Introduction: How to Read Hopkins.
To take further guidance from Hopkins, one finds in his correspondence extensive evidence of an astute and self-aware critic. In April 1871, while undergoing "a hard course of scholastic logic," Hopkins realizes, "I find now too late how to read--at least some books, e.g. the classics: now I see things, now what I read tells, but I am obliged to read by [begin strikethrough] glimpses [end strikethrough] snatches" (Cones., 1: 204). Six years later, Hopkins discerns how "each tucked string tells, each hung bell's / Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name" (PW, p. 141). Reading critically--the text, the world--is a constant dialogue: a "telling" on the part of the observed and a profound receptivity on the part of the observer. Hopkins has in mind an active receptivity: not one of glimpsing passively but snatching, catching, instressing. When Hopkins's speaker asserts, "I caught this morning morning's minion," he celebrates intelligent receptivity as an apprehension of the other on its own terms, "the mastery of the thing!" (PW, p. 144). Instead of the critic's impulse to proclaim "mastery" of the text, the poem insists on a dynamic exchange between speaker and bird, or reader and text.
As early as 1864, Hopkins was trying to define that "great, abnormal in fact, mental acuteness, either energetic or receptive, according as the thoughts which arise in it seem generated by a stress and action of the brain" (Carres., 1: 67-68). He was focusing on creative "inspiration," but we are suggesting that critical endeavors demand inspiration as well as "deep insight," "great delicacy," and "liberality": "the first requisite for a critic is liberality," he told Baillie, "and the second, liberality, and the third, liberality" (Corres., 1: 46). One hundred years after the publication of Poems, we are presenting six diverse essays that have in common the kind of insight and acuity that Hopkins modeled as poet and critic.
In "Catching Fire: 'The Windhover,"' Helen Vendler distinguishes between the ways in which the poem's speaker observes the bird in the octave but inscapes it in the sestet, undergoing "the exhilaration of suddenly inscaping the bird into a single complex gestalt." The essay vividly analyzes the "sudden transfiguring of the world into intelligibility--brought about by a stunning fusion of sense [and] intellectual imagination." Provocatively, and counter to generations of Hopkins critics, Vendler suggests how and why the poem does not culminate in "a theological and redemptive tableau." Vendler's particular discussion of "species-manifestation" in "The Windhover" complements Julia F. Saville's wide-ranging analysis of the categories of "species" and "soul" in "Anthropocentrism and the Soul of Hopkins's Ecopoetics." Surveying poems, Oxford essays from the mid-1860s, and sermons from the late 1870s, Saville demonstrates how Hopkins consistently advocates the "change in consciousness" necessary if "anthropocentrism" and its damages (environmental degradation, ruinous climate change, species' extinction) are to be reversed. By expanding the study of Hopkins through the lens of ecopoetics, Saville reveals the ways in which, for Hopkins, aesthetics, ethics, and science are always interconnected. Among the questions she addresses are, What are the individual's obligations to respect and protect the natural world? and How do human and nonhuman exchanges animate Hopkins's poetry?
Whereas Saville stresses how, for Hopkins, language itself performs the energy the poet experiences in human, nonhuman, and elemental nature, Justin Tackett investigates the Victorian science of phonography and performance in "Phonographic Hopkins: Sound, Cylinders, Silence, and 'Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves.'" Considering the "sonic beauties and stirring acoustic effects" of Hopkins's poetry, Tackett links Hopkins's interests in the sonorous and performative aspects of verse to Thomas Edison's 1877 invention of the phonograph and other experiments in "phonographic thinking." By enfolding Hopkins's poetry within the new field of sound studies, Tackett demonstrates how the materiality of early sound recordings is linked to images of "spooling" and spinning in several poems, especially "Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves."
