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Chapter 3 launches with Pseudolus’ opening scene which revolves around a letter. I explore Phoenicium’s epistle to discern how it determines Pseudolus’ comic course as well as audience expectations about what lies ahead, and consider what a letter composed by a meretrix reveals about literacy and the symbolism of writing on the Plautine stage. Next is the play’s protracted indeterminacy, which flies in the face of its textual exposition. Why is Pseudolus uncertain about how to proceed when he himself recites the letter that so clearly sets out the comic plot? The answer lies in this comedy’s claim to dramatic innovation. Pseudolus tells us that its epistolary interception is new to the comic stage, a nova res which inspires in the schemer a novum consilium that neither he nor we expect. But the play repeatedly undercuts its own novelty, a paradox reified in the element around which its innovation revolves – the stolen letter. I perform a close analysis of the false delivery scene in which this text is put into action, reading for its epistolarity but also laying bare the internal replication it effects and the resultant mise-en-abyme.
Why did Britons get up a play wherever they went? Kathleen Wilson reveals how the performance of English theater and a theatricalized way of viewing the world shaped the geopolitics and culture of empire in the long eighteenth century. Ranging across the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans to encompass Kingston, Calcutta, Fort Marlborough, St. Helena and Port Jackson as well as London and provincial towns, she shows how Britons on the move transformed peripheries into historical stages where alternative collectivities were enacted, imagined and lived. Men and women of various ethnicities, classes and legal statuses produced and performed English theater in the world, helping to consolidate a national and imperial culture. The theater of empire also enabled non-British people to adapt or interpret English cultural traditions through their own performances, as Englishness also became a production of non-English peoples across the globe.
Slote’s chapter addresses the issue of the multitude of new editions of Joyce’s works using an intersection of translation studies and editorial theory, understanding various translations as new textual entities. Slote draws on Walter Benjamin’s famous essay, “The Task of the Translator,” in which the mission of the translator is presented as a mimetic one in that it requires both creation and imitation. Translation, according to Benjamin, aims not at fidelity but at strangeness, not at singularity but as the mapping of a maximum of possibilities. Likewise, editing is a mimetic activity in that – as with translation – it involves transposition from one textual instantiation into a different and new textual instantiation in order to further propagate the text in a new manner, to a new audience. The chapter then looks at various translations of Joyce’s works as new textual entities that also happen to be in different languages. The burgeoning library of Joyce editions will be thus examined not as a continuum of more-or-less precise versions but as an exploration and multiplication of possibilities.
This Element sheds a new light on the ubiquitous yet complex notion of mimesis. By systematically comparing the social dynamics of the Dutch population at a given time with the social dynamics of characters in Dutch literary fiction published in the same period, it aims to pinpoint the ways in and the extent with which literary fiction either mirrors or shapes the societal context from which it emerged. While close-reading-based scholarship on this topic has been limited to qualitative interpretations of allegedly exemplary works, the present study uses the data-driven tools of social network analysis to systematically determine the imitative elements of the social dynamics of characters within larger-scale, representative collections of books of literary fiction.
This chapter describes how much of early African American literature takes shape within competing demands and analyzes how early Black writers negotiate it. Indeed, many early African American writers produced their works within a literary double bind that pressured them to be truthful, to write with the highest level of exactitude, to imitate reality precisely, and to produce perfectly mimetic texts; and at the same time, to use their imagination, to create something beautiful, and to produce an aesthetically valuable text. I explore how George Liele, David George, Boston King, and Venture Smith negotiate this literary double bind at the end of the eighteenth century, a time that saw significant historical transitions including the Zong massacre, the American Revolutionary War, the ratification of the US Constitution, and the French and Haitian Revolutions, all against the backdrop of transatlantic slavery and efforts to eradicate it. In these narratives, although white editors, amanuenses, and interlocutors claim that these texts tell the “simple truth,” each exceeds and problematizes the description that emphasizes the texts’ transparent mimetic exactitude by creatively utilizing literary structures of expression, rupturing what Christina Sharpe describes as the episteme of racial slavery.
Book X of the Republic does not ban more mimesis than Book III, nor operate with a different concept of mimesis, two claims often made. It surveys the same territory from a higher, more philosophical perspective, illuminating it particularly by reference to the theory of Forms and the psychology of soul parts that were introduced in sections of the Republic subsequent to Book III. Indeed, its arguments are directed to the philosopher, or someone sympathetic to Plato’s philosophy, not to any and every potential reader. Where they go beyond Book III in scope of what is banned is in pronouncing an anathema upon any poetry oriented towards pleasure rather than to what is beneficial, or upon what Socrates refers to as ‘the honeyed Muse’ – leaving only hymns to the gods and encomia of exemplary, heroic citizens. We endanger our souls and our grip on truth if, in watching tragic drama, we allow ourselves to enjoy grieving over suffering, and to some extent to believe, against our better judgment, that ups and downs of fortune are much more significant than they really are. Book X speaks to us from the viewpoint of eternity, from a position of deep spiritual elitism.
