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Allusions to ancient Greece and Rome are pervasive in Victorian culture, in literary texts and material artifacts, on the popular stage, and in political discourse. Authors such as Matthew Arnold, Thackeray, Tennyson, Clough, Pater, Wilde, and Swinburne studied Latin and Greek for years at school or university and exploited their classical learning for creative purposes. The sheer familiarity of classical culture, based on years of studying Homer and Virgil at school, made it possible for intellectuals to draw parallels between contemporary political reforms and the democratic context of Greek tragedy, or to insist, like Arnold, that Periclean Athens should be a model for 19th-century Britain. At a time when the predominance of Latin and Greek in formal education was beginning to be questioned, there was increasing demand for translations and adaptations of classical literature, history, and myth, so that a wider readership could share in the richness of the classical inheritance. Outsiders were particularly eager to learn Greek or read Greek texts in translation, and authors such as Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and George Eliot achieved a remarkable degree of proficiency with little assistance. Greek epic and tragedy were appropriated by the authors of dramatic monologues, novels, and theatrical burlesques to engage with contemporary concerns about marriage and divorce, the role of women, and the apparent impossibility of heroism in the modern world. Toward the end of the period, classical literature was increasingly scrutinized from new perspectives: approaches based on anthropology, archaeology, and sociology presented familiar texts in new ways and opened up possibilities for redefining aspects of gender and sexuality in the contemporary world.

Article

In the last quarter of the 20th century theories of the postcolonial were usually closely tied to the experience of British and French colonialism in a band of North African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian colonies stretching from Morocco to Malaysia. During this period, Edward Said’s book Orientalism and the early work in subaltern studies both challenged the supposedly dispassionate character of Western scholarship on North Africa and Asia by demonstrating the degree to which it had been skewed by racial and class bias. Although architectural historians took more than a decade to fully absorb its implications, there are few humanities or social sciences disciplines that since the 1990s have been more thoroughly transformed by this once radical shift in perspective, which has changed how the architecture of almost all parts of the world is understood. Whether or not they fully engaged with the theories articulated in scholarship whose initial focus was the analysis of literature, in the case of Said, or of history, in that of subaltern studies, 21st-century architectural historians have paid unprecedented attention to the post-1500 architecture of the Global South, to colonial architecture and its relationship to economic exploitation, to post-independence architecture especially in relation to international modernisms, and to the impact that colonialism had on the architecture of the metropole. While the second and third of these had long been addressed in relation to British settler colonies, architectural history’s global turn meant that they could no longer be considered in isolation from new comprehensive histories of imperialism.

Article

Since its invention in 1839, photography—its aesthetics, practices, and product—has incited, inspired, and occupied Italian literary writing. Both literature and photography in Italy have responded to social and cultural changes occurring in the country from photography’s first arrival and since Italian unification in 1861. Literature’s relation to photography, therefore, can be understood by looking at the country’s connection to modernity and to its interlinks with the powerful aesthetic and visual perspective typical of Italian culture. Through photography, fiction, non-fiction prose, and poetry have dynamically and often ambiguously engaged discourses and reflections on reality, authenticity, and subjectivity. Such a relationship has offered a multitude of imaginary, emotional, and stylistic possibilities that have implied a challenge to literary realism as well as to photographic claim of truth and objectivity. Early daguerreotype plates of classical ruins, architecture, and landscapes were central to the first creative stage that joined photographic images and written words. At the end of the 19th century, during Italy’s transition from a pre-industrial age to an industrial one, photography appeared to embody the ideal model of that objective relationship to reality longed for by Positivism. The potential power of the camera to record the world also enchanted the veristi writers who established a relationship between resistance and acceptance with photographic image and practice. Concerns about the power of photography to alter the human perception of reality persisted into the 20th century. Nevertheless, the interrelation between literary texts and photography offered further viewpoints that multiplied or expanded perceptions of events, places, and people. Writers and artists also creatively and subversively exploited this relationship, especially thanks to modern printing techniques. During the Fascist period, at a time of crucial cultural transformation and modernization, photography became particularly instrumental in promulgating the regime’s ideology. Through mass circulation of popular illustrated periodicals, photographs also entered sophisticated photo-textual collaborations that developed further in postwar Italy. The documentary nature of the photographic image was challenged during the neorealist period and in diverse post–World War II literary works. At the same time, especially since the 1950s, Italian literature amplified earlier patterns of fictional investigations, and photography entered more dynamically into discourses and reflections on subjectivity, memory, and language. Following the emergence of international theoretical approaches to photography in the 1970s and 1980s, Italian literature engaged more critically with theory to investigate the social and political impact of photography, as well as its historical and artistic significance. The creative pairing of the photograph’s capacity to offer precise details of the real and simultaneously provoke a significant degree of referential uncertainty, in particular through digital technology, has continued to inspire Italian writers and bring changes in contemporary imaginative reproduction.

