Vol. 4 No. 1 - Summer 2012
Items from this issue of the Newsletter
It’s been a busy spring for Marvellians. After our full deployment at South Central Renaissance Conference in New Orleans in early March (on which see the Executive Secretary’s report), the President and Past President hurried up the eastern seaboard to run two sessions at the Renaissance Society of America conference in Washington, D.C., at the month’s end. Filling the opening two slots on the RSA program, the sessions were scheduled bracingly early in a location impressively challenging to locate. With our speakers wedged behind a Brobdignagian desk and a half-closed pull-out bed at the back of the room, one could have been forgiven for thinking we had blundered into Richard Flecknoe’s garret.
After four exhilarating and stimulating days and nights in my almost-hometown New Orleans, members of the Marvell Society, with heavy hearts and somewhat lighter wallets, bid a reluctant farewell to the Crescent City and to another successful South-Central Renaissance Conference, this year hosted by the College of Liberal Arts of The University of New Orleans. Besides the elegant accommodations offered by the historic Monteleone Hotel, the location of the conference hotel site in the heart of the French Quarter added to the ambiance of the event.
Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the Andrew Marvell Society is delighted to be able to offer the first annual John M. Wallace award for the best paper on Andrew Marvell by an early career scholar presented at the annual meeting of the South-Central Renaissance Conference, “Exploring the Renaissance.”
When one first reads Andrew Marvell’s poem “The Mower against Gardens,” an immediate concern is to identify the Mower: what or who is the Mower? Dean R. Baldwin claims that “the mower’s character remains elusive” (26) across all four of the “Mower” poems. This critical attention on the Mower, however, may cause readers to overlook perhaps the more primary question: what is the garden? Readers might take for granted the meaning of the “garden,” assuming it is safe to interpret it literally or at least metonymically, representing fields of “flowers and plants…where Nature was most plain and pure” (ll. 3-4). Baldwin is among the many critics who read the “garden” as a metonym for all of nature, arguing that “‘Mower against Gardens’…dourly satirizes man’s ‘improvements’ on nature”.
Andrew Marvell’s pastoral vision in “The Coronet” and “Upon Appleton House” shares with George Herbert and John Donne a particularly British vision of reformed Christianity that draws heavily from older Catholic and Spanish devotional and poetic forms. These poets draw from these forms in order to displace and supplant them for Protestant and British ends. (I do not see these pairings as examples of hendiadys, though British Protestants often did.) The figure of a woman chastely married becomes the presiding genius of Marvell’s distinctively British Godly garden, supplanting the earlier monastic devotion to the Virgin and competing models of Spanish Catholic retirement referred to explicitly in the conclusion of “Upon Appleton House.” In Marvell’s poetic imagination, chaste married women, or virgins who will be married, consistently supplant Catholicism’s Virgin Mother Mary as the presiding genius of his British garden.
An initial examination of the female personae in Andrew Marvell’s poetry seems to reveal a distinct discrepancy between his treatment of older and younger women. However, the success or failure of these poetic portraits also hinges on elements of power and sexuality, particularly the allure of innocence and virginity as compared to worldliness and experience. Michael DiSanto, in “Andrew Marvell’s Ambivalence toward Adult Sexuality,” investigates what he terms “the problems surrounding the presence of powerful and attractive nymphets and threatening adult women in Marvell’s poems” (166), but he is most interested in the degree to which Marvell’s “constellation of language…is constantly and obsessively concerned with sexuality and virginity” (167). DiSanto argues that “Marvell’s own sexuality is manifested in his art” (168), equating the poet with the speaker who demonstrates a decided fascination with virginal young girls and a pronounced fear of adult women.
The Cambridge Companion to Andrew Marvell is a collection of eleven original essays by major Marvell scholars. The essays cover the range of modern scholarly approaches, and the book is most suitable for scholars, teachers, and graduate students who want to bring their awareness of Marvell studies up to date.
This volume enhances in every possible way a reader’s understand of Herbert’s poem in memory of his mother. The translation are lucid, inventive, and idiomatic, while at the same time they are remarkably attentive to the formal structures and the rhetoric of Herbert’s Latin and Greek verse. The painstaking commentary offers detailed help to those needing assistance with classical languages and verse, and continually illuminates matters format and aesthetic.
Marvell Studies issues
- Vol. 6 No. 2 – Winter 2014 (5)
- Vol. 6 No. 1 – Summer 2014 (5)
- Vol. 5 No. 2 – Winter 2013 (5)
- Vol. 5 No. 1 – Summer 2013 (9)
- Vol. 4 No. 2 – Winter 2012 (8)
- Vol. 4 No. 1 – Summer 2012 (8)
- Vol. 3 No. 2 – Winter 2011 (3)
- Vol. 3 No. 1 – Summer 2011 (6)
- Vol. 2 No. 2 – Winter 2010 (5)
- Vol. 2 No. 1 – Summer 2010 (4)
- Vol. 1 No. 2 – Winter 2009 (6)
- Vol. 1 No. 1 – Summer 2009 (6)
Queries and submissions
Dr Matthew Augustine
School of English
University of St Andrews