It is often said that in the Republic Plato proposes to ban art and poetry from his ideal society. The truth is that poetry – the right sort of poetry – will be a pervasive presence in the life of the warrior class whose upbringing and education are discussed in Books 2 and 3 of the Republic. What Plato develops here is a systematic anti-democratic programme for reforming music, i.e. musical poetry, incorporating dance as well as song. There are four stages in the programme: first, purging poetic content; second, placing severe restrictions on the manner of performance and on those permitted to engage in it, and particularly on the extent of mimesis or impersonation deemed allowable in performance, on account of its influence on character; third, placing similarly severe restrictions on musical technique, particular on the musical modes composers are allowed to employ in constructing melodies; and fourth, ensuring that the material and social settings in which musical poetry is performed are also designed with a gracefulness and beauty that will work their appropriate effect on the performers, providing the ideal conditions for them to fall in love, homoerotically conceived.
This chapter starts off by discussing the roots of historical anthropology in ‘people’s history’ before the linguistic turn. It then traces the journey from the history workshop movements of the 1960s and 1970s to historical anthropology, focusing on European and Indian groups (the Subaltern Studies Group). It highlights the work of Ann Laura Stoler as an example of how historical anthropology led to new and exciting perspectives in historical writing with deep implications for the deconstruction of historical identities. Historical anthropologists brought with them a concern for the everyday, diversity, performance and resistance and they raised an awareness of the undeterminedness of the past. They also emphasised how collective identities were rooted in constructions of culture. Relating cultural values to practices, diverse theories of the everday examined different structures of power and the agency of ordinary people in resisting and re-appropriating these structures of power. Treating culture as fluid, plural and changing, it also contributed to the de-essentialisation of human identities. Emphasising mimetic processes and the interrelationship of diverse mimetically produced images, historical anthropology also contributed to the decentring of Western perspectives.
This chapter investigates the relation of style to the emergent poetics of the novel in the Victorian era. It considers the proximity of 'style' to 'craft' and the way that representations of making in three Victorian novels address the principles and the practices of craft – though rarely are the principles and practices in perfect unison given the 'makeshift creativity' discussed here. What is at stake in these representations is a question about representation itself: namely, whether style is mimetic or whether it may be more excessive, improvisatory or haphazard than that.
Responding to critics who argue that telegraphy is an analogy for style (or at least for realism) in Victorian fiction, in this chapter David Trotter argues conversely that it is in fact inimical to style. Telegraphic communication, while hard to represent, or distasteful in its crudeness, could not be ignored. The novelists understood that it could be essential to human intercourse and, on occasion, oddly romantic. Daniel Deronda is the example par excellence.
Dickinson’s inability to tell the story of slavery is contrasted with M. NourbeSe Philip’s lifework Zong!, a book that attempts to listen to the missing, those who have been obliterated from the judicial archive or murdered in the Black Atlantic. Zong! is derived from a set of procedural constraints, using a legal summary of the Gregson vs. Gilbert decision – a case that determined whether slaves thrown overboard could be claimed as insured goods – to produce sequences of dispersed poems, associated texts and performances. Philip compares these procedural constraints to entering the hold, and her acts of linguistic selection and discarding to those of the slave masters. This radical attempt to restage the violences of history and recover the lost are complicated by her contention that the lyric poet must act as a bridge between the individual and the group. This chapter consider how Philip’s practice moves from page-based experiments with formal constraints, through an antagonistic relationship to the colonial lyric, into collective performance. It considers the significance of re-enactment and ritual in Philip’s work to channel the voices of the ancestors and disrupt the silences of the archive.
Catullus‘ polymetric poems often show a keen interest in the book-roll, its appearance and significance. The book as an object becomes a way of thinking about the nature of representation, and about what the relationship is between the individual poet and the work that he produces. This is a topic only in the polymetric section of Catullus’ corpus; we do not see references to books in the elegies, and in only one of the longer poems.
Against those who say that the ancient world never developed a theory of fiction, the chapter argues that a concept of fiction is operative already in Homer and is articulated in Aristotle’s Poetics, and explores the relationship between ancient and modern theories of what kind of assent audiences and readers give to what they are reading or seeing on the stage.
This chapter concerns itself with the fulfillment, or carrying out, of the work of art according to Gadamer. The chapter takes a cue from Gadamer and uses lyric poetry as the paradigm for such fulfillment. The experience of art is a hermeneutic experience that is a linguistic phenomenon with a speculative dimension. Poetic language is representative of language use in general, as it achieves a certain ideality. This chapter argues for the positive ontological stake of poetry. The essay considers the poetry of Rilke and Mallarme in relation to Hegel’s speculative thought and relates this to Gadamer’s hermeneutics. The concepts of contemporaneity and aesthetic nondifferentiation are explicated.
