Literature and Theatre

Syrithe Pugh

In the minor tradition of lament for a fellow poet which springs from the influential yet neglected Lament for Bion, the theme of literary immortality is closely bound up with the self-conscious, and self-reflexively foregrounded, practice of poetic imitation. Beginning with the Lament for Bion itself, we trace an intricate pattern of allusion to Bion’s Lament for Adonis and Theocritus’ fifteenth idyll, which infuses the grief-laden poem with an underlying optimism by evoking the resurrection of Adonis, celebrated annually in the Adonia festival, and implying that Bion will enjoy a similar immortality. The Lament presents its own imitative poetics as the channel of this ongoing life. Later poets working in this tradition not only imitate the Lament for Bion and follow the conventions it sets, but also understand the significance of its intertextual methods, and use similar means to the same end. This is shown through close readings of three examples: Statius’ Silvae 2.7 (celebrating the birthday of the dead Lucan); Spenser’s ‘Astrophel’ (on the death of Sir Philip Sidney); and Shelley’s ‘Adonais’ (on the death of John Keats). The subtextual presence of the Adonia in ‘Astrophel’ forges a link to the Garden of Adonis in The Faerie Queene, perhaps reflecting that episode’s relation to Mary Sidney’s mourning for her brother. In ‘Adonais’, meanwhile, Adonis’ resurrection is a fundamental subtext throughout, functioning as a symbol of nature’s seasonal renewal and of poetic immortality conferred through imitation, and necessitating reconsideration of Shelley’s supposed ‘Platonic turn’ at the end of the poem.

in Conversations
Shakespeare the teen idol
Kinga Földváry

The chapter examines the teen film, one of the most significant genres dominating the global film industry since the 1990s. After a brief overview of the socio-economic background of the genre’s recent popularity, the chapter focuses on the common features of the group, from character types, typical settings, the role of the soundtrack and the characteristically decontextualised use of textual fragments, through a tendency to present heterosexual romance as ideal, to the genre’s reflection on authority figures, both in the school environment and within the family. Beside the best-known examples of the genre, which all employ the romantic comedy’s narrative structure, the chapter discusses one tragic teen drama and two independent queer productions as well, highlighting their darker social messages, which set them apart from the more light-hearted iterations of the formula. The chapter also argues against the common criticism that teen films are dumbed-down versions of literary masterpieces, pointing out the ways in which these adaptations are consciously shaped to cater for the interests of their target audience.

in Cowboy Hamlets and zombie Romeos
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Cary Howie

This chapter offers a phenomenology of the waiting body, which is also the body we are waiting for. Through an attentiveness to the body’s extremities, particularly its hands, the chapter finds a way, with Dante’s pilgrim, out of hell and into a new, if fragile, tactile resilience. Philosophers Martin Heidegger, Karmen MacKendrick and Jean-Luc Nancy add their voices, and hands, to a handful of lyric poets, including Antonia Pozzi, for whom the body is never something to be grasped, though it cannot fail to touch.

in Transfiguring medievalism
Shakespeare’s Roman plays, republicanism and identity in Samson Agonistes
Helen Lynch

This chapter analyses Milton’s ‘Samson Agonistes’ as a conversation with Shakespeare’s Roman plays, tracing a pattern of allusion to the Shakespearean suicides Antony, Cleopatra and Brutus to deepen our understanding of Samson’s final act. This writerly conversation is a political one: the chapter builds on the argument of Milton and the Politics of Public Speech, comprehending the seventeenth-century public sphere in Arendtian terms, as a revival of the Greek polis or Roman republic, centred on public speech as political action. For Milton, poetry is a form of oratory, and drama, the art-form of democratic Athens, both represents and embodies public speech. Pointing out that groups disenfranchised in the classical state became metaphors for political disempowerment in early modern polemic (whether terms of abuse to delegitimise opponents or protesting political oppression), the chapter uncovers a strong republican undertow in ideas of effeminacy in Shakespeare and Milton, and brings a newly political perspective to their treatments of gender and sexuality. Yet Samson’s defining act, while fulfilling the republican ideal of selfless public service, and recalling the Senecan view of suicide as the ultimate assertion of individual liberty, goes beyond the masculinist terms of classical republicanism. For Milton draws on Shakespeare’s figuration of Antony’s and Cleopatra’s joint suicide as a ‘transcendent marriage’ to depict the regenerate Samson as androgyne in his union with God. The chapter at once reveals the availability to early modern readers of distinctively republican subcurrents in Shakespeare and illuminates the ways Milton justifies Samson’s suicide in a Christian framework.

in Conversations
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Kinga Földváry

