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Philip Sidney’s Old Arcadia features two knights who commit instances of violent sex, for which they are sentenced to death. Ultimately, they are saved, and this essay asks why—and how—the language of self-abjection is used in the service of justice. Exploring the rhetorics of mercy and...
This essay uses W. R. Bion’s object-relations theory to argue that the formal experiments in Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable demand a distinctive kind of psychic work from readers. It describes this work in terms of containment, an unconscious mechanism that supports the psyche’s capacity to...
Literary historians often cite George Gissing’s New Grub Street (1891) as a chronicle of a waning literary scene, but his sentences offer altogether stranger demonstrations of how a threatened form of realism attempts to grasp a radically transformed and transforming social situation. Drawing on...
This essay traces the concept of “aesthetic historicism” in literary studies, from its first appearance in the writing of Erich Auerbach to its influence on an array of contemporary currents loosely associated with “new formalism,” such as historical formalism, historical poetics, and historical...
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