Article

Nick Mayhew

In the mid-19th century, three 16th-century Russian sources were published that alluded to Moscow as the “third Rome.” When 19th-century Russian historians discovered these texts, many interpreted them as evidence of an ancient imperial ideology of endless expansion, an ideology that would go on to define Russian foreign policy from the 16th century to the modern day. But what did these 16th-century depictions of Moscow as the third Rome actually have in mind? Did their meaning remain stable or did it change over the course of the early modern period? And how significant were they to early modern Russian imperial ideology more broadly? Scholars have pointed out that one cannot assume that depictions of Moscow as the third Rome were necessarily meant to be imperial celebrations per se. After all, the Muscovites considered that the first Rome fell for various heretical beliefs, in particular that Christ did not possess a human soul, and the second Rome, Constantinople, fell to the Turks in 1453 precisely because it had accepted some of these heretical “Latin” doctrines. As such, the image of Moscow as the third Rome might have marked a celebration of the city as a new imperial center, but it could also allude to Moscow’s duty to protect the “true” Orthodox faith after the fall—actual and theological—of Rome and Constantinople. As time progressed, however, the nuances of religious polemic once captured by the trope were lost. During the 17th and early 18th centuries, the image of Moscow as the third Rome took on a more unequivocally imperialist tone. Nonetheless, it would be easy to overstate the significance of allusions to Moscow as the third Rome to early modern Russian imperial ideology more broadly. Not only was the trope rare and by no means the only imperial comparison to be found in Muscovite literature, it was also ignored by secular authorities and banned by clerics.

Article

In the mid-19th century, the Arabic novel emerged as a genre in Ottoman Syria and khedival Egypt. While this emergence has often been narrated as a story of the rise of nation-states and the diffusion of the European novel, the genre’s history and ongoing topography cannot be recovered without indexing the importance of Arabic storytelling and Islamic empire, ethics, and aesthetics to its roots. As the Arabic periodicals of Beirut and the Nile Valley, and soon Tunis and Baghdad, serialized and debated the rise of the novel form from the 19th century onward, historical, romantic, and translated novels found an avid readership throughout the Arab world and its diaspora. Metaphors of the garden confronted the maritime span of European empire in the 19th-century rise of the novel form in Arabic, and the novel’s path would continue to oscillate between the local and the global. British, French, Spanish, and Italian empire and direct colonial rule left a lasting imprint on the landscape of the region, and so too the investment of Cold War powers in its pipelines, oil wells, and cultural battlefields. Whether embracing socialist realism or avant-garde experimentation, the Arabic novel serves as an ongoing register of the stories that can be told in cities, villages, and nations throughout the region—from the committed novels interrogating the years of anticolonial national struggles and Arab nationalism in the 1950s and 1960s, through the ongoing history of war, surveillance, exile, occupation, and resource extraction that dictates the subsequent terrain of narration. The Arabic novel bears, too, an indelible mark left by translators of Arabic tales—from 1001 Nights to Girls of Riyadh—on the stories the region’s novelists tell.

