Criticism

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Criticism
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Criticism

The Case of the Missing Body

McCall’s essay proposes that Hölderlin’s translations of Sophocles allegorize the process of their own translation. McCall focuses in particular on Hölderlin’s translation of Sophocles’s Antigone, showing how Hölderlin’s rendering of the play turns the problem of the burial of the corpse into a figure for issues of textuality and meaning in the movement between Greek and German.
October 2014

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Tragedy and Translation: Tom McCall’s “Case of the Missing Body”

This essay interprets Tom McCall’s “The Case of the Missing Body,” expanding on the implications of McCall’s suggestion that Hölderlin’s translations of Sophocles allegorize the process of translation itself. I examine several key points, or figures, in McCall’s essay, including the problem of “contact” between the immaterial and the material, the problem of the “fatelessness” in the German relation to the Greek and the problem of the “unthinkable” at the heart of the translation process.
October 2014

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Introduction

This introduction frames the critical exploration of the writings on tragedy, translation, and twentieth-century literary theory by the late comparatist Thomas J. McCall, who died suddenly in January 2011 after returning from a mountain trekking trip in Nepal. McCall was a highly respected Romanticist and literary theorist whose important early work on Friedrich Hölderlin’s translations of Sophocles ultimately developed into a broader critical speculation concerning the theoretical stakes of Hölderlin’s translations, and his poetics, for German romantic thought and for twentieth-century theory more generally. The three pairs of essays collected in this volume underscore the crucial role of Hölderlin’s notions of translation and poetics in Romantic theory and in contemporary thought, in particular as his ideas have been transmitted through the work of Walter Benjamin. These critical explorations also help us understand the importance of Tom McCall’s work in proposing a radicalized, Hölderlinian theory of tragedy and translation that lingers on in twentieth- and twenty-first-century theoretical writing.
October 2014

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Extreme Philology: Benjamin, Adorno, McCall and the Enigmas of Hölderlin

This essay addresses the stakes and details of the idea and actuality of philology, broadly and narrowly understood, in its application especially to the work of Friedrich Hölderlin. Hölderlin presents an extreme challenge for philological understanding and the most compelling responses tend to be examples of "extreme philology" exemplified in the words of Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and Tom McCall. One particular focus is on the under-scrutinized concept of "das Gedichtete" that Benjamin (almost) invents to help make sense of what is going on in Hölderlin's poetry.
October 2014

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Discursive Modes in the Antiquarian Image: Irish Antiquities in the 1840s

The Irish artist and antiquarian George Petrie's publication The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland (1845) refers to its illustrations by George Hanlon as exemplary instances of accuracy and truthfulness, very different in kind to picturesque depictions. Petrie's statement prompts further thoughts about the function of archaeological/antiquarian illustration and the possibility of its attaining the standard Petrie endorses. Charles Sanders Peirce's semiotic system (index, icon, and symbol) is drawn on to refine understandings of this imagery and to underline the coded nature of visual communication.

June 2014

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Response: Mere Antiquarianism

The antiquarian project is based on the unbridgeable gap we know to divide the past from the present. The embarrassment it provokes is due in part to the necessary failure of all attempts to truly understand a lost era combining with the insight the attempt affords into the never fully dispassionate drives motivating the researches in the first place. The articles in this volume illustrate the ways in which Romantic antiquarianism exists at a point of transition between the speculative regimen of an earlier era and the emergence of the period of licensed scientific research and accreditation we still inhabit. As such they provide an opportunity for reflection on the passions underlying any manifestation of the desire to know, and on the gains and losses entailed in the emergence of an ostensibly dispassionate new scholarship.

June 2014

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Romantic Antiquarianism: Introduction

In their Introduction to Romantic Antiquarianism, Noah Heringman and Crystal B. Lake survey the history of antiquarianism and theorize its practices, concluding with an overview of the seven essays in this volume. Paying particular attention to antiquarianism in popular culture, Heringman and Lake seek to redress the critical tendency to isolate antiquarianism as an amateurish fad, an eccentric pastime of interest to only a few specialists, or a discourse concerned primarily with documents and texts. Instead, Heringman and Lake position antiquarianism as an embodied practice in which ancient objects themselves exerted a powerful influence on the process and products of knowledge work. Increasingly specialized study of periods and types of objects shaped the networks that linked antiquaries, engravers, and publishers with a public eager to experience in detail the customs and manners or material culture of the past. The introduction places a special emphasis on remediation as a rubric for understanding how antiquarian practices informed the circulation of ancient and medieval objects and their representations in the Romantic period.

June 2014

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Pennant's Guillotine and Scott's Antiquary: The Romantic End of the Present

In this essay, Campbell traces the peculiar re-circulations of Thomas Pennant's 1770s antiquarian description of an archaic Scottish proto-guillotine. These re-circulations culminated in a late-Romantic fantasy that Pennant's antiquarian labors had brought the modern, French guillotine to life. But even in the 1790s moment of the French Revolution, as the fashionable periodical The Bon Ton Magazine makes most remarkably clear, Pennant's prose was mediating the British encounter with the French guillotine in extraordinary ways. As an encapsulation of the antiquarian enterprise, the episode illuminates how the antiquarian fragment (liberated from an originary context) always threatened to belong to new times in uncontrollable ways, and so generated an illicit kind of temporal belonging more familiarly ascribed to fashion's recursive cycles. Campbell turns from the re-circulations of Pennant to the fiction of Walter Scott, where a prominent and simultaneous address of antiquarian fragments and fashionable dress aimed to mitigate precisely the kind of dangers on view in Pennant's unwitting resurrection of the guillotine. Scott's Waverley Novels finally bind fashions and antiquities to their respective times of origin, but the novels nevertheless remain in the shadow of Pennant's old guillotine.

June 2014

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Antiquity by Design: Re-Mediating the Portland Vase

Counterintuitively, Josiah Wedgwood's Staffordshire-made clay replicas of the acclaimed ancient Roman glass vessel known to Britons as the Portland Vase exceeded the cultural authority of the Vase itself. The Wedgwood copies were celebrated as national treasures, extoled in paint and poem, and a copy remains on exhibit in the British Museum. Both Benjamin West's painting Manufactory Giving Support to Industry (1791) and Erasmus Darwin's The Botanic Garden (1791), which includes illustrations of the Vase by William Blake, offered tribute to Wedgwood’s copies. Wedgwood's achievement was not merely a technological or aesthetic triumph. He also managed to harness competing discourses held by classical antiquarians and Royal Academicians regarding the nature and status of the copy.

June 2014

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