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The Poets of the Nineties.

This year's scholarship takes several directions, and most of the items included below are brief. Brevity, or miniaturizing, is, however, a hallmark in arts of the 1890s, thus current scholarship coalesces with what it analyzes. Much noticed below also involves source studies (influences from the 1890s upon later writers), though, unlike many older publications that do little more than set forth parallels, sans perceptive critical comment, these pieces contain penetrating critical perspectives. Also, because of time lags between dates of publications and actual appearances (either of the publication itself or its availability on line or on library shelves), I mention several works that antedate the immediate span of this survey.

For example, one customarily encounters Arthur Machen's name and writings in contexts of supernatural horror fiction as it has been associated with turn-of-the-century decadence. Therefore some may (or may not) be surprised by "Hunting the White Whale: The Great God Pan and Stephen King's N. (Machenalia 2, no. 8 [2007]: 44-51). In this article, presumably by the editor, Gwilym Games, we discover interconnected threads leading from Machen's "The Great God Pan" to Moby-Dick and King's more recent "N.," in his recent volume of stories, Just After Sunset (2008), as acknowledged by King himself. He stated that The Great God Pan is "the Moby-Dick of horror fiction," and that without it we would have no H. P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Robert Bloch, Clark Ashton Smith, or other writers in the horror field--a strong claim, perhaps, but one from a writer who thoroughly comprehends his topic, and therefore not to be taken lightly.

Several other studies demonstrate the impact of nineties era writers on modernist works. Kristin Mahoney's cultural-studies approach in "Haunted Collections: Vernon Lee and Ethical Consumption" (Criticism 48, no. 1 [2006]: 39-67) furnishes reasons why the contexts in Lee's supernatural fiction, which "formulates an ethical corrective to the subjectivism of modern consumer practices" (p. 39), enfolds attitudes regarding "consumption and pleasure [as] reformulated in terms of their positive possibilities" in works by Pater, Wilde, or, later, Bloomsbury Group members. Mahoney's argument makes plausible companion reading for Regina Gagnier's The Insatiability of Human Wants (2000), which offers a similar approach to this subject. One might also profitably read in tandem with Mahoney, Lee O'Brien's "Uncanny Transactions and Canny Forms: Rosamund Marriott Watson's Marchen" (VP 46, no. 4: 429-450). O'Brien approaches this body of her subject's work in part by means of Freud on the Uncanny, showing how Marriott Watson's fairy-tale world in these poems allows for a doubleness or demonicness that "reflects dark possibilities that the daylight/social world denies" (p. 434). Thus we have here poems that foreground how norms may be transgressed, providing ambiguous feelings in the transgressors. Such poems place late Victorian Gothicism (like that of Lee) as a precursor to modernism.

Although T. S. Eliot's work has often been cited as manifesting a revolt against all that was represented by what he and others in his generation deemed "Victorian"--including the poetry of the 1890s--ninties' sources for The Waste Land have repeatedly been noticed. Two more such inspirations merit attention. James Womack reasonably suggests in "A Possible Source for the Seduction Scene in The Waste Land" (N&Q 253, no. 4: 491-492) that his reading of Symons' The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1908 edition) led Eliot to read poems by Symons, Wilde, and others from the nineties. In particular, in the seduction scene ("The Fire Sermon," 11. 235-256) alludes to Beardsley's poem, "The Three Musicians." The tone in each is strikingly similar, and an additional impact upon these verses of both may devolve from Pope's The Rape of the Lock. Another inspiration for Eliot is located by Ian Higgins in "The Waste Land and Dracula" (N&Q 253, no.4: 499-500). Higgins sees the apocalyptic element in Part V of Eliot's poem as kindred to the theme in Dracula that the end of empire will commence with an "invasion from the East" (p. 499). The imperialist concept in each work features the appearance of vampire bats as signaling the catastrophe of the coming downfall.

Still more of the 1890s in a major twentieth-century text is assessed in Richard Brown's "More Sherlockholmesing in Joyce's Ulysses" (N&Q 253, no. 1: 66-68). Although some of Joyce's adaptations from Doyle are on record, Brown persuasively argues that Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter" lurks in the background of the "Sirens" episode in Joyce's novel, thus adding another piece to the mosaic that is Ulysses.

