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Long-term Fellows' Project Abstracts



Mellon Fellows

 

Dympna C. Callaghan, Dean’s Professor in the Humanities, Syracuse University

“Shakespeare in Pieces”

 

One of the overwhelming experiences of art in early modern England was of shattered objects, of artifacts broken and despoiled in the midst of the iconophobia unleashed by the Reformation. I argue that this historical circumstance is the engine of Shakespeare’s depiction of visual culture and of the strategies of theatrical and poetic representation deployed there.

Exploring the plethora of “bits and pieces” of the visual arts—drawings, paintings limning, waxes, marbles, miniatures, statues, engravings, stained glass, and so on—scattered throughout Shakespeare’s works, I ask why, especially when viewed in the context of his contemporaries, Shakespeare’s depictions of “Art with nature’s workmanship at strife” (Venus and Adonis) are almost invariably, torn, broken in small pieces, simply incomplete, or otherwise fragmented. My argument in this book is that Shakespeare’s representation of art objects does not so much flesh out the reality he depicts but rather draws attention to precisely the “strife” of artistic accomplishment. “Strife” in this period signals not only the ethical dilemmas of early modern creativity but also the significant technical struggles evident in the English arts. Among the damaged, the dispersed, or potentially impaired artifacts in the plays and poems, the power of images—scattered, splintered, broken, ripped, or just incomplete—reveals itself precisely in the energy of fragmentation. My book project will demonstrate how Shakespeare capitalized on the power of images to energize his explorations of emotion, identity, stagecraft, and religion.

 

 

Stefano Villani, Recercatore, Dipartimento di Storia, Università di Pisa

“Seventeenth-century English Translations of Italian Books”

 

            My objective is to consider the history of the translations into English of Italian books as an aspect of the cultural history of the intellectual relationships between the two countries.

            I intend to do a diacritical examination of what was translated into English and why. This aim is to gain a fuller understanding of the underlying cultural policy, who promoted and pursued it and, if possible, to learn more about the readership of these translations. To achieve this, it is essential to reconstruct the context in which the translations appeared. A careful survey of all English translations of Italian books would contributed significantly to building up a clearer picture of the cultural exchanges and loan between England and Italy in that century.

            The research I am proposing has basically never been done for the second half of the seventeenth century. Although my research perspective is chiefly historical, I will also try to investigate translation theory and practice. For example, one of the most interesting things about seventeenth-century translations is that the translator often used to take great liberties with the original text, not only translating it into a different language, but also radically reworking it, breaking it down and combining sections in a different way. The result was often very different from the original that inspired it. This raises a number of intriguing implications, because sometimes it is difficult to understand whether a given volume is simply a translation or a work loosely inspired by another text.

 

NEH Fellows

 

Bradin Cormack, Associate Professor of English, University of Chicago

“Shakespeare’s Substance: A Reading of the Sonnets”

 

“Shakespeare's Substance” is a book about the 1609 quarto of Shakespeare's sonnets. It argues that the selves imagined in the poems are responsive to a philosophical tradition ultimately traceable to Aristotle's “Metaphysics” and “De Anima” and transmitted through the Scholastic reconfiguration of the classical understanding of being and animation. As part of their erotic argument, the poems bring under pressure a vocabulary that points to Aristotle's attempts to describe growth and characteristic change via a set of related binaries: form and matter, substance and accident, potency and act, activity and passivity. Shakespeare probes this language for its uncharted effects, and for its ongoing capacity to produce new forms of relation, whereby a thing might be itself only in relation to something else. The key concept for that meditation is substance, a word that enters English through the Latin 'substantia,' which translates Aristotle's 'ousia.' Substance, Aristotle writes, is "the what" that a thing is, such that to ask "what is being" equates precisely to asking "what is substance" ("Met." VII.1.5). This basic connection illuminates the conceptual work that Shakespeare's poetry does when, for example, he wonderingly inquires of the young man, "What is your substance" (53). The question hides a non-tautologous tautology. 'What' is your what-ness, Shakespeare asks, what 'is' your is-ness? Heard thus, the question indexes the poems' work to test, within a late Petrarchan tradition, 'how' beauty can have the effect it has on the world, and second, how the beloved can be the kind of thing that a poem might actually transmit across time--not as a body, then, but as something equally describable as substance. So Aristotle's vocabulary helps Shakespeare probe the hyperbole of Petrarchan praise for all the wayt it can produce philosophical and literary sense. In the process, the poems fashion a lyric subjectivity that is itself in its capacity to change and effect change--a philosophical argument painfully realized across the sequence through the overwhelming presence of those erotic others that define self.