Article

Mark Byron

Close reading describes a set of procedures and methods that distinguishes the scholarly apprehension of textual material from the more prosaic reading practices of everyday life. Its origins and ancestry are rooted in the exegetical traditions of sacred texts (principally from the Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, Zoroastrian, and Islamic traditions) as well as the philological strategies applied to classical works such as the Homeric epics in the Greco-Roman tradition, or the Chinese 詩經 (Shijing) or Classic of Poetry. Cognate traditions of exegesis and commentary formed around Roman law and the canon law of the Christian Church, and they also find expression in the long tradition of Chinese historical commentaries and exegeses on the Five Classics and Four Books. As these practices developed in the West, they were adapted to medieval and early modern literary texts from which the early manifestations of modern secular literary analysis came into being in European and American universities. Close reading comprises the methodologies at the center of literary scholarship as it developed in the modern academy over the past one hundred years or so, and has come to define a central set of practices that dominated scholarly work in English departments until the turn to literary and critical theory in the late 1960s. This article provides an overview of these dominant forms of close reading in the modern Western academy. The focus rests upon close reading practices and their codification in English departments, although reference is made to non-Western reading practices and philological traditions, as well as to significant nonanglophone alternatives to the common understanding of literary close reading.

Article

Marshall Alcorn

Although Freud’s key claims regarding unconscious processes are pervasive in psychoanalytic theory, psychoanalysis is not a singular unified system. Early originating frameworks have evolved to adapt to changing clinical practices. In Britain, Freud’s work was complicated by the work of Klein, and later by the British Object Relations school, and still later by the inclusion of empirical research from John Bowlby’s attachment theory. In France and Latin America, Lacan gained dominance; in the United States, early work in “ego psychology” was supplemented by Kohutian “self-psychology” and later by “relational psychoanalysis.” In the academy, the work of Slavoj Zizek, synthesizing Lacanian and Marxist theory, has had wide influence. All these perspectives offer different accounts of the legacies of the past in their impact on unconscious expression. Early applications of psychoanalysis to literature were concerned with the origins of creativity and the neurotic conditions of literary characters or authors. Subsequent interests have focused on the nature of literary language and the dynamics of readerly engagements. In the early 21st century, use of psychoanalysis as an analytic tool follows the model of a conversation. The goal is not to apply a theory to a text to illustrate a psychoanalytic truth but to tease out the “unsaid” of a text or set of texts. Psychoanalysis in literary engagements, as in clinical engagements, is not about establishing a truth; instead it is used in “dialogue” with another discourse to discover implicit or unacknowledged dimensions of that articulation. The diversity of psychoanalytic schools and concepts allows scholars to give attention to wide-ranging interests: to the grip of ideology on subject, to the unconscious thematics of authors, to the symptomatic conditions of culture. Popular subjects for the psychoanalytic study of literature or film are psychic conflict, suffering, anxiety, enjoyment, the uncanny, and the repressed. Following World War II, the Frankfurt school synthesized Freud with Marxist thought, laying out enduring parameters for the psychoanalytic study of social processes. Adorno and Horkheimer sought to understand totalitarian character and mass culture and explored literature as a response to ideological enlistment. Recent work by “the Lacanian Left” in political theory explores libidinal and affective dimensions of discourse. “Psychosocial studies” scholars in Britain utilize psychoanalytic principles to gain more complex information from interviews and social research designs. Contemporary work in neuropsychoanalysis develops empirical evidence to document psychoanalytic processes in the organizational patterns of the brain, particularly in the dynamics of dreaming, memory, and nonconscious behavior. All these newly emerging engagements with psychoanalytic thought offer opportunities for contemporary research.