This essay explores the views of Neoplatonic commentators (e.g. Proclus and the anonymous Prolegomena to Platonic Philosophy) on the relation between Plato’s ethical philosophy and the literary format of the Platonic dialogue. It focuses in particular on the role of visualisation in the process of moral education. The Neoplatonists praise Plato’s dialogues for their 'vividness' (enargeia). They hold that the vivid depiction of good characters (e.g. Socrates) promotes imitation of similar manners, whereas the equally vivid depiction of bad characters (e.g. the ambitious Alcibiades) invites critical self-examination. The Neoplatonists develop their view in part in response to the Stoics, who had argued that moral education should be restricted to the teaching of bare moral rules. The difference between the Stoic and Platonic view on the importance of literature in moral education can be explained from their differing views on the constitution of the human soul. Whereas (most) Stoics hold that the entire soul is rational, the Platonic tradition acknowledges the non-rational aspect of the human soul and holds that moral education should address both the rational and non-rational. Modern psychological research corroborates the Platonic position on the human soul and the need for (literary) examples in moral education.
In Chapter 2, I introduce Girard’s mimetic theory with emphasis on his understanding of gods, “the victim mechanism,” and monotheism. What does it mean that monotheism interrupts archaic polytheistic religion by dividing God from the victim? This invites us to venture out into other monotheistic scholarship, like Assmann’s and its Freudian roots.
Ibsen, more than any other playwright, established realism as a vital mode in the theatre. The nature of Ibsen’s realism, however, warrants careful description. Realism for Ibsen is simultaneously a theatrical technique and a philosophical stance. We find realism at work in Ibsen’s dialogue, scenery and characterization, as well as in the plays’ relentless critique of bourgeois ideals. Ibsen was not the first realist dramatist, but he remains its most influential practitioner. This legacy is somewhat ironic, given the disturbing surreality that leeches through the realist surface of his plays. And yet, the spark of recognition the plays continue to ignite bears witness to realism’s effectiveness, as audiences continue to find themselves represented, in all their faults, in his towering dramas.
This section substantiates the claim that Xenophanes, Parmenides and Empedocles played an instrumental role in the emergence of what may be termed the Classical conception of literature – that is, the view that a work of literature is a mortally crafted artefact that reflects a true state of affairs only symbolically or mimetically – by drawing attention to evidence for their influence on certain important developments in fifth- and fourth-century BCE poetics. These include (a) fifth-century practices of allegorical interpretation; (b) Gorgias’ statements that poetry is deceptive and is a kind of charm or drug; (c) Democritus’ physical explanations for poetic inspiration and composition; (d) Democritus and the sophists’ analytical approaches to language; and (e) the conceptions of mimesis presented by Plato.
This chapter argues that rebel groups’ long-term goals determine rebels’ governance strategies. Rebel goals are defined on a spectrum of transformativity, bookended by more transformative goals of revolution at one end and personal enrichment at the other. After rebel leaders determine their organizations’ goals, they are uncertain about how to pursue them and look to examples for guidance. Because of the CCP’s propaganda campaigns, almost all rebel leaders are familiar with the CCP and its intensive and extensive governance, but not all rebel groups decide to learn from and imitate the group. Rebel leaders learn from and decide to imitate the CCP’s governance almost exactly when they share revolutionary goals similar to the CCP’s, even if they do not share an ideology. As more rebel groups with revolutionary goals imitated the CCP’s governance, global expectations converged upon the CCP’s governance model as the appropriate strategy for revolutionary rebel groups, creating material and ideational incentives for revolutionary rebel groups to conform to the CCP’s governance. The less transformative rebel groups' goals become, the degree of compatibility with the groups’ goals and the CCP’s objectives declines, so the extent to which rebel leaders decide to imitate the CCP's governance also declines.
Robert Orsi’s argument that religion, more than a system of “meaning making,” is a “network of relationships between heaven and earth” helps us understand what is at stake in imitation for early Christians. The question for Orsi is not, “What does it mean to imitate Paul?” as much as it is, “In what kind of relationship is one engaged when one imitates Paul?” Christians argue over both what to imitate (Who is Paul?) and how to imitate (How should Christians relate to Paul in order to be like him or to render him present?). The what has received lots of scholarly attention; this paper focuses on the how. I compare the range of possibilities of how to imitate Paul by focusing on three influential accounts of mimesis: Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (ekstasis), John Chrysostom (ekphrasis), and Gregory of Nyssa (epektasis).