 

 

Marshall Grossman, Professor of English, University of Maryland

“Reason’s Martyrs: Poetry and Belief in ‘Paradise Regained,’ to which is addes, ‘Samson Agonistes’

 

To focus a broader investigation of the historical overlap-and-transition between mimetic and expressive modes in literature, I propose to study the relationship of poetry to belief in Milton's Restoration poems, concentrating on the volume containing "Paradise Regained" and "Samson Agonistes." Milton's "poems doctrinal to the nation" promise something more ethically engaged than doctrine made palatable by poetry, or poetry ennobled by doctrine. I hope to show in detail, in the texts themselves, the constitutive interplay, between beliefs that condition the act of writing and discoveries 'in' the act of writing that circle back to condition belief and allow the poems to ring true as verisimilar representations of a world authentically experienced by their speaker. To do this, I will argue three principal points: that Milton's volume is structured in imitation of the New Testament "Epistle to the Hebrews"; that Milton's reading of Hebrews, deeply informed by that of the polish Socinian, Jan Crell, leads him to represent in these poems a soteriology of reason that anticipates and perhaps enables the enlightenment; and that, whether in parallel with Socinian models or under their influence, Milton confronts the politically urgent inaccessibility of inward revelation by depicting Samson as a case study of enthusiasm under the Law and contrasting him with Jesus, who is rendered as reason's martyr. In staging a dramatic confrontation between inward motions acted out immediately and those mediated by explicit reason Milton achieves a double coup: 'in a historical register,' he approprates an identifiably Socinian style of argument, along with the peculiar Christology that follow from it: while 'in a formal register,' he affirms poetry as a mediation of inward truth submitted to transcendental reason.

 

R. Carter Hailey, Research Associate, College of William & Mary

“The Shakespeare Papers: Paper Stocks of Shakespeare Folios, Quartos, and Octavos to 1640”

 

While the texts of the early Shakespeare quartos and folios have been analyzed repeatedly, scant attention has been paid to their paper stocks. I have begun to redress this imbalance in a pair of recent articles which, using my "mugshot and fingerprint" method and examples from Shakespeare quartos, demonstrate that paper can be used to date early imprints that lack title page dates, and that analyses of paper stocks can give new insights into the complex matrix of printing house production. A book-length project, "On Paper," which explains this methodology, will be published next summer [2010].

I now propose to continue my work on Shakespearean papers by undertaking a long-term study to catalog and analyze the paper stocks in all editions of Shakespeare folios, quartos, and octavos up to 1640, with the primary goal of producing a publically accessible digital catalog and searchable database of "The Shakespeare Papers." The initial phase of the project is to collect data for the paper stocks of the First Folio. Here the Folger collections are crucial, since a thorough examination of at least a dozen Folios will be necessary to provide a conspectus of the Folio paper stocks.  I will then proceed to collect paper data from the Folger's ninety or so Shakespearean quarto and octavo editions, and produce one-page illustrated catalog entries for each watermark pair encountered. Additional products of the project will include a major article on "Shakespeare's Papers" commissioned for a new edition of OUP's "William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion" and ultimately, a print catalog and accompanying analytical monograph.

 



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