Tackett links poems' sonorous effects to then-contemporary technology. Michael Rutherglen, on the other hand, considers how the "sonic densities" of the poems invoke the inscapes of speech. He also provides another facet of the argument adduced by Saville: how Hopkins's texts "reinvigorate his readers' sense of the natural world, such that they would be driven to protect it as a treasury of inscapes." In "Hopkins's Material Poetics: Sense and the Inscapes of Speech," Rutherglen returns to "inscape" to consider "the perceptual intensities to which Hopkins attaches his term." The wide-ranging discussion enfolds not only Duns Scotus but also Martin Heidegger; comments about Hopkins's 1873-1874 lectures on "Poetry and Verse" remind one that Hopkins's intellectual imagination was fully exercised in poetry and prose.
"Material poetics," in Rutherglen's phrase, are particularly on display in Hopkins's translations, texts that are too often overlooked. Elizabeth Howard uses a particular example--Hopkins's translation of a lyric from Shakespeare's Measure for Measure--to argue for the significance of Hopkins's work in the fields of translation and reception studies. "'To Admire and Do Otherwise': Hopkins's Modified Translations of Shakespeare's Casket Song" reminds one of Hopkins's eagerness, once he became Professor of Classics at University College and Fellow of the Royal University of Ireland in 1884, to publish and thereby justify his Dublin appointments.
Whereas Howard stresses the academic facets of Hopkins's prismatic life, James Finn Cotter revisits the calling of the parish priest and the poetry that those responsibilities inspired. "'Felix Randal the farrier': Visiting the Sick" considers that very Victorian moral precept, duty, in terms of classical and early Christian contexts. Of course, how the poet's "sacerdotal obligations" inform his poetic discourse has troubled Hopkins's critics for more than a hundred years.
As the variety of critical lenses used in these essays attests, Hopkins's canon continues to tell itself in new ways for new audiences. The piedness of his writings is revealed most lucidly at the interstices of various disciplines, art forms, senses, and environments. From an exceptionally wide-ranging base of studies--including ancient Greek and Latin texts, Welsh poetry, Shakespeare, theology, and Jesuit spirituality--rang out a voice that remains utterly singular, counter, and beautiful. The essays in this special issue of Victorian Poetry call us, as Hopkins does, to attend to the strange (transforming Elizabethan English into Latin and Greek; experimenting with phonographic thinking), the material (textual and sensuous), and the other (whether the nonhuman or a dying parishioner).
"Everybody cannot be expected to like my pieces," Hopkins admitted to Bridges in April 1879. "Moreover the oddness may make them repulsive at first" (Corres., 1: 354). In 2018, as in 1918, meeting these texts on their own terms reveals as much about our critical selves as it does about Hopkins's poetry and prose. His texts both invite and intimidate--their mysteries "must be instressed, stressed" whatever the difficulties (PW, p. 120). For by welcoming their "oddness," the careful reader can catch "All things counter, original, spare, strange; / Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)" (PW, p. 144).
Abbreviations Used in This Issue Corres. Correspondence. Ed. R. K. R. Thornton and Catherine Phillips. 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2013. Diaries Diaries, Journals, and Notebooks. Ed. Lesley Higgins. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2015. DN Dublin Notebook, ed. Lesley Higgins and Michael Suarez, S.J. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2014. LPM The Later Poetic Manuscripts of Gerard Manley Hopkins in Facsimile, ed. Norman H. MacKenzie. New York: Garland, 1991. Ox. Ess. Oxford Essays and Notes, 1863-1868. Ed. Lesley Higgins. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006. PW The Poetical Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ed. Norman H. MacKenzie. Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon, 1990. SD Sermons and Devotional Writings of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ed. Christopher Devlin, S.J. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1959.
(1) Virginia Woolf, The Question of Things Happening: The Letters of Virginia Woolf 1912-1922, ed. Nigel Nicolson (London: Hogarth, 1976), p. 379.
(2) Robert Bridges, preface to Poems: Now First Published, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, ed. Bridges (London: Humphrey Milford, 1918), accessed at http://www.bartleby .com/122/101.
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|Author:||Higgins, Lesley; Paxton, Amanda|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2018|
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