Article

Eleonora Lima

The history of literature has always been influenced by technological progress, as a transformative cultural power—threatening destruction or promising a luminous future—as a theme inspiring new narrative forms and plots, or as a force influencing the way authors conceive textuality and perform their creative work. The entanglement between literary and technological inventions is even recorded in the etymology of the word, which comes from the Greek “techne,” a term referring to arts as well as crafts. The way writers conceive this relationship, however, varies greatly: although some consider the work of technicians to be congenial to artistic creation, as they both demonstrate human creativity and ingenuity, others believe technology to be a dehumanizing and unnatural force, not only alien to literature but in competition with its own ethos. Therefore, depending on their position, the writer comes to embody the mythical figure of Prometheus, the first technician and defiant creator, or that of Orpheus, symbolizing the marriage between poetry and nature compared to any artificial creation. However, the opposition between nature and technology, with literature positioning itself either in one realm or the other, is only one of many possible critical perspectives. Indeed, when moving beyond the idea of technology as merely a kind of artifact, the affinities between texts and machines clearly emerge. A mutual relation connects technology and textuality, and this has to do with the complex nature of material and cultural objects, each shaped by social use, aesthetic norms, and power structures. This bond between discursivity and materiality is impossible to disentangle, as is the contextual relationship between literature and technology: Texts prescribe meanings to machines just as much as the latter shape their textuality. To recognize literature and technology as two different systems of meanings and sets of practices which are nevertheless always in conversation with each other is also to understand literature as technology. This stance has nothing to do with the likeness of the poet and the technician as creative minds but rather with the idea of literary texts functioning like technologies and, ultimately, offering a meta-reflexive analysis of their own textuality. According to this critical perspective, literature performatively enacts the changes in textuality brought about by technological progress, from the printing press to digital writing tools.

Article

Epic  

Herbert Tucker

An enumeration of generic qualities will define epic less helpfully than will an assessment of its behaviors. Among major literary kinds, epic offers the most long-standing and globally distributed evidence of the human habit of thinking by means of narrative. What it cherishes is the common good; what it ponders are the behaviors and values that forward or threaten collective welfare. What it reckons are the stakes of heroic risk that any living culture must hazard in order to prosper, by negotiating core identities with margins and adjusting settled customs to emergent opportunities; and it roots all these in the transmission of a tale that commands perennial attention on their account. Such dialectics underlie epic’s favorite narrative templates, the master plots of strife, quest, and foundation; and they find expression in such conventions as the in medias res opening and suspended closure; the epic invocation, ancestral underworld, superhuman machinery, and encyclopedic simile; the genre’s formal gravitation towards verse artifice and the lexical and syntactic mingling of old with new language. The genre steadfastly highlights the human condition and prospect, defining these along a scale of higher and lower being, along a timeline correlating history with prophecy, and along cultural coordinates where the familiar and the exotic take each other’s measure.

Article

While obscenity is notoriously difficult to define and the test for determining obscenity has shifted over time, typically the term has referred to the crime of publishing prohibited, sexually explicit material. Obscenity has always been a criminal offense in the United States. Citing English common law, judges in the early republic and antebellum periods maintained that obscenity threatened to degrade the nation’s character. Nevertheless, obscenity law was not strongly or consistently enforced throughout the United States until the Comstock Act in 1873. Anthony Comstock, founder of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, targeted Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass along with publications by advocates for feminism, free love, and birth control. American courts adopted the test put forth by Lord Chief Justice Sir Alexander Cockburn in Regina v. Hicklin (1868), which held that obscenity was defined by “the tendency . . . to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall.” Obscenity became a battleground not only for debates about gender and sexual politics but also about the nature of the public sphere. During the 20th century, American literary presses and magazines became increasingly willing to challenge bans on sexually explicit speech, publishing controversial works including The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall and Ulysses by James Joyce. Modernist authors transgressed the legal bounds of propriety to explore the unconscious, fight for erotic pleasure free from heteronormative restraints, or claim aesthetic autonomy from moral and legal restrictions. United States v. One Book Called “Ulysses” (1933) struck a blow against the Hicklin test. Affirming Judge John M. Woolsey’s not guilty verdict, Judge Augustus Hand proposed a new test for obscenity that anticipated many of the themes that would emerge when the Supreme Court took up this question with Roth v. United States (1957), which defined obscenity as “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to the prurient [i.e., sexual] interest.” The Court liberalized obscenity law even as it maintained restrictions on pornographic literature, setting off a wave of censorship cases including trials on Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, and Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. After Roth, lawyers defending borderline obscene publishers pushed for courts to hold that a work could not be obscene if it possessed any redeeming literary or social value. Free speech libertarians succeeded with Memoirs v. Massachusetts (1966) and Redrup v. New York (1967). Although Miller v. California (1973) clawed back this ruling by stipulating that a work must possess “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value” to be cleared of obscenity, in the 21st century obscenity convictions for publishing textual media have been limited to a handful of cases concerning pornographic depictions of child sexual abuse. Obscenity remains on the books but largely unenforced for literature.