Several other brief critiques must not be overlooked. Rodney Stennings Edgecombe gives us another type of influence study in "'A Sketch by Boz' and the 'Nightmare Aria' in Gilbert's Iolanthe" (N&Q 253. no. 4: 480-481), revealing how the dramatist borrowed techniques of dream sequence and its conclusion--shattering of the nightmare by a witty juvenile as night transforms into day--from Dickens' sketch, "Early Coaches," in Sketches by Boz. Edgecombe's article implicitly reveals that Dickens' novels were not his only writings that lingered in the memory. Earlier in the century, of course, Poe had championed Dickens' short fiction in preference to his novels.

The 1890s would not be the 1890s without Oscar Wilde, and Keats's impact on Wilde elicits a considered reading by Ian Ross, who sensibly evaluates the kindred strain of Grecian themes in the two poets: Keats chiefly in Endymion, Lamia, and "Ode on a Grecian Urn," and Wilde (at times inverting Keats's themes) in Charmides and The Sphinx--"Charmides and The Sphinx: Wilde's Engagement with Keats" (VP 46: 451-465). Ross amplifies our awareness of Wilde's Hellenism, and his opinions may implicitly illuminate aspects of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oliver Tearle raises an interesting point in "Dorian Gray's Schoolbooks" (N&Q 253, no. 4: 463-465). Encountering the anomaly of how/why these books were not mentioned late in the novel when others were, Tearle allows that this omission may have been a lapse on Wilde's part, given that these books were listed among those on the shelves in the attic where the mysterious portrait was housed. More likely, however, is the hypothesis that the evil portrait destroyed the schoolbooks because they reflected childhood and innocence--what had vanished from Dorian's existence. That the picture could have achieved such destruction is consistent with Wilde's aesthetic in "The Critic as Artist" (1891), a piece contemporary with the novel, where Wilde states that great works of art live, "are, in fact, the only things that live" (p. 465). A lengthier assessment of influence or, perhaps more accurately, affinities appears in Marianne Van Remoortel's "Metaphor and Maternity: Dante Gabriel Rossetti's House of Life and Augusta Webster's Mother and Daughter" (VP 46, no. 2: 467-486). Webster as poet was one of Rossetti's literary "daughters," as others have made clear. Submitting that previous scholars have, however, neglected the mother-daughter relationship in Webster's posthumous poem (because they seem more inclined to dwell on Rossetti's poem and on other kinds of relationships), Remoortel posits that Webster highlights maternal love as superior to heterosexual love. Doubtless this critique will be provocative in several senses of that term.

Cheryl Wilson's "Politicizing Dance in Late-Victorian Women's Poetry (VP 46, no. 2: 191-204), with its self-explanatory title, reminds us of the overlappings in the arts of the 1890s. Wilson's comment that although New Woman fiction has recently been well served by publishers and critics the poetry relating to the New woman has not. She seeks to rectify that lacuna, and her analyses of poems by Mary Robinson, Amy Levy, and others in the era well serve that purpose. Wilson bolsters her argument with references to dance and conduct manuals from the era.

Several Housman items (all in HSJ 34) also deserve attention. First Freda Hughes, also a poet, echoes AEH's The Name and Nature of Poetry in championing emotionalism as a keynote of genuine poetry, as well as subjectivity being essential to poem and reader. She also draws convincingly on examples of later poems, not by AEH, in "The Housman Lecture" to bolster her thoughts. (pp. 7-18). She exhorts anybody who wants to know poetry to read many poems, thus echoing another figure in the AEH carpet, Matthew Arnold. Complementary to Hughes, Daniel Gillespie claims, in "Housman and Modernism" (pp. 112-122) that AEH's Romanticism, as expressed in The Name and Nature of Poetry, constituted an essential springboard for poets like Pound and Eliot, who in many ways shared the older poet's aesthetic, and, underlying that aesthetic, an intellectualism that emanates from eighteenth-century views of poetry. These articles make excellent follow-up reading to B. J. Leggett's books on AEH.

I thank Philip Hartnell-Mottram, Liverpool, for sharing his expertise in Classical mythology with me.
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Title Annotation:Guide to the Year's Work
Author:Fisher Benjamin F.
Publication:Victorian Poetry
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 22, 2009
Previous Article:Hopkins.
Next Article:The Pre-Raphaelites.

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