The conclusion looks back on the six main chapters of the volume and reflects on their findings, pointing out a number of features in the cinematic products that can only be explained by a genre-based analysis. The chapter also confirms the broad applicability of the method exemplified here for the interpretation of other literary adaptations, and it opens up the discussion to consider the endemic presence of generic categories in contemporary popular visual culture and elsewhere. It also comments on the constantly changing forms of the Shakespeare phenomenon and the potential roles of Shakespeare in cultural production and consumption today.

in Cowboy Hamlets and zombie Romeos
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Cary Howie
in Transfiguring medievalism
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Classical and Renaissance intertextuality
Author: Syrithe Pugh

For educated poets and readers in the Renaissance, classical literature was as familiar and accessible as the work of their compatriots and contemporaries – often more so. Their creative response to it was not a matter of dry scholarship or inert imitation, but rather of engagement in an ancient and lively conversation which was still unfolding, both in the modern languages and in new Latin verse. This volume seeks to recapture that sense of intimacy and immediacy, as scholars from both sides of the modern disciplinary divide come together to eavesdrop on the conversations conducted through allusion and intertextual play in works from Petrarch to Milton and beyond, and offer their perspectives on the intermingling of ancient and modern strains in the reception of the classical past and its poetry. The essays include illuminating discussions of Ariosto, Du Bellay, Spenser, Marlowe, the anonymous drama Caesars Revenge, Shakespeare and Marvell, and look forward to the grand retrospect of Shelley’s ‘Adonais’. Together, they help us to understand how poets across the ages have thought about their relation to their predecessors, and about their own contributions to what Shelley would call ‘that great poem, which all poets… have built up since the beginning of the world’.

The volume offers a new method of interpreting screen adaptations of Shakespearean drama, focusing on the significance of cinematic genres in the analysis of films adapted from literary sources. The book’s central argument is rooted in the recognition that film genres may provide the most important context informing a film’s production, critical and popular reception. The novelty of the volume is in its use of a genre-based interpretation as an organising principle for a systematic interpretation of Shakespeare film adaptations. The book also highlights Shakespearean elements in several lesser-known films, hoping to generate new critical attention towards them. The volume is organised into six chapters, discussing films that form broad generic groups. Part I comprises three genres from the classical Hollywood era (western, melodrama and gangster noir), while Part II deals with three contemporary blockbuster genres (teen film, undead horror and the biopic). The analyses underline elements that the films have inherited from Shakespeare, while emphasising how the adapting genre leaves a more important mark on the final product than the textual source. The volume’s interdisciplinary approach means that its findings are rooted in both Shakespeare and media studies, underlining the crucial role genres play in the production and reception of literature as well as in contemporary popular visual culture.

Film noir, gangster, gangster noir
Kinga Földváry

The chapter discusses the common debates concerning the film noir as a genre, and, based on the clearly recognisable core elements of the group, argues for the practical applicability of the label, placing it within the context of the thriller and the gangster genre, both of which show considerable overlaps with noir. After the examination of two classic examples of 1940s film noir, both displaying a central interest in male psychology, anxiety and crime, the second half of the chapter looks at post-war gangster films, one from the 1950s, another from 1990, a significant moment in the revival of the gangster genre. The visuality of these films continues to bear clear traces of the noir, but the increased role of violence, together with the protagonists’ changed moral stance, mark them as different from the earlier products. The final example comes from the twenty-first century, an indie neo-noir production, which employs the generic elements of the police drama as well as the gangster film. The range of films examined in the chapter offer convincing proof both for the continued influence of the gangster and noir formulas, and for their ability to adapt to the given socio-historical context.

in Cowboy Hamlets and zombie Romeos
Reaching for the sky in classical and Renaissance poetics
Philip Hardie

Poets take flight for an immortality of fame in the heavens, whether experienced in fancy by their own living selves, posthumously in the praises of other writers, or by proxy in the fictional flights of characters in their works. Ovid’s flight of fame in the epilogue to the Metamorphoses is a summation of previous poetic tradition, including Horace’s aspirations to undying fame, imagined in Odes 2.20 as flight in the form of a swan, and Ennius’ posthumous flight on the lips of men. Aspirations to flight are experienced as risky. In Odes 4.2 Horace warns against attempting Pindaric flights. Mythological high-fliers who come crashing down, Daedalus and Phaethon, are figures for poets’ anxieties about the chances of immortalizing themselves in flights of sublimity. The classical sources inform Spenser’s celebration of the deceased Sir Philip Sidney in ‘The Ruines of Time’, combining classical and Christian themes of ascent. The chapter closes with readings of Astolfo’s journey to the moon in cantos 34 and 35 of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, and Milton’s reworking of Ariosto’s Valley of Lost Things on the moon in the Paradise of Fools in Paradise Lost 3, a place of failed Satanic ascents in counterpoint with the poet Milton’s own aspirations to poetic and spiritual flight. Comparative attention is also given to a visual depiction of the apotheosis of poetry, Ingres’ ‘Apotheosis of Homer’.

in Conversations