred boxes, and Marquette University, Milwaukee, as well as private collections, this hugely ambitious and exquisitely produced book draws together the worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien – scholarly, literary, creative, and domestic—offering a rich and detailed understanding and appreciation of this extraordinary author. This landmark publication, produced on the occasion of a major exhibition at the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford in 2018 and at the Morgan Library in New York in 2019, is set to become a standard work in the literature on J. R. R. Tolkien.  

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