Literature and Theatre

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Cary Howie

This chapter addresses what theology might become when it is lyrically articulated: less dogmatic, more material; less sure of what it knows, more frank about what it desires. Through a sustained meditation on the work of poets Elizabeth Bradfield, Marie Howe, and Suzanne Paola, as well as that of theologians Josef Pieper and Herbert McCabe, it becomes possible to speak of the body and God, of sex and the sacred, as mutually disclosive. Theology has, for this chapter as for many of its sources, no proper language; the improprieties of lyric may, therefore, provide a particularly appropriate and attentive way of speaking the divine, no more or less than the human.

in Transfiguring medievalism
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Cary Howie

This chapter offers an invitation in the form of an imperative. “Make me” is, after all, both a gesture of resistance and a summons to creation. Through readings of Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Simone Weil, the chapter meditates upon the erotics of making and remaking. Finally, it turns to the praise of creation in the work of poets Wendell Berry and Kimberly Johnson, as praise of the world allows the world to become newly, differently visible. A praised world is, at least potentially, a remade world: it is a world transfigured.

in Transfiguring medievalism
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Cary Howie

This chapter expounds and lingers with the poetics of monasticism, specifically the poetics of monastic discretion or discernment, especially as it appears in the Conferences of John Cassian. In dialogue with Michel Foucault and Thomas Merton, as well as modern poets Marilyn Hacker, Jane Hirshfield and Melissa Range, this chapter suggests that monastic speech and monastic bodies take materiality seriously, as something seriously mysterious and seriously inchoate, even and especially when that materiality proves to be a limitation. To be monastic, in life and in language, is to be always beginning.

in Transfiguring medievalism
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Cary Howie

This chapter explores the mystery of togetherness, as variously embodied in Cassian’s monasticism, a medieval version of the Narcissus myth, and the thinking of philosopher Martin Buber. Even when one plus one fails to add up, these texts suggest, some broken community may nonetheless persist; even when it looks like we’re getting nowhere, something in us may in fact be moved. Love may, in this way, not reduce to a subject or an object; it may be neither of one nor of two.

in Transfiguring medievalism
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Marlowe, Tamburlaine, and Lucans First Booke
Emma Buckle

This chapter examines the revivification of the figure of Julius Caesar in three early modern responses to Lucan’s Bellum Ciuile, avoiding an overtly political reading of Lucan to trace instead an intimate conversation between classical poet, early modern translators and imitators. Starting with Lucans First Booke – a translation that presents as blood-transfusion – I show how Marlowe’s reanimation of Caesar as a Roman Tamburlaine enables the anti-hero to escape the bounds of Lucan’s censoriously moralising and fractured poem. Turning next to the anonymously authored academic drama The Tragedie of Caesar and Pompey, or Caesar’s Revenge, we find the full articulation of a Caesar who fulfils and exceeds this Marlovian potential, and an author who runs the attractions to negative repetition in Lucan’s Bellum Ciuile to their natural endpoint: dissolution of the cosmos and the complete confusion of its moral eschatology. The chapter concludes by analysing the destabilising effects of such a revivification of Caesar for both poem and author, via close reading of Thomas May’s 1627 Pharsalia; and in the same author’s attempts both to kill Caesar and ‘end’ Lucan in his 1630 Continuation. The multiple iterations of May’s translation and supplement enact the struggle to resist the super-charged early modern Caesar and Lucan’s unresolved, repetitive poetics alike: and May can accomplish his task in the end only by succumbing to Lucan’s regressive poetics of repetition, adopting early modern tragedy's politics of personal vengeance, and appropriating for his own authorial self the blood-transfusion metaphor of Lucans First Booke.

in Conversations
Cary Howie

This chapter argues, after Samuel Delany and Boccaccio, among others, for a poetics of precarious reconciliation, in which sanctity may take place in suspense and the body’s breaks may be honoured though they are never overcome. Poets such as Mary Karr and Mary Oliver come to take their place alongside philosophers and literary critics, as well as saints real and fake, in their embodiment of how the complications of life and language make crossover artists of us all.

in Transfiguring medievalism
From woman’s film to global melodrama
Kinga Földváry

The chapter presents a brief overview of the various interpretations and definitions of melodrama, reflecting on the term’s associations with music, excessive emotions and the centrality of the female body, and arguing for a more complex understanding of the melodramatic mode, liberating it from the common criticism of triviality and stylistic excess. The examples range from a so-called woman’s film from the 1930s, which foregrounds the female sacrifice and thus centralises the moral teaching embedded within the Shakespearean text, through a British social melodrama from the post-war period, where the moral issues are interconnected with racial anxieties. Another melodramatic adaptation from the 1990s, set in the Midwestern farmlands, emphasises the genre’s associations with feminism, particularly ecofeminism. The last section of the chapter argues that the melodramatic features of the Bollywood film industry show many similarities with the Western iterations of melodrama, and, with the help of a British-Asian melodramatic adaptation, exemplifies the generic hybridity characterising this particular diasporic film market.

in Cowboy Hamlets and zombie Romeos
A renaissance of vampires and zombies
Kinga Földváry

The chapter presents the most common arguments behind the recent revival of the subgenres of horror featuring undead characters, particularly vampires or zombies. It also looks at the historical development of the representation of the cinematic undead, pointing out the symptomatic changes that clearly set these post-millennial creatures apart from the classic variants. Focusing on several examples of vampire Shakespeare adaptations, the chapter comments on possible reasons why only a few specific source texts are predominantly adapted into horror films. It is also noted that the majority of the films examined within the chapter are comic adaptations, with one notable exception; some of them are low-budget, even amateur, productions, although the films with lower production qualities are no less creative in their appropriation of the Shakespearean dramatic texts. Most films within the group display clear self-reflexive features, and they are also characterised by melancholy or nostalgia for the past. The chapter also observes similarities between the way teen films and undead horror adaptations deal with the source text’s authority, emphasising the generational connections between the groups. Several critical connections among Shakespeare criticism, adaptation studies and the undead are also presented.

in Cowboy Hamlets and zombie Romeos
Cary Howie

This chapter reads the account of Jesus’ transfiguration in Matthew’s Gospel alongside its medieval interpreters, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, as well as poets Matt Donovan, Marie Howe, Lynda Hull and Laura Kasischke. To be transfigured, in these accounts, is to have one’s boundaries at once contested and reinforced; it is to experience the body as newly bounded and newly luminous, precisely inasmuch as it is bound to the bodies of others.

in Transfiguring medievalism
Poetry, attention, and the mysteries of the body
Author: Cary Howie

This book explores, through medieval literature, modern poetry, and theologies both medieval and modern, the ways in which bodies, very much including literary bodies, may become apparent as more than they at first had seemed. Transfiguration, traditionally understood as the revelation of divinity in community, becomes for this book a figure for those splendours, mundane as much as divine, that wait within the read, lived, and loved world. The riddle of the body, which is to say the deep and superficial mystery of its pleasures and complications, invites a kind of patience, as medieval and modern languages reach toward, and break away from, something at their deepest centre and on their barest surface. By bringing together medieval sources with lyric medievalism, this book argues for the porousness of time and flesh. In this way, Augustine, Cassian, Bernard of Clairvaux, Dante, Boccaccio, and the heroes of Old French narrative, no more or less than their modern lyric counterparts, come to light in new and newly complicated ways. They become, in a word, transfigured.